Medications for ADHD might lower a young man’s risk of catching an STD. CC0 Creative Commons

ADHD medications might protect young people against sexually transmitted diseases because it stops them from engaging in risky behaviors, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, found a connection between medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and a lower risk of contracting an STD — but only in males with the disorder.

The scientists got their data from almost 18,000 adolescents and young adults with ADHD and from almost 72,000 others without the disorder. They found that the patients with ADHD were more likely to develop an STD, particularly if they also struggled with substance abuse, but that taking medication for the developmental disability lowered their infection risk.

However, the benefits of ADHD medication to lower STD risk was seen only in the male patients who participated in the study.

According to journal publisher Elsevier, short-term use of the medication lowered the STD risk by about 30 percent and long-term used brought it down about 40 percent.

That connection might come from the relationship between ADHD and behavior: While the disorder might cause people to engage in risky behaviors, like having sex without a condom, ADHD medication can reduce those symptoms.

“Increasing evidence supports an association between ADHD and various health-risk behaviors, such as risky driving, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors,” lead author Dr. Mu-Hong Chen said in the journal statement. “Clinical psychiatrists [should] focus on the occurrence of risky sexual behaviors and the risk of STIs among patients with ADHD, and emphasize that treatment with ADHD medications may be a protective factor for prevention of STIs.”

The findings have potential to affect millions of children, adolescents and young adults in the United States who have ADHD. The disorder is characterized by difficulty paying attention and concentrating, disorganization, restlessness and impulsive behavior, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Some treatments for ADHD include stimulants that increase chemicals in the brain linked to attention span, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Estimates of the number of people with ADHD vary, but the NIH says between 3 percent and 5 percent of kids have the disorder. It also says almost 5 percent of adults are affected.