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Do lefties need more pills than right-handed people do? - (4/24/2018)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Joe came into the pharmacy to pick up refills for his antidepressant and his young son’s ADHD medicine. He peered over the counter where the pharmacist was writing something. “Hey, doc,” Joe said to the pharmacist, “I’m left-handed too. So is my son. I guess we are a bunch of southpaws. They say we are smarter than right-handed people!”  

The pharmacist was not certain that was true. A study that examined over 7,000 grade school children found no difference in intellectual ability between left- and right-handers. However, lefties may think differently. After all, with only 10% of the population being left-handed, the world is not a left-handed-friendly place—utensils, scissors, and other items of daily use are designed for right-handed people. Left-handed people have to think flexibly and come up with ways to use those tools and navigate. 

Left-handed people may be prescribed certain drugs more often. Research suggests that they have more psychiatric conditions than right-handed, such as substance abuse and addictions. For example, recent studies have demonstrated that alcohol-addicted patients are more often left-handed. Other studies have revealed lefties were more likely to have used heroin, ecstasy, amphetamines, and/or LSD.

A study has found that left-handed individuals are more likely to be afflicted with Internet gaming disorder and social network disorder. So, if an acquaintance spends hours on Facebook or obsessively plays Word Whomp, the odds are he or she is left-handed. Left-handers are significantly more likely to be depressed or have bipolar disorder than right-handers and, therefore, are more likely to take medication to control their symptoms. Schizophrenia is also twice as more prevalent in the left-handed. Such people would be more likely to be treated with an antipsychotic than right-handers. A Swedish study found that left-handedness in children was linked to a greater risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Hence, they would be more likely to be medicated for their disorder. 

There are some benefits to being left-handed, particularly for men. One study revealed that creativity (specifically “divergent thinking”) is positively correlated with left-handedness in men only, but not in left-handed women. Looking at several measures of school performance and leadership skills, researchers found a positive association with left-handedness for boys but a negative one for girls. The same pattern was found for spatial ability, that is, navigation (i.e., not getting lost), understanding or fixing equipment, estimating distance and measurement, and performing a job. Left-handed women lost out on these parameters. In economics, left-handedness has been associated with higher wages for men but lower wages for women. 

Historically, left-handed people have been considered unlucky or even malicious by the right-handed majority. In many European languages, the word for the direction "right" also means "correct" or "proper". The Latin adjective “sinister” means "left" as well as "unlucky." That people wear their wedding rings on their left hand goes back to a time when the left hand was considered evil. By wearing the ring on the left hand, evil spirits would be kept at bay, thus, preserving the sanctity of marriage. 

As for Joe and his son, their psychiatric conditions may be because they are left-handed, or maybe it was just the luck of the draw.

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Read more at www.rx-press.com 

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