Teens with ADHD More Likely to Have Substance Abuse Issues

Teenagers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to have substance abuse issues and to smoke cigarettes, compared with their peers without a history of the disorder, according to a nationwide study.

The study found when teens were an average of 15 years old, 35 percent of those with ADHD said they used one or more substances, compared with 20 percent of teens without a history of the disorder, Science Daily reports. Ten percent of teens with ADHD experienced significant problems from their substance abuse, compared with 3 percent of those without ADHD.

The researchers found by age 17, about 13 percent of those with ADHD experienced marijuana abuse or dependence, compared with 7 percent of those without the disorder. Daily cigarette smoking was also higher among teens with the disorder in this age group—17 percent, compared with 8 percent among teens without ADHD.

Both teens with and without ADHD had high rates of alcohol use, the study found. Teens who were treated with ADHD medication had similar substance abuse rates, compared with those who were not being treated for the disorder.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“This study underscores the significance of the substance abuse risk for both boys and girls with childhood ADHD,” lead author Brooke Molina, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a news release. “These findings also are the strongest test to date of the association between medication for ADHD and teenage substance abuse.”

Molina added, “We are working hard to understand the reasons why children with ADHD have increased risk of drug abuse. Our hypotheses, partly supported by our research and that of others, is that impulsive decision making, poor school performance, and difficulty making healthy friendships all contribute.”

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    Lynn Z

    November 27, 2016 at 6:18 PM

    Young people with undiagnosed ADHD will abuse drugs to deal with the inadequacy that overwhelms them everyday of their life. I think that it is most important that the parents and teachers stay positive and supportive. They need as much help as they can get. Positive hands on learning and someone to point them in a good direction and keeping them active when there is idol time during the day. That can be a game changer when it comes to your child/teenager abusing drugs and alcohol so young.

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    Freddie Preston

    March 12, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    Is there any research that might indicate due to early diagnosis resulting in the early use of medication by a child may lead the child to assume that there is less risk when using alcohol and/or other drugs, including tobacco?

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    March 20, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Thanks for sharing this information. This is another reason why ADHD must be treated at an early age if possible.

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