A new study published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry revealed a significantly higher prevalence of substance abuse and cigarette use by adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) histories than in those without ADHD. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC as well as six other health centers across the United States also found that, contrary to previous findings, current medications for ADHD do not counter the risk for substance abuse and substance use disorder (SUD) among teenagers.
This study is the first to examine teenage substance abuse and treatment for ADHD in a large multi-site sample. It also is the first to recognize that increased use of cigarettes in teenagers with ADHD histories commonly occurs with use of other substances such as alcohol and marijuana.
"This study underscores the significance of the substance abuse risk for both boys and girls with childhood ADHD," said Brooke Molina, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the report. "These findings also are the strongest test to date of the association between medication for ADHD and teenage substance abuse."
Researchers studied nearly 600 children over an eight-year period from childhood through adolescence to test the hypothesis that children with ADHD have increased risk of substance use and abuse or dependence in adolescence. Molina and colleagues also examined substance abuse patterns, the effects of ADHD medications over time, and the relationship between medication and substance use.
The findings showed: