If you are a doctor treating or a parent caring for a child with ADHD, there is something you should know. Those with ADHD carry a higher risk of drug, alcohol and tobacco use than peers who don’t share their diagnosis.
A Futurity article details a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse on the topic. For eight years, researchers from various universities collaborated to analyze almost 600 youths with ADHD to uncover links with substance abuse and identify any potential relationships between medications prescribed and alcohol, drug, and tobacco use.
What they found was that at about age 15, over a third of the children with ADHD were at least using one type of substance, while the rate for their peers without ADHD was only 20 percent. Rates of substance abuse did not seem to differ for children taking ADHD medication as opposed to those who were not.
Additionally, at age 17, adolescents with ADHD were almost twice as likely to be smoking marijuana and were over twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as teens without ADHD. Investigators found that alcohol use was high for both the ADHD and non-ADHD groups.
Parents Can Help Struggling Adolescents with ADHD
Researchers still aren’t entirely clear on what causes the elevated risk of substance abuse in youths with ADHD. They hypothesize that reasons may stem from the higher likelihood of these kids to make impulsive decisions, have trouble in school, and struggle with maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships.
Lead study author Brooke Molina says that while some of the causes for ADHD are innate, that there are non-medical ways to reduce the chances of the disorder leading to bad outcomes. Molina hopes that the study results will inspire those in the research field and medical community to better equip parents and educators in confronting the risk factors associated with childhood ADHD.