ADHD Symptoms in Young Girls May Predict Adolescence Substance Use Issues

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is known to cause problems with impulse control, attention, social interactions and academic performance. But a new study suggests that girls with ADHD may be especially vulnerable to alcohol and substance use disorders in their teen years. The researchers, from the University of Helsinki and the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, examined over 1500 Finnish teens. Each of the teenagers had been evaluated for ADHD symptoms based on the DSM-IV with participation from their parents and teachers. The children were rated using standardized scales, at ages 11 and 12. When they reached the age of 14, the teens were assessed for co-morbid psychiatric issues and substance use disorders using the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism. The teens were again assessed for substance use disorders at the age of 17.5, this time with a questionnaire.

The results showed that although the girls in the study presented with fewer symptoms of ADHD, their risk of substance use disorder was significantly higher than the boys. At the age of 14, the girls’ symptoms were indicative of drug and alcohol abuse or dependence, whereas the boys’ symptoms were not. When screened again at age 17, based on the parents’ answers to questions regarding hyperactivity and inattentiveness, both boys and girls with symptoms were predicted to have alcohol abuse issues. However, the girls with the symptoms were more likely to struggle with drug abuse issues as well. Based on the teacher’s accounting of impulsivity, the boys were more likely to abuse both drugs and alcohol. “Inattentiveness and hyperactivity may be more predictive of alcohol use disorders and maladaptive patterns of alcohol and illicit drug use among girls than boys,” says psychiatrist, Dr. Elina Sihvola. “The importance of these behavioral symptoms should be assessed further in the community, as they could jeopardize adolescents’ successful transitioning into adult roles,” she concludes.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Toby


    June 15th, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    It’s good that there is research in this field because there is just so many issues plaguing the youngsters and not much is spoken about it.If there is no research and things are just ignored we could face some major issues everywhere.So it’s encouraging to see these kind of researches and their finding will hopefully help in better treatments.

  • Trixie K.

    Trixie K.

    June 15th, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    These ADHD children just don’t seem to catch a break, do they! That’s a shame and must be an awful worry for their parents too. Their road’s already paved with more challenges than most of their peers. Still, it’s better to be informed than in the dark and to know to watch out for symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse.

  • rowan


    June 16th, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    most kids with ADHD as far as I have heard have trouble with their academics and also it can have negative effects on their social it is only obvious to realize that such kids would develop a drinking problem due to the other issues that result from’s like a chain process.

  • charlotte g

    charlotte g

    June 16th, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    I guess it is not that I did not know that girls could have ADD or ADHD but it seems to be way more prevalent and visible in young boys. But I do see how there could be a connection between those disorders and things like substance abuse in the future. Much of it has to be a lot about impulse control and issues relating to that. I very strongly feel that sometimes when kids get caught up in using drugs a lot of that has to do withnot being to say no and stand up to the peer pressure. Add to that the fact that they could already have self confidence and self esteem issues which have been compounded by years of dealing with ADHD and you have the perfect storm for bad behavior to develop.

  • Ninja


    June 16th, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    ADHD->Attention deficit->Boredom->Urge to try new things->Drugs and alcohol abuse.

    Seems simple to me!

  • runninfast


    June 17th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    I totally agree with Trixie. The parents of kids with ADHD have to know that the problems that their children are facing are not just related to the ADHD. There are so many other problems that they could face down the road and many of these would be a direct result of firts being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. That is so sad because there are so many other obstacles that they are going to have to overcome. I would fear that for many this would be a lifelong battle.

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