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 GoodTherapy.org.
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