New research suggests that childhood ADHD poses an increased risk of substance abuse in both girls and boys. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital reviewed two previous studies to determine what factors, if any, in addition to ADHD, caused increased likelihood of the development of substance abuse issues. They found that children with ADHD were significantly more likely to succumb to abuse issues. “Our study, which is one of the largest set of longitudinal studies of this issue to date, supports the association between ADHD and substance abuse found in several earlier studies and shows that the increased risk cannot be accounted for by co-existing factors such as other psychiatric disorders or family history of substance abuse,” says Timothy Wilens, MD, of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, who led the study. “Overall, study participants diagnosed with ADHD had a one and a half times greater risk of developing substance abuse than did control participants.”
Previous studies have identified a link as well, but were unclear as to whether or not co-existing conditions or other behaviors associated with ADHD were responsible for the increased risk. In order to clarify the results, the researchers looked closely at the two previous reports, one of girls and one of boys, and assessed and evaluated the presence of many different behavioral and psychological issues found in the children who had been diagnosed with ADHD.
The results revealed that co-existing conditions did not influence the risk for substance abuse, with the exception of conduct disorder, which tripled the risk in children with ADHD. “Anyone with ADHD needs to be counseled about the risk for substance abuse, particularly if they have any delinquency,” explains Wilens, associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “We still need to understand why some kids with ADHD develop substance abuse and others don’t, whether particular treatment approaches can prevent substance problems and how best to treat young adults that have both ADHD and substance abuse.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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