Children With ADHD More Likely to Develop Addiction

Children With ADHD More Likely to Develop Addiction

Parents worry that they are missing a sign that their child may be involved in using illegal substances. They may carefully watch the friends that pass through their home, looking for clues that they might influence their child in a negative way. Parents may also regularly check in with their kids, keeping an open dialogue about substance-related choices.

And parents keep tabs on their kids for good reason. Experts say that two key factors in preventing the development of a substance abuse problem in a child are the company the child keeps and the parents’ involvement in discussing the rules, risks and consequences related to substance use.

However, information is also being gathered that provides insight into certain factors that increase the risk of a teenager initiating tobacco, alcohol or drug use. The information may someday be useful for screening teens at a higher risk in order to provide early intervention and treatment.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School gives new information about the connection between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance abuse. The researchers believe that ADHD may be one factor that can alert parents to a higher risk for substance abuse in teenagers.

The study finds that in both males and females, children diagnosed with ADHD are at a significantly increased risk of developing a substance-related problem. The risk is higher for not only drugs, but also for tobacco and alcohol.

The longitudinal study is one of the largest ever to examine the connection, explains Dr. Timothy Wilens. Dr. Wilens is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Its results add support to the growing body of research that suggests that there is an association between ADHD and substance abuse. In addition, the study shows that the association cannot be explained by other factors, such as other mental disorders or a family history of substance-related problems.

The study revealed a strong association. Those participants that had a diagnosis of ADHD were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem when compared with controls.

The authors of the study found no association based on family history or gender, they did find that when the participants were diagnosed with "conduct disorder," in addition to ADHD, their likelihood of developing a substance abuse problem rose to three times that of the controls.

Dr. Wilens says that any child who has been diagnosed with ADHD should be considered at risk for developing substance abuse. This is primarily true if the child has a history of delinquency.

The findings provide helpful information for the education of parents of children with ADHD and for early intervention among children.

The findings of the study are published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

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