Oppositional Defiance in Children Could be Linked to Addiction Later in Life

Oppositional Defiance in Children Could be Linked to Addiction Later in Life

There has been plenty of research into the link between childhood Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and adult substance abuse. Children with the condition are more at risk for developing addictions, however, new research has broken down the components of ADHD to determine which symptoms lead to which sort of dependencies in later life. The findings could be useful in prevention of substance abuse and even in treatment for things like nicotine addiction.

The study, conducted through the University of Montreal, was a 15 year long study based on population. Researchers gathered yearly reports on over 1,800 children ages 6 to 12 with roughly equal numbers of boys and girls. The children were scored annually by both teachers and moms. The study examined the separate symptoms of ADHD, something which had never been done before. The condition is marked by inattention, hyperactivity and oppositional behaviors.

The study found that children with frequent demonstrations of opposition ran the greatest risk of future substance abuse. Oppositional behavior was defined as the child being irritable, quick-tempered, disobedient, non-cooperative with others, thoughtless and prone to blaming others.

According to the study, the stronger the degree of opposition, the stronger the risk of later nicotine abuse (nearly one and a half times greater) when compared to children with lesser opposition. Children with oppositional problems experienced more than twice the risk for marijuana abuse and almost three times the risk of later cocaine abuse. The reports of both moms and teachers were factored, but even when teachers reported no opposition, if the mother’s evaluation was high opposition, the risk was increased.

When studying ADHD, the symptoms of hyperactivity and attention deficit are rarely treated separately. In this study, however, researchers discovered that hyperactivity alone poses almost zero risk of future substance abuse. Attention deficit, on the other hand, appeared to raise the risk of nicotine addiction.

Following the children through to age 21, researchers found the following outcomes:

  • Highly inattentive children were at roughly twice the risk of future nicotine addiction
  • The stronger the attention deficit, the greater the likelihood that the child would form a cigarette habit.

Within the study group, more than 30 percent of children were addicted to nicotine by the age of 21. These results were similar for both males and females.

One outcome of this particular study would be using treatment of attention deficit in order to empower smoking cessation efforts. A second application of the findings would be treating frequent oppositional behaviors in children as a means of heading off substance abuse later on.

The study appears in its totality in the publication Molecular Psychiatry.

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