Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and six other health centers across the United States found that adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) histories were more likely to have substance abuse problems and engage in cigarette smoking, compared to teens without the disorder.
Nearly 600 children were studied over the course of eight years — from childhood through adolescence. When the children reached 15 years of age, 35 percent of those with ADHD histories reported using one or more substances, compared to only 20 percent of teens without ADHD histories. Ten percent of the ADHD group met criteria for substance abuse or dependence disorder versus three percent of the non-ADHD group.
When adolescents were an average of 17 years old, 13 percent of those with childhood ADHD reported marijuana use compared to the 7 percent of teens without childhood ADHD.
“This study underscores the significance of the substance abuse risk for both boys and girls with childhood ADHD,” Brooke Molina, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the report, said in a news release. “These findings also are the strongest test to date of the association between medication for ADHD and teenage substance abuse.”
The study also found that daily cigarette smoking was very high at 17 percent of the ADHD group versus the 8 percent smoking rate of non-ADHD teens.
The authors noted that substance abuse rates were the same in teenagers still taking medication and in those no longer on medication.
The study, which was published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is the first to examine teenage substance abuse and treatment for ADHD in a large multi-site sample.