02 June 2011

Children with ADHD prone to substance abuse

Boys and girls diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) face risk developing a substance abuse problem - including cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, new research reveals.


Boys and girls diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) face a significantly higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem - including cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, new research reveals.

"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," lead author Dr Timothy Wilens, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said.

"Overall, study participants diagnosed with ADHD had a one-and-a-half times greater risk of developing substance abuse than did control participants," he added.

Wilens, who is also with the Massachusetts General Hospital Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit in Boston, and his colleagues reported the findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

One third of ADHD kids develop abuse problem

The current observations stem from a fresh look at data that had been previously collected by two studies exploring psychiatric and behavioural problems among a total of 268 children diagnosed with ADHD. One of the studies had focused on boys, while the other looked at the experience of ADHD girls.

The research team found that nearly one-third of the children developed some form of substance abuse problem over the course of a decade of tracking.

Among a similar number of children who did not have ADHD, only about one-quarter of the children developed similar issues with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.

Although neither gender nor a family history of substance abuse played a role in risk elevation, "conduct disorder" did boost the risk threefold, the investigators found.

"Anyone with ADHD needs to be counselled about the risk for substance abuse, particularly if they have any delinquency," advised Wilens. "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 © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)


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Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Jeeva is a specialist psychiatrist who has been practicing child and adult psychiatry for 30 years. He has vast experience in treating ADHD, and is also an ADHD patient himself. Dr. Jeeva trained and practiced in Canada as a child and adult psychiatrist and had lived there for 25 years. He had attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (1970-1976). His professional experience and accreditation includes: Psychiatric residency at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Child Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Diploma in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa (Canada), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada. Visit his website at:

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