ADHD

14 February 2011

Kids with ADHD much more likely to develop substance abuse problems as they age

Children with ADHD are two to three times more likely to develop serious substance abuse problems in adolescence and adulthood than children without it, a study has shown.

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Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are two to three times more likely  to develop serious substance abuse problems in adolescence and adulthood than children without the disorder, according to a study by UCLA psychologists and colleagues at the University of South Carolina.

"This greater risk for children with ADHD applies to boys and girls; it applies across race and ethnicity — the findings were very consistent," said Steve S. Lee, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

"The greater risk for developing significant substance problems in adolescence and adulthood applies across substances, including nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs."

Lee and his colleagues analysed 27 long-term studies that followed approximately 4,100 children with ADHD and 6,800 children without the disorder into adolescence and young adulthood — in some cases for more than 10 years. These carefully designed, rigorous and lengthy studies, Lee said, are the "gold standard" in the field.

The study

The research by Lee and his colleagues, the first large-scale comprehensive analysis on this issue, is published online this week in the journal Clinical Psychology Review and will appear in a print edition later this year.

The researchers combined all the published studies that met rigorous criteria, and analysed them together. They found that children with ADHD were at greater risk for serious problems such as addiction, abuse and trying to quit, but being unable to do so, Lee said.

"Any single study can be spurious," he said, "but our review of more than two dozen carefully designed studies provides a compelling analysis."

ADHD is common, occurring in approximately 5% to 10% of children in the US, and figures in many other industrialised countries with compulsory education are comparable, according to Lee.

The symptoms

Symptoms of the disorder are common in children and include being easily distracted, fidgeting, being unable to complete a single task and being easily bored. However, to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, a child must have at least six of nine symptoms of either hyperactivity or inattention, and the child's behaviour must be causing problems in his or her life.

The vast majority of children with ADHD have at least six symptoms in both categories, Lee said.

In addition, the symptoms must have started before age seven, must be present in multiple settings — at home and school, for example — and must be adversely affecting functioning. They must not be explainable by any medical condition or any other mental disorder.

As children with ADHD enter adolescence and adulthood, they typically fall into three groups of roughly equal size, Lee said: one-third will have significant problems in school and socially; one-third will have moderate impairment; and one-third will do reasonably well or have only mild impairment.

Parents should monitor their children, said Lee, who noted that early intervention with a mental health professional is often helpful. A diagnosis of ADHD must be made by a mental health professional such as a child psychologist or psychiatrist and not by a parent or teacher. (EurekAlert/ February 2011) 

Read more:  
Many fake ADHD just to get drugs
An alternative to Ritalin
ADHD and Ritalin: the latest facts 

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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