Drug use begins earlier in children with ADHD

According to a study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) partake in substance abuse at an earlier age than others.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied 547 children with ADHD, in addition to 258 others without the condition.

Most of the participants were 8-years-old and of different ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic status. They completed the Substance Use Questionnaire numerous times and were followed for a 16-year period up into early adulthood.

“This study closely examined substance use by children with and without ADHD over a long period of time, considering that experimenting with some substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, is typical after teens reach high-school age,” said Brooke Molina, the lead author of the study.

The findings revealed that the ADHD group had a faster progression of drug use in adolescence, compared to their counterpart. Researchers found a significant number of participants with ADHD engaged in cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. However, as they reached adulthood, marijuana usage began to increase as well.

“In adulthood, weekly marijuana use and daily cigarette smoking were more prevalent in the ADHD group than the LNCG,” the study reads.

The results add more weight to the notion that early substance use may serve as an indicator for later adult substance use.
To prevent early substance use, researchers suggest, there needs to be a critical increase in early screening and intervention, along with close monitoring of children with ADHD, for signs of substance use.

“When these children are being treated, we need to start monitoring their potential risk for substance use at a young age, and not just treating with medication, but considering the range of factors that increase their risk for becoming dependent on nicotine and for developing substance use disorders,” researchers concluded.