Science and Tech


Kids With ADHD More Likely To Abuse Drugs: Study

Researchers don't know what causes this link but note those with ADHD and those with substance abuse problems tend to have some behaviors in common.
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 30, 2014

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more than twice as likely to abuse drugs, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study was a collaboration between researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and Miami Children's Hospital.

Although the study shows a connection between the disorder and substance abuse, researchers aren't sure why there's a link. The cause of ADHD is still unknown, but the researchers say those with ADHD and those with substance abuse problems do tend to have some behaviors in common, such as impulsivity. (Via American Academy of Pediatrics)

One possible explanation is related to academic performance and social groups. The researchers write, "Academic failures may also cause changes in peer groups, placing the individual with ADHD in social settings with others who have experienced school problems and are at a higher risk of alcohol and drug use." (Via Pediatrics)

And WDBJ points out treatment itself is also a potential threat.


"Many kids with ADHD are treated with stimulant medication that has the potential for misuse and addiction."

The analysis co-author stresses that although some stimulants used to treat ADHD can be addicting, "one of the main points [of the finding] is that treating ADHD both with behavioral techniques and medications seems to lower the risk of substance abuse." (Via HealthDay)

And WKYT points out another factor that could play a role.

"Children with ADHD are often approached to sell, buy or trade medications. The report suggest more monitoring and guidance for these children."

The study puts the number of children approached at about 23 percent.


And past studies have also linked ADHD and substance abuse.

In 2013, a study of teens with ADHD found that "by age 17, about 13 percent of those with ADHD experienced marijuana abuse or dependence, compared with 7 percent of those without the disorder." (Via Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)

The authors of the most recent study say there needs to be more research to determine the cause of this link and more preventative counseling for the children at risk.