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Ohio Department of Education Topic News

Know! The Link Between ADHD and Substance Abuse

3/24/2014

Childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) places both boys and girls at an increased risk for teenage substance abuse (according to a large-scale study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences).

The study revealed that compared to their non-ADHD peers, children with the disorder are more likely to:

  • Use one or more substances during their teen years;
  • Smoke cigarettes on a daily basis;
  • Experience marijuana abuse or dependence as an older teen;
  • Meet criteria for having a substance abuse or dependence disorder.

* Note: Teen alcohol use remains high for those with or without childhood ADHD.

Experts believe that many of the personality traits and other characteristics commonly found in children with ADHD also contribute to the onset of substance use such as thrill-seeking behaviors, impulsivity, academic struggles, trouble maintaining healthy friendships and sleep issues.

For those of you whose child or children have ADHD, you are called to be hyper-vigilant in your substance abuse prevention efforts; ramping up the quality and quantity of your anti-alcohol and other drug talks; making clear your expectations for non-use and the consequences should it happen; being consistent in discipline and follow-through; taking extra care to monitor your child’s whereabouts and with whom they are spending time; and making a concerted effort to get to know your child’s friends and their parents.

Just because a child has ADHD, that does not guarantee he or she will have alcohol or other drug issues as a teen. The key is to be aware of the link between the two, to step-up your prevention efforts if your child does has ADHD, and to seek professional help if you feel your child may have the disorder. Too many young adults with ADHD go undiagnosed and untreated and end up struggling in different aspects throughout their lives. This can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs; furthering the cycle of substance abuse.

For additional information on ADHD including symptoms, treatment, recommendations and resources, click here.

Sources: Science Daily: Featured Research - Large study shows substance abuse rates higher in teenagers with ADHD, February 2013. WebMD ADHD and Substance Abuse.