For Young People With ADHD, Drug Therapy Does Not Lead to Drug Abuse
WebMD News Archive
The researchers compared the risk of drug abuse between 1) the treated vs.
the untreated ADHD boys and 2) the untreated ADHD vs. the untreated non-ADHD
boys. They found that the treated ADHD boys had a significantly reduced risk of
drug abuse (alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogen, cocaine/stimulant) compared with
untreated AHDH boys -- who in turn had a significantly greater drug abuse risk
than the untreated non-ADHD boys.
"The findings are important for many reasons," says Biederman.
"But the main one has to do with the idea that parents are frequently
concerned about medicating their children because of the potential for
enhancing risk of substance abuse, since the treatment for ADHD includes
stimulant drugs that are potential drugs of abuse. So the fact that children
who are treated pharmacologically with [these] medicines have a significantly
[reduced] risk for substance abuse is enormously reassuring in its own
"The second component is that the treatment and diagnosis of ADHD has
been beleaguered [by] the same concerns, so the evidence refuting these
assumptions is very encouraging, scientifically and from the public health
perspective as well," Biederman says.
"[It] has been very common practice in the treatment of ADHD to
interrupt treatment during adolescence, [but] adolescence is the period of
heightened risk for substance abuse," Biederman points out. "So
interrupting treatment may be a very bad move, because of the [increased] risk
for substance abuse and [the fact that it] can be [avoided] by appropriate
clinical care. ADHD is a condition that lends itself to risky behavior and
The researchers acknowledge that this study doesn't allow for making
"definitive conclusions regarding the risks associated with [drug] therapy
of ADHD [in people] beyond the age of our current sample, in females, or in
nonwhite subjects." Biederman says that the next step is to follow the
study subjects into their young adult years.