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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD Meds May Not Up Drug Abuse Risk in Adulthood

Analysis shows no greater threat of addiction to alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, nicotine or other drugs


"These drugs may not be protective, but they are not a risk factor," he said. "There is nothing to suggest that medicines like Ritalin are 'gateway' drugs."

Another expert agreed.

"This is a finding that will reassure families that there is no worry later on of the risk of drug abuse," said Dr. Rani Gereige, a professor of pediatrics and director of medical education at Miami Children's Hospital. "This worry should not be an issue [for parents] in deciding whether or not to put their child on stimulant medication."

The report was published online May 29 in JAMA Psychiatry.

In this U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study, the researchers analyzed data on over 2,500 individuals from 15 studies published between January 1980 and February 2012.

This type of study is called a meta-analysis, in which researchers attempt to uncover patterns among different studies that reveal a consistent trend. The limits of a meta-analysis are that the conclusions are only as good as the data in the original studies, and whether these studies actually provide strong evidence to answer the question the researchers are posing.

Based on data in these studies, Humphreys and colleagues calculated the odds of someone who had taken stimulants to treat ADHD going on to abuse or become addicted to alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, nicotine and other nonspecific drugs, comparing them with children who had not taken ADHD medications.

The researchers found that whether or not children had taken ADHD stimulants, the odds of becoming drug-dependent in adulthood were the same.

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