Study Finds ADHD Drugs Don't Prompt Later Abuse

Study Finds ADHD Drugs Don't Prompt Later Abuse
Posted by FoM on September 14, 1999 at 06:35:51 PT
By Susan Okie
Source: Washington Post
Some of the controversy surrounding the treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stems from concerns that exposure to Ritalin and other stimulant drugs often prescribed for such youngsters might increase their risk of becoming substance abusers as teenagers or adults. 
But new research suggests instead that the risk of substance abuse is greatly reduced by treating ADHD with medication.In a long-term study of white boys, those with ADHD who received medication had rates of substance abuse no higher than those seen in children without ADHD, said Joseph Biederman, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.The findings should reassure parents who have been alarmed by previous reports of high rates of drug and alcohol abuse in adults whose ADHD was never diagnosed in childhood, because they suggest that proper treatment can help prevent such problems."It's protective in boys [and] it should be protective in girls," Biederman said. Treating ADHD, he added, may help children avoid school failure and social difficulties that could otherwise lead to antisocial behavior and substance abuse.The research team analyzed data from a longitudinal study of families containing at least one child with ADHD. Included in the research sample were 56 boys with ADHD who had been treated with drugs (for an average of 4.4 years), 19 boys with the disorder who had never received medications, and 137 boys without ADHD. All participants were at least 15 years old at the time of the analysis. Researchers based their conclusions on interviews of each teenager conducted at the beginning of the study, one year later and four years later, including detailed questions about use of alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine and other stimulants.In the group with ADHD who had never been treated, the rate of substance abuse in adolescence was three times that seen in the boys with ADHD who had received medications. In boys with ADHD who had been treated, the rate was not significantly different from that seen in boys without the disorder.Biederman said similar studies should be conducted in other populations. However, he said, research so far indicates that girls and African American children with ADHD have symptoms similar to boys with the disorder and respond as well to treatment, so he expects the long-term benefits to be the same.The study appears in the online version of the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.Susan OkieTuesday, September 14, 1999; Page Z05 
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