Adolescent drug use is more prevalent among youths diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and these youths are more likely to start using drugs at an earlier age. These study findings were published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (August 2003).
Youngsters with ADHD are at risk for other behavior problems, such as defiance, and eventually more severe problems, including stealing and fighting. Because these same conduct problems also are often linked with drug abuse, researchers decided to test their theory. The researchers compared substance use and abuse in 2 groups of teenagers who were between 13 and 18 years old at the time of the study. The first group consisted of 142 adolescents who had been diagnosed with ADHD, and the second group consisted of 100 participants without ADHD.
The teenagers diagnosed with ADHD in childhood were more likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs by the time they were in their teens. Within that group, however, those with both ADHD and behavioral problems were at the greatest risk for substance abuse.