Early Prescribing of ADHD Stimulants and Long-Term Substance Abuse Risk


Study compare early use and long duration of stimulants versus non-stimulant therapy for ADHD.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who use stimulant medications early in life and for an extended period of time were found to be no more at risk of substance abuse later on than those without ADHD.

A study by the University of Michigan is believed to be the first to compare early use and longer duration of stimulants versus non-stimulant therapy for ADHD.

The study included more than 40,000 people from 10 cohorts nationwide between 2005 and 2014. Participants were required to answer questions on ADHD medication use and recent substance use.

The results of the study showed that ADHD teens who use stimulant medications for a short time later in their adolescence are at a high risk of substance use. There were no differences found among the genders.

Additionally, researchers found that nearly 1 in 8 high school seniors have used stimulant or non-stimulant medications for ADHD in the United States. Males were more likely to use stimulant medication for ADHD, but no differences were found among the genders for non-stimulant medication therapy.

The findings show there is a higher rate of substance use associated with the later initiation of stimulant medications for adolescents with ADHD. The researchers noted that this subgroup should be monitored carefully for any pre-existing risk factors of the onset of substance use.

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