The Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine

Childhood ADHD Increases the Risk of Cigarette Smoking and Substance Abuse


Irvine, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/25/2013 --Two recent studies have further confirmed that ADHD in both boys and girls increases the risk of substance abuse. UPI reported on the study that was published this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The first study from Harvard Medical School showed that the increased risk for cigarette smoking and substance abuse cannot be explained by a family history of substance abuse. The researchers did find though that if the ADHD child also had a diagnosis of "Conduct Disorder", then the risk for substance abuse was tripled.

A second study, from the University of Helsinki, showed a difference in vulnerability to substance abuse between boys and girls as reported by Researchers found that ADHD symptoms were a significant predictor of alcohol abuse and other drugs by age 14 in girls, but surprisingly not in boys by age 14.

However, by age 17.5, parents' reports of the inattentive and hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD were significant predictors of alcohol abuse in both boys and girls, but they were still more predictive of alcohol and drug abuse in girls. To highlight this point, one of the physicians (Dr. Elina Shivola) involved in the study stated "Inattentiveness and hyperactivity may be more predictive of alcohol use disorder and maladaptive patterns of alcohol and illicit drug use among girls than boys".

In my clinical experience, where the Drake Institute was involved in treating substance abuse patients at a Rehab Center, a high percent of the adult substance abuse patients had ADHD. If the ADHD was not also treated, then they were more likely to relapse.

I do feel that effective early intervention for ADHD in childhood / adolescence can reduce this risk for substance abuse. Parents of an ADHD child with delinquency problems should be given additional support and help for their child who is at the greatest risk.