Substance Abuse and ADHD

Children with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) are more likely to engage in substance abuse compared to their peers without ADHD, according to the most recent edition of the journal Pediatrics. Children with ADHD and other behavioral health issues are at even higher risk of developing substance use disorders, the report said.

But there is hope: Medication and behavioral therapy for ADHD may actually decrease the risk of developing a substance use disorder, the new study indicates. This is reassuring for parents who hesitate to give their children daily medication because they fear it will cause a substance abuse problem.

Medication and psychotherapy are important components in ADHD treatment. Both can reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Furthermore, therapy can help to reduce the risk of developing substance abuse.

Strong family relationships are very important, too. Parents who know their children, know where they are and who they spend time with, and feel comfortable talking to them are in a better position to recognize and address concerns.

Substance Abuse Warning Signs

Every parent should watch for indications of drug abuse, whether a child has ADHD or not. Signs include:

  • sudden and severe mood changes;
  • changes in appearance;
  • changes in sleeping and eating;
  • a drop in grades;
  • friends who are not a good influence;
  • breaking curfew or other house rules; and
  • secretive behavior.

Mothers and fathers, rest assured: ADHD medication does not lead to substance abuse. If you have concerns, address them with your child’s health care provider. For treatment of symptoms relating to ADHD, contact the Cohen Children’s Medical Center’s Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

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