Teens and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may have a lower risk of developing an alcohol or drug problem if they take medications to treat their ADHD, a new study suggests.
“This study contributes to growing evidence that ADHD medication is linked to lower risk for many types of harmful behavior, including substance abuse,” said study leader Patrick Quinn.
“The results also highlight the importance of careful diagnosis and compliance with treatment,” he added. Quinn is a postdoctoral researcher at Indiana University’s department of psychological and brain sciences.
For the study, the researchers looked at data from 3 million Americans with ADHD. The risk of alcohol or drug abuse was 35 percent lower among men and 31 percent lower among women who took ADHD medications, such as Adderall, Ritalin and Strattera, than among those who did not take the medications.
Some drugs used to treat ADHD are stimulants, and some people have expressed concern that these medications themselves could be addictive.
“While concerns about prescribing medications to treat ADHD that have the potential for abuse are understandable, this study provides further evidence that the use of these medications is not associated with increased risk of substance use problems in adolescence or adulthood,” Quinn said in a university news release.
“Rather, this and other recent studies find that the risk of such problems is lower during and after periods of use of these medications,” he noted.
The study authors pointed out that there are a lot of factors that influence whether or not someone takes or abuses drugs or alcohol, and that this study can’t prove that ADHD medication use caused lower rates of substance abuse in these patients. But the study did find an association between those factors.
The report was published online recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on ADHD.