As more cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, have been diagnosed across the country from year to year, many parents may be apprehensive about the number of prescription pills currently in circulation. The abuse of prescription pills is becoming increasingly common among teens and young adults, and the thought of behavioral modification drugs being brought into schools is likely to cause some degree of worry and even fear for parents.
However, a new study has revealed that the growing number of individuals diagnosed with ADHD may have a different but equally problematic connection to teen drug abuse. According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, adolescents who are diagnosed with the disorder are more likely to abuse tobacco and illicit drugs than peers who do not have ADHD.
“This study underscores the significance of the substance abuse risk for both boys and girls with childhood ADHD,” said psychiatry and psychology professor Brooke Molina. “These findings also are the strongest test to date of the association between medication for ADHD and teenage substance abuse.”
The researchers reviewed the cases of 600 adolescents over an eight-year period, and found that 35 percent of participants with ADHD developed substance abuse problems as teenagers, compared to 20 percent of individuals without the condition.
Though the scientists involved could not conclude a definitive cause behind this correlation, they speculated that impulsiveness and difficulty relating to others may be contributing factors.
Based on parent-reported statistics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 9 percent of American children – 5.4 million total – were diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007.