ADHD and Substance Abuse: Is Medication Putting Your Child at Risk?

Posted on December 30, 2012 by VITAL WorkLife

Are the stimulant medications your child is taking to control hyperactivity or an attention disorder today putting him or her at risk for future substance abuse?

Treating children as early as age six or seven with stimulants for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not likely to increase risk of substance abuse as adults, according to two studies conducted by researchers at New York University School of Medicine (NYU) and the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Mass General) and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

There is some evidence that ADHD itself puts adults a higher risk for substance abuse—but the risk is equal whether stimulant drugs are prescribed or not.

Children with undiagnosed ADHD often lag in school performance because they can't concentrate when instructions are given, lose homework assignments, can't get organized or miss important details.

Children with hyperactive or impulsive behavior are often unpopular. They overreact in situations other children seem to handle with ease. They are more apt to break toys and disrupt games. If their parents can't understand their behavior, why should their friends?

Ultimately, parents have to decide for themselves whether the benefits of stimulant drugs outweigh the risks—no drugs are risk-free—but it appears that future substance abuse isn't one of the risks associated with stimulant medications.

Contact VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through the VITAL WorkLife App

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