ADHD Meds Not Related to Addictions

ADHD stimulant medications were not found to increase odds for later addictions or abuse

(RxWiki News) There may be good news for the worried parents of kids with ADHD. Stimulant medication treatments may have little to no bearing on later alcohol or substance abuse.

A recent review found that kids who had taken stimulant medications for ADHD had neither increased nor decreased the odds for developing alcohol, substance abuse or dependence later in life.

These study authors concluded the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD was not related to drug or alcohol additions.

"Don’t be shy about asking Rx questions."

Kathryn L. Humphreys, MA, EdM, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, led a team to investigate whether kids with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that took stimulant medications had an increased risk for substance abuse later in life.

Stimulant medications for ADHD include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and mixed amphetamine salts (Adderall).

Previous studies have indicated that childhood use of stimulant medication to treat ADHD might increase the odds of a person developing a non-alcoholic substance use disorder.

According to the authors, more recent studies have failed to replicate the findings in those previous studies, which suggests the results were isolated.

For this review, the researchers found 15 long-term studies involving 2,565 children with ADHD between 1980 and 2012.

Each of the studies in this review tracked the use, abuse or dependence of one or more of the following substances: alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, nicotine and nonspecific drug use.

The results of this review found that kids who had taken a stimulant medication for the treatment of ADHD were neither more nor less likely to drink alcohol than kids with ADHD that did not take stimulant medications.

Two studies found that being treated with a stimulant medication reduced the risk of alcohol abuse or dependence, while one study found that stimulant medication increased the risk of alcohol abuse or dependence.

Overall, the study authors concluded that being treated with a stimulant medication neither increased or decreased the odds of a child developing alcohol abuse or dependence later in life.

Seven studies followed the kids to see if they would abuse or become dependent upon cocaine and found no increased odds for abuse or dependence in adults that had taken stimulant medications compared to those who had not taken stimulant medications.

No increased odds for marijuana use, abuse or dependence were found between kids who had taken or had not taken stimulant medications.

The odds for nicotine use were 1.5 times higher in kids that had been treated with a stimulant medication compared to those who had not. But nicotine dependence was only found to be 1.3 times higher in kids that had been treated with a stimulant medication compared to those who had not.

The rates of nonspecific, illicit drug use were 1.3 times higher in kids that had been treated with stimulant medication compared to those who had not. And nonspecific drug abuse and dependence were not found to be higher in kids that were treated with a stimulant medication compared to kids that were not.

The study authors concluded that the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD in children did not increase or decrease the odds of that child later abusing or becoming dependent upon alcohol or drugs.

This study was published in May in JAMA Psychiatry.

The National Institutes of Health supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
May 28, 2013