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Friday, January 30, 2015
Study Links ADHD With Earlier Substance Abuse
January 28th, 2015/
Adults with a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who drink or use drugs start at an earlier age on average than those with no history of the disorder, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Florida found adults with a history of ADHD who drank said they began using alcohol at age 13, compared with 14 ½ for those without ADHD. Adults with a history of ADHD who injected cocaine started, on average, at age 22, compared with 24 for adults without a history of the disorder.
“The take-home message of this study shouldn’t be that children with ADHD are more likely to become drug users, rather, seemingly ‘normal’ teenage behavior, such as experimenting with tobacco or alcohol use, may occur at younger ages for individuals with ADHD and so this might serve as a red flag for an accelerated gateway to illicit drug use,” study lead author Eugene Dunne said in a news release.
The findings are published in Addictive Behaviors.
People with ADHD who use drugs may be trying to self-medicate some of their symptoms, Dunne said. “Stimulant drugs such as nicotine and cocaine might be used to counter symptoms of inattention, while alcohol and marijuana may be used to counter feelings of hyperactivity or impulsivity,” he noted.
The study included more than 900 adults who had used illicit drugs in the past six months; 13 percent said they had previously received a diagnosis of ADHD.
“As hypothesized, we found the progression of participants’ adolescent substance use to be similar to that in the gateway theory of substance use, with alcohol being the first reported, followed very closely by cigarettes, then leading to marijuana and eventually more illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin,” Dunne said.