ADHD Meds: No Link to Later Substance Abuse

Children who take ADHD meds aren’t at more risk
Medications are prescribed for ADHD

Stimulant medications such as Ritalin® and Adderall® are common treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But there’s been concern that use of the medications could be linked to a possible risk for substance abuse problems later in life.

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Good news for parents whose children take these medications: a new study finds no link between ADHD meds and an increased risk of substance abuse in adulthood.

Meds ‘very effective’ and not addictive

Psychiatrist Joe Austerman, DO, did not take part in the study but treats ADHD at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. He strongly agrees with the study’s findings.

“When used appropriately, these medications are very effective in managing ADHD,” says Dr. Austerman. “They’re not addicting, they’re not habit-forming and they don’t pre-dispose you to other risk factors such as substance abuse.”

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No link to adult substance abuse found

Researchers at UCLA studied the effects of ADHD meds on more than 2,500 children, following them from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood.

They found the use of ADHD meds was neither more nor less likely to increase the risk of substance abuse disorders. Children who took the meds were at no different risk than other kids with ADHD who didn’t take them.

The researchers looked at dependence status for alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, nicotine and non-specific drugs.

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Meds not a lifetime commitment

Dr. Austerman says he hopes the findings will comfort parents.

“What we know with ADHD is that most people with the disorder need these medications less and less as they get older,” he says. “In fact, two-thirds of people don’t need medication by the age of 18. These aren’t meds people will need to take their entire life.”

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