ADHD medication tied to lower risk for substance abuse in teens and adults

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A new study of almost 3 million adolescents and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has reported that pharmacological treatment was associated with significantly lower risk for substance abuse problems. According to the findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, risk of substance use problems was 35 per cent lower in men and 31 per cent lower in women during periods of medication use, compared to periods of non-medication.

As one of the largest analyses on the risks and benefits of ADHD medication, the study drew on anonymous healthcare data from 146 million American patients from 2005 to 2014, identifying people with ADHD who had recorded periods with and without of ADHD medication, and one or more visits to the emergency room due to drug or alcohol use. Medication was found to be associated with lower risk of substance-related events and, at least among men, lower long-term risk of future substance-related events.

"While concerns about prescribing medications to treat ADHD that have the potential for abuse are understandable, this study provides further evidence that the use of these medications is not associated with increased risk of substance use problems in adolescence or adulthood," said lead author, Patrick D. Quinn.