New data has revealed that children diagnosed with ADHD have about triple the risk for substance abuse issues as their peers – and that this risk begins at a younger age than those not diagnosed with the disorder.
Two universities, UCLA and the University of South Carolina, Columbia, followed 10,900 children through their youth and into their early adult years. 4,100 of the children in the study were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the rest without.
The study showed that most children with ADHD begin to show symptoms in the third or fourth grade when more discipline and structure is introduced in the classroom. Between five and seven percent of children show signs of the disorder, exhibiting persistent behaviors including disruptive or impulsive behavior and lack of ability to focus on assigned tasks.
Of those diagnosed with ADHD, the study found that these children are more likely to develop dependence on nicotine by up to 300 percent, cocaine by double and marijuana by a factor of 1.5 over non-ADHD children.
Researchers say that children diagnosed with ADHD becoming substance abusers is not inevitable, roughly the same percentage as children of alcoholics becoming alcohol abusers themselves, but awareness can help parents in watching for changes in their children’s behavior indicating possible abuse.