Study: ADHD Stimulants Do Not Influence Drug Abuse
> 3/4/2008 2:15:02 PM

The impulsivity, compromised social skills and communicative difficulties characterizing severe ADHD unquestionably leave its victims more susceptible to eventual abuse and addiction to various drugs. But new reports seem to contradict the popular belief that the medications prescribed to treat ADHD themselves create millions of new drug addicts every year and that they lead to a hunger for stimulants that will inevitably turn to illicit corners for satisfaction. Many have quite naturally suspected that the medications themselves lead to an addiction supplanted only with stronger and eventually illegal substances, but this does not appear to be the case.

ADHD essentially highjacks the internal "switches" with which we contain impulses, and predictably unhealthy habits very often follow and intensify as patients age. Severely ADHD adolescents don't just display higher rates of use and abuse for stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines; they're also considerably more likely to develop drinking and smoking problems, eating disorders, compulsive gambling habits, and various mood conditions affecting social and professional functions. Many of these behavioral trends arise from the condition itself; while most teens drink to some degree, for example, ADHD patients are far more likely to drink to excess. These already susceptible individuals would seemingly have more potential problems even when taking legally prescribed medications whose methods of operation closely resemble more powerful illicit substances.

But a new decade-spanning longitudinal study implies that stimulant prescriptions, even when taken long-term, do not actually increase the likelihood that a given patient will develop a taste for the illicit. Nor do they, as some have asserted, reduce the chances of drug addiction by filling that void with (relavitely) harmless pharmaceuticals. In fact, it would appear that the great percentage game determining whether one will go on to abuse drugs as a young adult is not at all influenced by stimulant ADHD meds.

This most recent study concerned more than 100 young men who'd first been prescribed anti-ADHD stimulant medications at least 10 years ago. Of the 112 subjects, aged 16 to 27, 73% had been on stimulants at some point and 22% were still receiving stimulant treatment as the reassessment study began. These subjects had been chosen upon their initial diagnosis 10 years before the current survey, which included detailed questions about alcohol, tobacco and all relevant psychoactive drugs. After controlling for behavioral and conduct disorder diagnoses (which have a notable influence on a patient's propensity toward addiction), researchers found that reported usage rates were no higher for patients who'd been treated with stimulants, no matter how long that treatment lasted or whether it continued to the present day.

The fact that stimulants like Ritalin do not actually create drug addicts in no way negates their many unfortunate side-effects (weight loss, insomnia, and anxiety are the least worrisome), their influence on the developing brain, or their certifiable status as drugs of abuse for unmedicated third parties. Individuals seeking reasons to avoid all stimulant medications have a plethora of evidence from which to draw. But, as far as this recent information shows, blaming ADHD stimulant meds for later drug abuse appears to be a shaky argument.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy