Starting ADHD Stimulant Meds in Teen Years May Boost Substance Abuse Risk

Taking stimulant medications to treat ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) beginning in childhood for an extended period of time does not increase a young person’s risk of developing a substance abuse problem later in life, according to a new study.

While this new information will likely be a relief to many parents of children with ADHD, the study results, published in the Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, also found that young people who start stimulant treatment in adolescence – around middle or high school – do face a high risk of substance abuse.

Almost 1 in 8 high school seniors in the US have used stimulant or nonstimulant medication therapy for ADHD.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed data from 40,000 high school seniors who answered questions about ADHD symptoms, use of stimulant medications, and history of substance abuse as part of the Monitoring the Future study.

The results showed that teens who began using stimulant treatment early in life and steadily maintained use through their teenage years did not face a higher risk of substance abuse compared to peers who were never on ADHD meds.

The researchers cautioned that the increased risk for substance abuse when ADHD drugs were started in the teen years may not necessarily be related to the stimulants, but to other factors such as emotional problems or mood disorders that are commonly seen in untreated ADHD. They advise doctors to carefully monitor teens started on stimulant meds for substance abuse.

Overall, the results support the idea that earlier treatment of ADHD is better, and that stimulant meds alone do not factor into the risk that a child will turn to illegal substances during their teens.


Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.


Did you find this article helpful?


Latest News

Synthetic Red Blood Cells, NOAC’s for Atrial Fibrillation, Surgery to Ease Sciatica Pain

Synthetic Red Blood Cells, NOAC’s for Atrial Fibrillation, Surgery to Ease Sciatica Pain

Researchers have managed to create artificial red blood cells that can transport medication. Compared to the popular anticoagulant Warfarin, NOAC’s may be superior for treating atrial fibrillation patients with prior intracranial hemorrhage. Also, surgery may be the preferred choice for reducing leg pain in patients with sciatica.  Synthetic Red Blood…

FDA Recalls Metformin and NP Thyroid

FDA Recalls Metformin and NP Thyroid

The FDA has issued a recall of two drugs–NP Thyroid and Metformin–after testing revealed that they weren’t up to code. Read more below, and if you’re taking either medication, please be sure to contact your doctor for how to continue treatment responsibly.  NP Thyroid Recalled Thirteen lots of NP Thyroid,…

  • Advertisement