PITTSBURGH, Jan. 23, 2017 – A new study published online in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) engaged in substance use at a younger age than those without ADHD and had a significantly higher prevalence of regular marijuana and cigarette use into adulthood.
Led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, this large multi-site study also found that children diagnosed with ADHD had a faster progression of substance use during childhood and adolescence.
“There has been inconsistency across previous studies of children with ADHD and their risk of substance use in adolescence and in adulthood,” said Brooke Molina, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, psychology and pediatrics, Pitt School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “This study closely examined substance use by children with and without ADHD over a long period of time, considering that experimenting with some substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, is typical after teens reach high-school age.”
The authors confirmed a finding for the ADHD group that is widely replicated in the general population – that early substance use strongly predicts adult substance use. However, more of the children with ADHD were found to be early substance users, such as having a drink of alcohol before the age of 15.
“We were not surprised to find high numbers of daily cigarette smokers, but we were surprised to discover that so many children with ADHD later used marijuana as adults on a weekly basis, about one-third of the ADHD group,” added Molina.
The study did not find higher rates of binge alcohol consumption among young adults with ADHD. However, the team cautions that alcohol use is still an important part of the bigger picture.
“The amount of alcohol consumption was self-reported in a