Top Menu

Children with ADHD at Greater Risk of Substance Abuse, Study Suggests


Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to use substances including nicotine, marijuana and cocaine, and to develop substance use disorders, a review of 27 long-term studies concludes.

The study found that children with ADHD are up to three times more likely than children without the disorder to use, abuse or become dependent on these substances. USA Today reports that the researchers found that teenagers with ADHD were 1.5 times more likely to try marijuana than those without the disorder. They were also more likely to try nicotine and illegal substances at an earlier age, the researchers reported in Clinical Psychology Review.

The study was an analysis of 27 long-term studies that included a total of 4,100 youth with ADHD and 6,800 without the disorder. They were followed from childhood into young adulthood.

8 Responses to this article

  1. joebanana / June 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    ADHD is a name invented by big petropharm to peddle their snake oil to school children. The USDA is a conspirator of the scam. Some children are more active than others it’s normal. It’s the crap in the food, that the FDA allows, that causes problem behavior.

  2. Avatar of Barry Lessin
    Barry Lessin / April 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    The results of this study is not surprising. As an addiction psychologist, I work with adolescents and young adults with ‘co-occurring disorders’–a fancy word reflecting that addiction doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

    There are often other issues such as mental health problems (depression, anxiety, etc.) and ADHD whose symptoms are intertwined with addiction and mimic those of drug abuse, often making it hard to sort out and effectively treat this age group.

    The emotional impulsivity associated with ADHD also makes a child more vulnerable for drug and alcohol abuse, so getting a quality, comprehensive evaluation before treatment begins is important to increasing the likely of successful treatment.

  3. Avatar of Jeremy
    Jeremy / April 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Marijuana has proven to be quite effective for ADHD in adults.

  4. Brinna Nanda / April 28, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Well said, David. Direct-to-public advertising of prescription meds is capitalism at its foulest.

  5. Avatar of Winton Lewis
    Winton Lewis / April 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    What this article does NOT state is whether or not the children studied were being treated for ADHD. It has been my understanding that children who are treated for ADHD result in high levels of confidence and lower rates of substance abuse.

  6. John Vaughan / April 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    From my understanding, they have a 60-78% chance of becoming dependent as adults, especially when the neurodevelopmental disorder goes untreated.

  7. Joseph Baker / April 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Since when? Do you have any studies to prove or back up this theory? When my son was taking his ADHD meds he had better turn around rate and was much more focused, since now he has become a substance abuser of Marijuana and other drugs, he has more loss of memory rate, and can’t sit still, had mood swings, of which due to his drug abuse and alcohol abuse he’s bi-polar. So I really beg to differ!

  8. Avatar of Kevin C
    Kevin C / May 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I think we should all remember that ADHD is indeed a neurological disorder. It cannot be “cured” and treatment is paliative. Medication is short-term (4 to 12 hrs)and therapy is skill-building in that clients/patients learn to apply alternative coping strategies, much like a diabetic patient learns to manage diet. The patient functions better, but the disorder remains. So, this meta-study of 27 Long-Term studies seems to support the notion that given that ADHD is a stimulus seeking condition, the thrill of an alcohol, nicotine, or drug “buzz” is harder to resist for people who have ADHD than for the majority who are more typically able to find stimulation from within. As for marijuana, I’d like to see a study on it’s affect on ADHD. Anecdotally, ADHD clients have often reported functioning better on pot. This may be because pot makes the typical individual somewhat lethargic and may in fact reduce the impulsivity and distractibility of one with ADHD. I think it would be a mistake to discount it’s potential either way until there is sufficient study on the medical application of marijuana for treatment of ADHD.

Leave a Reply

Please read our comment policy and guidelines before you submit a comment. Your email address will not be published. Thank you for visiting

seven − = 6

Reproduction in whole or in part of this publication is strictly prohibited without prior consent. Photographic rights remain the property of Join Together and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. For reproduction inquiries, please e-mail