Mothers Beware: ADHD May Be Connected to Substance Abuse

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ritalinby Barry Burch Jr.

In this day and age it is likely that either your child or one of your child’s classmates has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  What you may not know; however; is the connection between ADHD and drug abuse and alcoholism.  There are several studies that show evidence of their relationship.

According to one study, approximately 25% of all adults being treated for alcohol and substance abuse have also been diagnosed with ADHD, as reported by WebMD.  Another study shows that around 14% of children 15-17 have problems with alcohol abuse in comparison to their non-diagnosed counterparts.  Moreover, the mean age of 14.9 for beginning to experiment with alcohol is at 40% among those with ADHD and 22% for those without.  Though at the mean age of 25, non-diagnosed adults are just as likely to drink as the diagnosed, the propensity to use alcohol excessively is much higher in those persons diagnosed with ADHD.  Researchers have also drawn similar connections between ADHD and marijuana.

The reason why people with ADHD are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol is because many are impulsive and have behavior problems, as reported by WebMD, which are huge contributors.

Concerned parents wonder about the addictive nature of drugs like Ritalin, which are used to medicate people with ADHD.  The drugs increase the dopamine in the brain, helping to improve focus and attention, which are skills people with ADHD have trouble with.  Because of this, Ritalin is referred to in some circles as the “poor man’s cocaine.”

There are reports of people taking ADHD stimulants that have not been prescribed for them.  Some people crush the Ritalin tablets up before snorting them.  Others liquefy it then inject the drug into their body.  But when Ritalin is taken as prescribed it is not addictive in children or adults.

Naturally, parents still fear their child using a drug like Ritalin will cause them to desire other drugs.  However, several studies that set out to find the connection between ADHD stimulant medication and substance abuse problems concluded that there did not appear to be a connection.

A study involving the tracking of 100 boys for 10 years concluded that substance abuse in boys who took stimulant drugs compared to those who did not take the drugs was insignificant.

Not all people with ADHD are destined to have problems with drugs and alcohol.  However, if an adult is experiencing problems, doctors advise using nonstimulant medications, including antidepressants, such as Norpramin and Wellbutrin, as reported by WebMD.


Barry is a scholar, who enjoys writing, arithmetic and politics.  Reach him @ 


  1. t_99

    February 3, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    First of all, WebMd reported this, not the American Medical Association (AMA) or the American Psychological Association(APA). Second, as a parent of a son with ADHD, my pediatrician stopped prescribing Ritalin years ago. They now use a slow release medication that kids take in the morning to get them through school, but wears off my end of day so that they can settle down and fall asleep. Lastly, making a causal relationship between ADHD and drug use is just not correct, and leaves out so many other factors. This is IMO just bad reporting that may frighten parents from getting their kids the help that they need; be it medication, changes in diet, etc.

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