Could Your ADHD Child Have A Higher Risk Of Drug Abuse?

Teens dealing with ADHD often have difficulty dealing with relationships, dating, social activities and school. Another common problem that affects many teens with this disorder is drug abuse. One recent study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, discovered that teenage drug abuse is more prevalent in teens with ADHD. The study showed:

  • 35% of teens studied with ADHD reported using at least one substance

  • 10% of teens studied with ADHD met criteria for a dependence disorder or substance abuse

  • 13% of teens studied with ADHD abused marijuana or had a marijuana dependence by age 17

  • 17% of teens studied with ADHD smoked cigarettes daily

Having ADHD doesn’t guarantee that a teen will have a problem with drug abuse. However, since studies show that teenagers with ADHD are more likely to abuse substances, parents must be aware of this link and take measures to prevent the problem.

Why do Teens with ADHD have a Higher Risk of Substance Abuse? 

While ADHD doesn’t directly cause substance abuse, it can expose teens to many risk factors that increase the likelihood of using drugs. Some of the reasons teens with ADHD may have a higher risk for substance abuse include:

  • Teens with ADHD have difficulty controlling impulses, making them vulnerable to peer pressure and the temptation to begin using drugs.

  • Some teens struggle with insomnia and depression, increasing their vulnerability to abuse drugs.

  • School problems and poor judgment that result from ADHD may increase a teens risk for drug abuse.

  • According to HealthyChildren.org, a genetic link may make individuals with ADHD more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder.

  • Other factors, such as difficulty making decisions, troubled relationships, and low self-esteem may increase the teen’s risk of substance abuse.

The Importance of Early Treatment for ADHD

Early treatment for ADHD is important and it may help reduce the risk of drug abuse in the future. Many children and teens who abuse drugs deal with other mental health disorders as well, such as depression and anxiety. Treating these coexisting mental health disorders can prevent substance abuse.

Common Signs of Drug Abuse in Teens

Some of the common signs of teenage drug abuse include:

  • A regular, lasting cough

  • A sudden drop in grades

  • Discipline issues

  • Glazed or red eyes

  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and regular activities

  • Depression

  • Mood or personality changes, such as arguing or irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Attention issues

  • Poor appetite

Of course, some of the symptoms of drug abuse are very similar to the symptoms of ADHD. Parents need to pay attention to their child’s behavior regularly, and if any new symptoms or changes occur, they should be discussed with a physician.