Do ADHD medications make people more likely to abuse drugs?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Young people who take medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not face an increased risk of abusing drugs later in life. The National Resource Center on ADHD and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that stimulant medication use for ADHD is beneficial and does not make people more prone to problems with addiction. Of course, some children with ADHD may develop substance use disorders later in life, but use of ADHD medications doesn't appear to increase this risk.

It is true that young people with ADHD sometimes tend to have reckless or thrill-seeking tendencies. But studies have shown that young people treated for ADHD are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those who do not receive treatment. There are some warning signs for later drug abuse that parents can watch for. These include:

- children with behavioral problems before age 10
- children smoking cigarettes before age 12

When children display these behaviors, they are more likely to abuse drugs and other substances as they approach adulthood. If your child is showing these behaviors, you may want to intervene early with professional help.

Continue Learning about ADD/ADHD Treatment

ADD/ADHD Treatment

ADD/ADHD Treatment

Because the symptoms of ADD/ADHD vary, treatment varies. Treatment may include medication, but lifestyle changes such as proper diet and outdoor exercise can help reduce ADD symptoms. Behavioral cognitive therapy can help those wi...

th ADD/ADHD improve focus and minimize distractions. Without proper treatment, children and adults with ADD and ADHD can develop drug and alcohol problems, and untreated children with ADD/ADHD have a higher likelihood of not finishing high school. However, with proper treatment, many patients are able to organize their lives, hold jobs and care for themselves.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.