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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.

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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.