Data analysis of 2 long-term studies on how ADHD impacts psychiatric disorder development in adolescents confirms that ADHD on its own increases the risk of substance abuse and cigarette smoking in both girls and boys significantly.
The research supports the connection between substance abuse and ADHD discovered in earlier research and demonstrates that coexisting factors like family history of substance abuse or other psychiatric disorders cannot be responsible for the increased risk. Overall, individuals diagnosed as having ADHD had 1.5 x greater risk of the development of substance abuse compared to control individuals.
Although earlier research revealed a greater risk of substance abuse in young adults and adolescents having ADHD, it has been considered whether specific factors of ADHD like school problems, cognitive problems, impulsive behaviour, and associated issues such as conduct disorder or bipolar disorder, or family issues were in fact responsible for the risk. The researchers examined data from 2 earlier studies in order to get clarity on the reasons for the increased risk. The studies were one of girls and one of boys, which analyzed the incidence of a wide range of psychiatric and behavioural disorders in children diagnosed as having ADHD.
From those 2 studies, 10 years of more follow-up data was available for 268 individuals having ADHD and 220 control individuals, both groups evenly divided by gender. With the ADHD individuals, 32% developed some kind of substance abuse, which included cigarette smoking, and only 25% of control individuals experienced substance abuse issues. Factors like cognitive difficulties, gender, school problems, mood disorders or family history of substance abuse didn’t influence the risk. Conduct disorder was the only other diagnosis which had an effect, and this tripled the risk in combination with ADHD.