ADHD: Are Prescribed Stimulants for Children Associated with Future Substance Use?


Dr. Brooke Molina and co-authors at Pittsburgh University have reassuring news for parents of children with ADHD. The team conducted an in-depth study, recently published in JAMA, that followed the participants for sixteen years through early adulthood. Their findings from this extensive study were that there was no link to substance use in adulthood. One of the studies called a longitudinal study, re-examines the same patients to detect if there are any changes that may occur during a specific.

The team responded to various suggestions that the prescription stimulant medication used to treat symptoms of ADHD was associated with substance use in adulthood.

Dr. Molina acknowledged that multiple studies found early exposure to stimulants may cause sensitization to various drugs and possibly increase the risk of harmful substance use.

About the Study

The study was conducted over a 16-year period from childhood through adolescence and early adulthood using an analytic method that accounts for age, household income, behavioral issues, parental support, clinical, demographics, familial factors, and issues that had not been studied previously.

According to Dr. Molina, and as noted in JAMA, the team found no evidence that stimulant treatment, whether continuous or intermittent, was related to substance use or substance disorder in early adulthood. That includes marijuana use, heavy drinking, or daily cigarette smoking.

Dr. Molina said that the study found no evidence of substance use or substance use disorder in early adulthood.

A Reassuring Message

The doctor’s message to parents and also to providers is that they can be reassured the team found no connection to an increased risk or disorder in situations where children with ADHD are prescribed stimulant medications.

Dr. Molina said that the study took into consideration the reasons that medication and substance use might seem connected. For instance, a person’s age can be associated with a decreased use of stimulant medication and increased use of a substance. Furthermore, ADHD itself is associated with an increased risk of impulsive substance abuse, particularly with cannabis and alcohol.

Dr. Molina concluded her report by saying that as a result of their in-depth study, her confidence has increased in favor of stimulants not being associated with future substance use. Again, she reassures parents and providers that prescribing stimulants in childhood does not contribute to substance use.


Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email