Ritalin Not Linked To Substance Abuse
May 30, 2013

Ritalin Not Linked To Later Substance Abuse, According To Comprehensive Study

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A new study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has found no link between medications taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance abuse in adulthood. Previous research has indicated that children with ADHD are more likely to develop into drug users as adults, and until now it was suspected that the stimulants taken to control this condition were responsible for the abuse.

Kathryn Humphreys, a doctoral candidate in UCLA's Department of Psychology and Steve S. Lee, a UCLA associate professor of psychology now say children who take medication for ADHD are neither more likely nor less likely to abuse more dangerous substances when they grow up.

Humphreys and Lee analyzed 15 long-term studies to arrive at their conclusion, making this the most thorough research into the topic. These studies represented data from more than 2,500 children as they grew into adulthood. Their results are now published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.

"We found the children were neither more likely nor less likely to develop alcohol and substance-use disorders as a result of being treated with stimulant medication," said Humphreys, the lead author of this study, in a statement.

"We found no association between the use of medication such as Ritalin and future abuse of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and cocaine."

Though their study is much larger than previous studies examining the link between ADHD medication and substance abuse, their results are similar. The last data analysis on the topic was published ten years ago and dissected information from just six studies. Yet even ten years ago, the results pointed to the same conclusion: children who take stimulants to regulate their ADHD were less likely to develop substance abuse habits.

The average ages of children and adults observed in this study ranged from eight years to 20 years old. These participants were located across a wide geographical area, including Canada, California, Germany, Michigan and New York. Humphreys and Lee now say their results can be used by health officials and parents alike to better understand the options available for children with ADHD.

“We found that on average, their child is at no more or less at risk for later substance dependence,” said Humphreys. “This does not apply to every child but does apply on average. However, later substance use is usually not the only factor parents think about when they are choosing treatment for their child's ADHD."

It´s important to remember that this study found no link between the stimulants taken to treat ADHD and future substance abuse. Previous studies by Humphreys and Lee have found a link between ADHD and the abuse of substances like alcohol, cocaine and nicotine.

However, the popular ADHD medication Ritalin has been found to trigger certain side effects, such as sleep disruption and changes in appetite and weight.

In addition to not being linked to future substance abuse issues, ADHD medication may also help keep adults out of jail. According to a 2012 study by British and Swedish researchers, adults who continued taking the medication were less likely to commit a crime. Men who reported taking their prescriptions every day were 32 percent less likely to engage in criminal activity, while women were 41 percent less likely to get into trouble with the law.

Even in this study, however, the researchers mentioned the side effects of the drugs and urged doctors and parents to weigh these factors along with the drug´s benefits before giving them to children.