According to a recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, medications for ADHD are not gateway drugs. In other words, these medications do not lead to substance abuse. The ten-year study showed that there was no long-term increase in the risk of substance abuse when using the stimulant drugs. The study failed to replicate a protective effect of the stimulant drugs, which was seen at the four-year mark. However, according to Michael C. Monuteaux, Sc.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, the findings should still be reassuring. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews that study’s findings:
Future substance abuse should not weigh in the decision to start stimulant medications for children with ADHD, he said.
Some earlier studies had suggested that stimulant medications increased the risk for cocaine, nicotine, and other drug abuse. Other studies supported a protective effect or simply no association.
Since these studies have largely suffered from methodological issues, the researchers examined alcohol, illicit drug, and nicotine abuse in their cohort of Caucasian boys with ADHD who were ages six to 17 at baseline.
For the 10-year follow-up analysis, 112 patients were assessed at a mean age of 22.
Among them, 73% received stimulant medications at some point and 22% were currently on stimulants at the 10-year follow-up assessment. Half of those who used stimulant medications started treatment between the ages of six and 10 (mean 8.8 years) and continued for two to 10 years (mean six years).
After adjusting for conduct disorder, risk of substance abuse was neither increased nor decreased for patients who received stimulant treatment compared with those who did not.
Action Point: ADHD drugs, while sometimes unfoundedly thought of as leading to drug abuse, are actually helpful for individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Unbiased studies such as this can serve as good tools to dispel myths that can actually keep parents from providing their children with resources that could help them. For Pastors confronted with questions about these types of drugs, this information can help to demystify the medication and solidify the science it is founded on.