Lifestyle & Belief

Study finds no link between childhood ADHD drug use and adult drug abuse


Adderall pills are seen in this photo taken Dec. 8, 2011. Adderall's intended use is for the management of ADHD and narcolepsy, but its stimulant properties make it a popular choice among students and other young adults.


Patrick Mallahan III/Wikimedia

ADHD drugs may be stimulants, but a new study has concluded that these popularly prescribed childhood medications aren't actually "gateway drugs" to harder substances — a correlation that many feared existed. 

The study, published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, analyzed 15 long-term studies tracking ADHD kids between 1980 and 2012, allowing researchers to obtain data about whether these children became abducted to other substances later in life. 

Read more from GlobalPost: Is ADHD linked to obesity? 

Researchers found little difference between children given stimulant medication (such as Dexedrine and Ritalin) and those who weren't, causing them to conclude "that treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with stimulant medication neither protects nor increases the risk of later substance use disorders."

An earlier, separate study found that usage of stimulant drugs by girls with ADHD actually decreased the likelihood that they would take up smoking or do drugs later in life, reported Medical News Today. 

However, the ADHD drugs also don't protect children from later addiction, a supposed benefit of the medications that some doctors used to assuage parental fears. 

“I always doubted the whole ‘protection’ argument, and I wasn’t the only one, but that message was really out there,” said adolescent addiction specialist Liz Jorgensen to the New York Times. “Hopefully, this message will be heard loud and clear.”

"Pediatricians and child psychiatrists also must weigh the potential costs and benefits of various treatment options," noted study author Kathryn Humphreys to Medical News Today.

"Our study provides an important update to clinicians. Particularly for those who are concerned that stimulant medication is a 'gateway' drug or increases the risk for later substance use, there is no evidence at the group level for this hypothesis," she said.