IU study finds link between ADHD medication and lower substance abuse problems

An IU study has linked medication used to treat attention deficient hyperactivity disorder to lower risk for substance use problems in adults and adolescents with ADHD.

The study, which was based on a sample of nearly three million people, found that the risk for substance use problems was 35 percent lower in men and 31 percent lower in women during periods of medication, according to an IU Newsroom press 

The study’s results were published in the June edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“This study contributes to growing evidence that ADHD medication is linked to lower risk for many types of harmful behavior, including substance abuse,” said Patrick D. Quinn, a postdoctoral researcher in the 
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who led the study, in the press release. “The results also highlight the importance of careful diagnosis and compliance with 

The study used anonymous health care data from 146 million Americans who had employer-based health insurance from 2005 to 2014.

Researchers looked for people with ADHD whose records included periods with and without ADHD medication use.

They then searched for records of visits to the emergency room due to drug or alcohol use. T

he study’s results come from calculating the likelihood of a person’s visit to the emergency room falling in a period of ADHD medication use or a period of non-use.

About 57 percent of the three million people with ADHD in the study experienced periods with and 
without ADHD medication use. Two percent of the study’s database went to the emergency room for substance abuse, according to the press release.

“While concerns about prescribing medications to treat ADHD that have the potential for abuse are understandable, this study provides further evidence that the use of these medications is not associated with increased risk of substance use problems in adolescence or adulthood,” Quinn said. “Rather, this and other recent studies find that the risk of such problems is lower during and after periods of use of these medications.”

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