Kids with ADHD Diagnosis More Likely to Drink and Smoke as Teens

drugalcdependA new study from the Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group shows that teens are more likely to start smoking or drinking with each additional symptom they have of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder.

Dr. William Brinkman, research director at Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group, analyzed data on more than 2,500 teens aged 12 to 15 in a national survey conducted with their parents between 2000 and 2004. The research team at Cincinnati Children’s hospital identified teens with ADHD and/or conduct disorders, and then compared the teens’ usage of tobacco and alcohol to see if there is a link between ADHD, conduct disorder and substance use.

Brinkman found that nearly half of the children in the study had at least one ADHD symptom, and nearly 15 percent had at least one conduct disorder symptom. For each additional ADHD symptom related to inattention, the risk that a teen would use tobacco or alcohol increased by 8 – 10 percent.

For the small percentage of children diagnosed with both ADHD and conduct disorder, the teens were more than three times more likely to use tobacco or alcohol.

“Our findings underscore the need to counsel families about the risk of substance use as [these] children approach adolescence,” said Brinkman. “This need is heightened among children with ADHD and/or conduct disorder diagnoses or symptoms.” He also said more research may provide clues as to why the link exists between these disorders and substance use.

Dr. Glen Elliott, chief psychiatrist and medical director of Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, California says it is important to emphasize that not all teens with ADHD follow this path, just a higher percentage than those without ADHD. “We believe it is a combination of impulsive decision-making and perhaps the social strain that ADHD can place on the individual, who may feel unable to connect with peers in socially acceptable ways and therefore more vulnerable to trying other methods such as doing things peers dare them to do or that they view as ‘cool’ or ‘adult.’ ”

Elliott said the study does provide new insights into the relationship between ADHD and conduct disorder, but it sheds little light on whether treating ADHD might change the risk of starting to smoke or drink.

Observing Alcohol Awareness Month in April

Held every April, Alcohol Awareness Month was founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) to spread awareness and end the stigma associated with alcoholism that sometimes prevents individuals and their families from seeking help.

The theme of this, the 27th NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month, is “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow.” According to the NCADD, this year’s theme is intended to “draw attention to the pervasive impact that alcohol, alcohol-related problems and alcoholism have on young people, their friends, on families and in our communities.”

In the spirit of the NCADD’s goal of awareness and education, here are some facts you may not know about alcoholism:

– The economic cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse has recently been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be $223.5 billion. That’s $746 per person or about $1.90 per drink.
– 75% of domestic abuse is committed while one or both members are intoxicated and family members utilize health care twice as much as families without alcohol problems.
– Drinking and driving causes 16,000 deaths per year, and thousands more injuries.
– Up to 75% of crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol.
– Teens that experiment with alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent when they are older when compared with those who wait until age 20.
– More than 8.5% of Americans suffer from alcohol dependency, and 25% of U.S. children have been exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.

Although statistics can sometimes be dull, the fact is that alcoholism is everywhere. It is a disease that changes the way the body functions. By reducing the stigma that obscures our perspective of alcoholism, maybe we can cause a shift that will lead to more treatment and less abuse in the U.S.

Alcohol Awareness Month will be filled with activities on local, state, and national levels. These events are sponsored by local NCADD Affiliates as well as schools, colleges, churches, and community organizations. Click here to find the event near you and here for alcohol intervention help.