Will medicating your child’s hyperactivity with stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall make them more susceptible to addiction as an adult?

A major national study has concluded no. But the underlying attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder might make one more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later in life, experts say.

“The medication actually may help you avoid being a drug addict. It may help you to develop yourself if you really need medicine,” said Dr. Arza Sehic, a pediatrician based in Plains Twp.

Sehic said it’s normal to be “a little hyperactive” and only those with a “major” problem need medication. She said only 2 percent of the children she treats have ADHD and about half of them are prescribed medicine.

Children with ADHD often have “additional underlying problems” that make them predisposed to using drugs, she said.

“I think it’s more an issue of society and their surroundings,” Sehic said.

Reachers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) tackled the subject in 2013, asking “Are children who take Ritalin for ADHD at greater risk of future drug abuse?”

They concluded no. The researchers billed the study as “the most comprehensive assessment ever on this question.”

Children who take medications like Ritalin and Adderall are at no greater risk of drug and alcohol use later in life compared to kids with ADHD who don’t take the medications, the study found.

UCLA psychologists analyzed 18 long-term studies that followed 2,500 children with ADHD from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood.
Their report was included in the May 2013 issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry, a monthly, peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.

“For parents whose major concern about Ritalin and Adderall is about the future risk for substance abuse, this study may be helpful to them,” Kathryn Humphreys, leading author of the study, wrote at the time. “We found that on average, their child is at no more or less at risk for later substance dependence. This does not apply to every child but does apply on average.”

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