Childhood Stimulant Treatment and Risk for Later Substance Abuse

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Conflicting studies of the relationship between therapeutic use of psychostimulant medication and substance abuse have long been a subject of concern among clinicians and researchers. One controlled longitudinal study examined this relationship in 147 patients who were diagnosed with hyperactivity as young children and were surveyed with regard to their substance use both as adolescents and as adults. This study found that stimulant therapy for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in childhood is not associated with increased risk of adolescent experimentation with substance use, frequency of such use, or the risk of developing psychoactive substance use disorders by young adulthood. Moreover, stimulant therapy in high school may well have provided a protective effect against hallucinogen abuse by adulthood. A possible explanation for contradictory findings previously published was suggested by the existence of a number of potentially confounding variables, particularly conduct disorders, for which prior studies have failed to control.​

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2003;5(suppl 5):19-23