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Does Stimulant Treatment Lead to Substance Use Disorders?

Stephen V. Faraone, PhD, and Timothy Wilens, MD

Published: September 1, 2003

Article Abstract

The authors examine the relationship between the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivitydisorder (ADHD) with stimulants and substance use disorders by reviewing their published meta-analysisof 6 studies and adding preliminary data from a seventh study. Despite some discrepanciesamong the findings of the 7 studies, the meta-analysis demonstrated that exposure to stimulanttherapy for ADHD does not increase the risk for developing substance use disorders but is, in fact,protective against it. Stimulant treatment of ADHD appears to reduce the risk for substance use disordersby 50%, thus reducing the risk for substance use disorders in ADHD youth to levels well withinthe normal population risk. The implication of this finding is unquestionably one with enormous valueboth clinically and as a matter of public health.

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