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J Child Adolesc Subst Abuse. 2011;20(4):314-329. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

A Prospective Examination of the Association of Stimulant Medication History and Drug Use Outcomes among Community Samples of ADHD Youths.

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University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN, USA.


A continuing debate in the child psychopathology literature is the extent to which pharmacotherapy for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in particular stimulant treatment, confers a risk of subsequent drug abuse. If stimulant treatment for ADHD contributes to drug abuse, then the risk versus therapeutic benefits of such treatment is greatly affected. We have prospectively followed an ADHD sample (N = 149; 81% males) for approximately 15 years, beginning at childhood (ages 8 to 10 years) and continuing until the sample has reached young adulthood (ages 22 to 24 years). The sample was originally recruited via an epidemiologically derived community procedure, and all youths were diagnosed with ADHD during childhood. We report on the association of childhood psychostimulant medication and subsequent substance use disorders and tobacco use. The substance use outcomes were based on data collected at three time points when the sample was in late adolescence and young adulthood (age range approximately 18 to 22 years old). We did not find evidence to support that childhood treatment with stimulant medication, including the course of stimulant medication, was associated with any change in risk for adolescent or young adulthood substance use disorders and tobacco use. These results from a community-based sample extend the growing body of literature based on clinically derived samples indicating that stimulant treatment does not create a significant risk for subsequent substance use disorders.

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