Will My Child’s ADHD Medication Lead To Addiction?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common behavioral disorder in childhood. If you have a child with ADHD you are far from alone. Many kids use medication as part of the treatment for ADHD and there have been some concerns that these drugs could lead to later problems of substance abuse. Whether ADHD medications cause an increased risk for later addiction is not fully known, but what is certain is that you as a parent have the biggest influence over your child’s choices.
ADHD Treatment And Medications
Experts agree that the best way to treat the symptoms of ADHD, which include hyperactivity, inability to focus or concentrate, and impulsive behaviors, is with both therapy and medication. Using drugs alone is not the best solution to helping kids with ADHD. When they learn to modify their behaviors and are given medications to help them better focus, they have the best odds of success.
The medications that are used to treat ADHD are stimulants. Although it may seem counterintuitive, these stimulants actually help children to focus, to concentrate on one thing at a time, and to be able to control impulses. There are different kinds of stimulants used for ADHD, including Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall, among others. Children needing one of these drugs may have to try a few before finding the right one and the right dose that maximizes benefits while minimizing side effects.
Will ADHD Medications Cause Future Drug Abuse?
There has been controversy surrounding the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD in children, but nothing has yet outweighed the benefits that these drugs have given kids. Some claim that kids are overmedicated and the drugs can cause lasting harm, although there is no evidence for this. One very real problem is abuse of ADHD prescriptions. It is not uncommon for teens and college students to use these drugs (which are mostly amphetamines) in large quantities to stay up late for studying and writing papers. This abuse can definitely lead to addiction.
Another controversy has been the fear that even the use of ADHD medications by kids following a doctor’s instructions could lead to future addiction. A few studies have made this connection, but have failed to show whether it was conclusively the drug or other factors that led to later drug abuse. A more recent review of these kinds of studies failed to find real and substantial evidence that ADHD drugs cause a child to abuse drugs or become addicted to drugs later in life.
The review included 15 separate studies and more than 2,000 participants. The result was that being medically treated for ADHD has no connection to future drug abuse. It neither increases nor decreases the risk of drug addiction. An interesting finding is that simply having ADHD can increase a child’s risk of future drug abuse; it seems likely that treating the disorder could therefore reduce the risk.
Good News For Parents Of Children With ADHD
The good news for parents of children with ADHD is that stimulant medications are largely helpful. As long as there are no serious or disruptive side effects the drugs can help kids focus in school, get along with peers better, and be more successful. The risk of developing substance abuse problems later in life is not related to medication.
In fact, what all experts know is that parents’ influence and behaviors is the biggest determining factor in whether a child abuses drugs. Talk to your children about drug abuse and develop a healthy relationship and you can steer them in the right direction.
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