Stimulants are NOT Gateway Drugs

A new study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has found no evidence that treatment of ADHD with stimulants is associated with either increased or decreased later drug usage.

Monday March 3rd - 10:18am

There has long been a fear that using stimulants to treat ADHD in children could increase later drug-seeking behavior, since stimulants are controlled substances. A study led by Joseph Biederman, MD, director of Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD at Massachusetts General Hospital, has provided evidence that these fears are unfounded.

Past studies on this topic have had several limitations, including failure to follow subjects beyond adolescence, and failure to control for conduct disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses known to be associated with drug use. The current study addressed those limitations by studying a group of young men 10 years after their original ADHD diagnosis. At the time of the study, the participants ranged in age from 16 to 27 years of age, and the results controlled for the presence of conduct disorder.

73 percent of the participants had been treated with stimulants at some point since their diagnosis, and 22 percent were currently taking stimulant medication. The results of the study showed no relationship between stimulant medication treatment and tobacco, alcohol, or other substance abuse. They also found no relationship between length treatment or age of onset and future drug abuse. While some previous studies had reported that stimulant treatment may reduce the risk of drug abuse in people with ADHD, this longitudinal research suggests that it may delay, rather than actually decrease, alcohol and other substance use.

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