Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is linked to increased risk for substance use disorders and nicotine dependence.
To examine the effects of stimulant treatment on subsequent risk for substance use disorder and nicotine dependence in a prospective longitudinal ADHD case-control study.
At baseline we assessed ADHD, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Substance use disorders, nicotine dependence and stimulant treatment were assessed retrospectively after a mean follow-up of 4.4 years, at a mean age of 16.4 years.
Stimulant treatment of ADHD was linked to a reduced risk for substance use disorders compared with no stimulant treatment, even after controlling for conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.91, 95% CI 1.10-3.36), but not to nicotine dependence (HR = 1.12, 95% CI 0.45-2.96). Within the stimulant-treated group, a protective effect of age at first stimulant use on substance use disorder development was found, which diminished with age, and seemed to reverse around the age of 18.
Stimulant treatment appears to lower the risk of developing substance use disorders and does not have an impact on the development of nicotine dependence in adolescents with ADHD.