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Kids with ADHD More Likely to Become Alcoholics

For some children, ADHD can be a gift.  Kids with ADHD tend to have a more creative imagination than others, enabling them to come up with out-of-the-box solutions and innovative ideas. However, the gift of ADHD can only be harnessed properly if the child is taught to control symptoms at an early age.  For those who do not receive interventions at the right time, ADHD can encourage destructive behaviors and prevent them from reaching their fullest potentials.  Results from a long-term study show that kids with ADHD are more likely to develop an alcohol problem during their teens.

The study examined 364 children with ADHD who were part of the Pittsburg ADHD Longitudinal Study. The authors interviewed the participants and their parents at the beginning of the study and eight years later, during adolescence (ages 11-17) or young adulthood (ages 18-25).  They also interviewed 240 teens and young adults who do not have ADHD.  After comparing the data gathered from the two groups, the authors noted that children with ADHD are more likely to engage in heavy drinking in their teens and experience more problems from drinking than those without ADHD.  On average, those with ADHD reported being drunk 15 times in the previous year. On the other hand, teens and young adults without ADHD were drunk only twice in the previous year.  Five percent of teens in the United States have a drinking problem, and the researchers noticed that 14% of them have ADHD.  The researchers also observed that the kids with ADHD did not drink more than their peers before the age 15.

While a number of young adults with ADHD settle down and get stable jobs, it's worth asking if their alcohol consumption will become a problem during their adult life.  Can treating the ADHD symptoms reduce the likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse?  Kids and teens with ADHD tend to be more impulsive than the rest, which means that theoretically speaking, the right treatment or therapies will help them become more organized and cautious in their decision-making. However, there are other factors that come into play, such as the fact that those with ADHD tend to have a harder time fitting in with their peers or doing well at school.  They might see themselves as outsiders and self-medicate with alcohol and other substances.  

Preventing these unwanted outcomes will require more than just the right treatment.  Parents need to be more involved with their kids, especially when they reach their adolescent years.   Parents also need to be careful about their own drinking.  Different studies show that when a parent's alcohol problem creates problems in the family, children with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances.