Researchers have been studying the potential link between adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and substance abuse. A study that is currently being conducted seems to prove that the two problems are share some commonalities.
By studying 1,778 14-year-olds, the research team was able to connect substance abuse and other disorders to the same area in the brain. The study asked the teens to do several tasks while undergoing an MRI, they were also asked to answer personality questions about themselves. The same tests were administered two years later as well.
While the results have not yet been published, some statistics from the study have been released. The research team found that of those tested 4.4% were classified as having ADHD. By the time the group reached the age of 16 the amount of them diagnosed with the disorder rose to 6.6%. The team also measured the amount of teenagers who were engaging in alcohol and/or other substance abuse. When the group was 14 years-old, 3.7% of them were abusing alcohol and 10.6% of them were abusing some sort of substance. When the group got tested at the age of 16 the numbers rose to 18.0% and 27.1%, respectively.
In order to establish a link between substance abuse and ADHD, the researchers used a statistical model to assess the risk factors that were linked to certain psychiatric symptoms. The outcome of using this model was that the research team could isolate three factors that linked substance abuse to an attention disorder.
Of the teens tested who had both a mood disorder and were ingesting drugs and/or alcohol, they had three common traits: impulsive action, impulsive choice and reward sensitivity. “Thrill or sensation seeking and abnormal activity in frontal brain regions when anticipating rewards differentiated youth who were uniquely at risk for alcohol misuse relative to those at risk for problems generally,” stated Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, who helped conduct the study.
By utilizing the data gathered in this research study, the hope is that the medical community will be able to identify early on those children who are at risk for substance abuse and intervene before there is a problem.