The intersection of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse

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Purpose of review

The link between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders (SUDs) continues to be an area of great interest. In this report more recent work exploring the developmental relationship between ADHD and SUDs and associated concurrent disorders is discussed.

Recent findings

Recent work highlights the role of treatment of ADHD in children on subsequent cigarette smoking and SUDs in adolescence and adulthood. Contemporary data suggest that ADHD may be underdiagnosed in SUD populations. Studies in patients with ADHD and SUDs suggest that SUDs treatment needs to be sequenced initially with ADHD treatment quickly thereafter. Recent studies also highlight concerns associated with the misuse and diversion of prescription stimulants in ADHD adolescents and young adults and indicate that extended-release stimulants may reduce the likelihood for abuse.


Practitioners are increasingly recognizing the overlap between ADHD and SUDs, and treatment modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy demonstrate mixed results in the treatment of these comorbid disorders. Areas in need of further investigation include the mechanism(s) by which ADHD leads to SUDs, diagnostic criteria associated with ADHD in SUD individuals, and prevention and treatment strategies for these populations.

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