Frequently Asked Questions about Adolescent Drug Use, Part 4

Frequently Asked Questions about Adolescent Drug Use, Part 4

Reprinted from the National Institute of Drug Abuse by Tom Wilson Counseling Center offering online substance abuse education for adults and adolescents.

7. How do other mental health conditions relate to substance use in adolescents? 

Drug use in adolescents frequently overlaps with other mental health problems. For example, a teen with a substance use disorder is more likely to have a mood, anxiety, learning, or behavioral disorder too. Sometimes drugs can make accurately diagnosing these other problems complicated.

Adolescents may begin taking drugs to deal with depression or anxiety, for example; on the other hand, frequent drug use may also cause or precipitate those disorders. Adolescents entering drug abuse treatment should be given a comprehensive mental health screening to determine if other disorders are present.

Effectively treating a substance use disorder requires addressing drug abuse and other mental health problems simultaneously.

8. Does treatment of ADHD with stimulant medications like Ritalin® and Adderall® increase risk of substance abuse later in life? 

Prescription stimulants are effective at treating attention disorders in children and adolescents, but concerns have been raised that they could make a young person more vulnerable to developing later substance use disorders. On balance, the studies conducted so far have found no differences in later substance use for ADHD-affected children who received treatment versus those that did not.

This suggests that treatment with ADHD medication does not affect (either negatively or positively) an individual’s risk for developing a substance use disorder.

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