Study finds ADHD treatment might discourage smoking; Kentucky ranks high in both

Stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might also reduce smoking risk, particularly if the medication is taken regularly, according to an analysis performed by Duke University. The study, online in the journal Pediatrics, has special signifcance for Kentucky, which first among the states in smoking and percentage of young people diagnosed with ADHD.


“Given that individuals with ADHD are more likely to smoke, our study supports the use of stimulant treatment to reduce the likelihood of smoking in youth with ADHD,” said senior author Scott Kollins, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke.

ADHD, which causes hyperactivity, impulsivity and difficulty paying attention, is often treated with stimulant medication, behavior therapy or both. The smoking rates are much higher for people who have ADHD than for the rest of the population. “Studies have shown that youth with ADHD are two to three times mores likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers, and 40 percent of adults with ADHD smoke regularly, more than twice the rate” among adults without the disorder, a Duke release says.

Some studies regarding potential connections between the using stimulant medications and smoking showed that taking stimulant medications increases smoking, and others didn’t reveal any effects. “It has been suggested that some people with ADHD ‘self-medicate’ their attention deficits using nicotine,” said lead author Erin Schoenfelder, a Duke psychologist. “Our findings show that treating ADHD effectively with medication may prevent young people from picking up the habit.”

So far, the Duke study is the largest meta-analysis about the effects of stimulant medications on smoking habits. It looked at 14 longitudinal studies about smoking and ADHD treatment. The study found a “significant association between stimulant treatment and lower smoking rates. The effect was larger in those with more severe ADHD and when participants took stimulant medications continuously,” the release says. The researchers said more studies are required to figure out the nature of the stimulant treatment needed to assist in reducing smoking risk.

“This study may debunk the perception that stimulants will increase one’s risk for smoking,” Kollins said. Schoenfelder said, “My hope is that this research can help inform our efforts to prevent negative outcomes for kids with ADHD, including cigarette smoking. This population hasn’t been targeted for smoking prevention efforts, despite the well-known connection between ADHD and smoking.” (Read more)

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