Stimulants have long been prescribed to children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Over the past decade, child psychiatrists have debated the long-term potential for these medications to trigger drug abuse. Two new studies indicate that the stimulants do not increase children's risk of abusing cocaine, nicotine, and other drugs as adults.
Although these findings come as a relief to child psychiatrists, not all the news is good. The new investigations, already published online and slated to appear in the May American Journal of Psychiatry, underscore earlier evidence that youngsters with ADHD frequently become drug abusers, whether or not they take prescribed stimulants.
"It is still critical that young people with ADHD be screened for substance abuse," says Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md.
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