Background: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is linked to increased risk for substance use disorders and nicotine dependence.
Aims: To examine the effects of stimulant treatment on subsequent risk for substance use disorder and nicotine dependence in a prospective longitudinal ADHD case-control study.
Method: At baseline we assessed ADHD, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Substance use disorders, nicotine dependence and stimulant treatment were assessed retrospectively after a mean follow-up of 4.4 years, at a mean age of 16.4 years.
Results: Stimulant treatment of ADHD was linked to a reduced risk for substance use disorders compared with no stimulant treatment, even after controlling for conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.91, 95% CI 1.10-3.36), but not to nicotine dependence (HR = 1.12, 95% CI 0.45-2.96). Within the stimulant-treated group, a protective effect of age at first stimulant use on substance use disorder development was found, which diminished with age, and seemed to reverse around the age of 18.
Conclusions: Stimulant treatment appears to lower the risk of developing substance use disorders and does not have an impact on the development of nicotine dependence in adolescents with ADHD.