Adult substance use as a function of growth in peer use across adolescence and young adulthood in the context of ADHD: Findings from the MTA

Addict Behav. 2019 Dec:99:106106. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106106. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Peer substance use strongly predicts adolescent and young adult substance use, but its role in ADHD-related risk for substance use, especially in adulthood, is unclear. In a sample with (n = 516) and without (n = 249) childhood ADHD from the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD, we compared associations between change over time in peer substance use and personal substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, illicit drugs) from age 14-26 by ADHD status. Developmentally typical peer substance use trajectories across adolescence and young adulthood coincided with similar changes in personal use - but less so for those with ADHD histories. Concurrent associations between peer and personal use in adolescence and young adulthood were weaker for those with ADHD histories than without for commonly used substances (alcohol, marijuana). Prospectively, escalating peer use during adolescence forecasted adulthood declines for commonly used substances, yet persistently high substance use at age 25, regardless of ADHD history. In the reverse direction, growth in adolescent substance use predicted developmentally normative young adult declines in peer use - but for the ADHD group, adolescent heavy drinking predicted increases in young adult peer use. Findings suggest that individuals with ADHD may have difficulty emulating their peers' developmentally normative declines in substance use, highlighting the importance of social factors when treating young adults affected by ADHD and substance abuse.

Keywords: ADHD; Adolescence; Longitudinal; Peers; Substance use; Young adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cigarette Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Peer Group*
  • Peer Influence
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Underage Drinking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult