Teenage dating studies
It is also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years.
In one study, 14% of children ages 15-17 with ADHD had problems with alcohol abuse or dependence as adults, compared to peers without ADHD.
In adults who do develop a problem, doctors suggest treatment with nonstimulant medications, including guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv), Clonidine (Kapvay), or atomoxetine (Strattera), and sometimes certain antidepressants such as Desipramine (Norpramin) and Bupropion (Wellbutrin).
Whether Ritalin and other stimulants are effective treatments for ADHD patients with substance abuse problems is less clear.
Dopamine also affects emotion and the feeling of pleasure, creating a "high" that makes people want more.
Because cocaine and other street drugs also raise dopamine levels, there has been concern that ADHD stimulants might be similarly addictive.
One of the factors that leads to addiction and drug abuse is how quickly a drug raises dopamine levels.
The faster dopamine levels go up, the greater the potential for abuse.
Parents sometimes worry whether the stimulant drugs their children are taking to treat ADHD (such as Ritalin and Adderall) are themselves addictive.
Stimulant medications work by raising levels of a chemical messenger called dopamine in the brain, which helps improve focus and attention -- skills that people with ADHD often find difficult to master.
The earlier the stimulants are started, the lower the potential for substance abuse down the road.
It's important to remember that not everyone with ADHD will develop an alcohol or substance abuse problem.
Researchers have also found links between ADHD and the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs, particularly in people who also have other psychological disorders (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder).