In a new study of adolescents, Finnish investigators discovered attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms were more common in boys, but girls with ADHD were more vulnerable to substance abuse.

University researchers, parents and classroom teachers assessed 1,545 adolescents for ADHD symptoms at age 11-12 years.

At age 14, substance use disorders and co-occurring psychiatric co-illness were assessed again, followed by a multi-item questionnaire to determine substance abuse when the adolescents were between the ages 17 and 18.

Baseline ADHD symptoms were less common among girls than boys, but among girls they were more predictive of adverse substance use outcomes when conduct disorder and previous substance use were controlled.

Only in females were baseline attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms significant predictors of alcohol abuse and dependence and illicit drug use at age 14.

At the age of 17.5, parents’ reports of inattentiveness and hyperactivity were significant predictors for frequent alcohol use in both sexes, but they were more predictive of frequent alcohol and illicit drug use in girls.

Impulsivity and inattentiveness, asĀ observed by teachers and parents, were a consistent predictor for illicit drug use across adolescence.

“Inattentiveness and hyperactivity may be more predictive of alcohol use disorders and maladaptive patterns of alcohol and illicit drug use among girls than boys,” said psychiatrist Dr. Elina Sihvola.

“The importance of these behavioral symptoms should be assessed further in the community, as they could jeopardize adolescents’ successful transitioning into adult roles,” she said.

Source: University of Helsinki