New research finds that teens diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder are more likely to use alcohol and tobacco.
The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study is among the first to assess such an association in this age group.
Conduct disorder is a behavioral and emotional disorder marked by aggressive, destructive, or deceitful behavior.
The study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Experts say the ability to identify youth at risk for substance abuse issues is critical.
“Early onset of substance abuse is a significant public health concern,” said William Brinkman, M.D., a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the study’s lead author.
“Adolescents who use substances before the mid-teen years are more likely to develop dependence on them than those who start later. This is why prevention is so important.”
Brinkman and colleagues studied data on more than 2,500 teens between the ages of 12 and 15. The data came from the 2000-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is a nationally representative sample of the United State population designed to collect information about health.
In the study, investigators discovered teens with a diagnosis of ADHD and conduct disorder had a three- to five-times increased likelihood of using tobacco and alcohol and initiated use at a younger age than those who had neither disorder.
However, having ADHD alone (or without a behavioral issue) was associated with an increased likelihood of tobacco use but not alcohol use.