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Ask the Experts


Do teenagers with ADD have a tendency to use alcohol excessively? And if so, should I tell my son this to prevent the use of alcohol?

Answered by: Wilfred Van Gorp

This is an excellent question, and one which weighs on the minds of many parents of adolescents who have diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (The term ADHD is used for persons with and without hyperactivity).

Teenagers with ADHD are at greater risk for abuse of substances, including alcohol, than teenagers without ADHD. Indeed, adults who have substance abuse problems, such as alcohol or cocaine abuse, for instance, often have a greater frequency of ADHD diagnoses in childhood than adults without substance abuse problems.

But there is good news. Studies have shown that adolescents and young adults with ADHD who are treated for this condition--with psychostimulant medication and/or behavior therapy--have less risk of being substance abusers than untreated persons with ADHD. This goes against the concern some parents and doctors have that treating ADHD with a psychostimulant may put the teenager at greater risk for substance abuse; actually, the opposite appears to be true.

So, the short answer to your question is: advising your son to be cautious regarding the use of alcohol is a good idea, but having his ADHD treated will most probably reduce his risk of abusing alcohol.