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April 17, 2018
By S. Callahan, Featured Columnist
There can be little doubt that we are in the middle of an opioid
addiction crisis. Every day, 115 people die from opioid overdose. The
economic burden of the opioid crisis is estimated at $78.5 billion per
year, according o the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the
National Institutes of Health.
In assessing the reason for this drug crisis, sociologists have rounded
up the usual suspects --- social malaise among the underemployed and
the displaced, extended adolescence created by an overly permissive
society, poverty, thrill-seeking and so on. None of these explanations ,
or programs building upon them, has produced the desired result, a
decrease in rates of addiction or deaths from addiction.
Now, some scientists have started to turn their attention to a novel
theory. They are looking at the role that adult attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may play in rising rates of addition.
Men with ADHD Have Higher Rates of Addiction
The study that has sparked the new interest was not in the US nor was
it about opioid addiction. In 2016, a group of scientists from
Switzerland and the Netherlands led by the University of Bern in
Switzerland set out to compare rates of addiction to various drugs with
rates of ADHD in a group of Swiss men.
The participants in the study were 5,103 young men in the Swiss Army
with an average age of 20.
Of these men, had ADHD. Compared to the men without ADHD, those
with the disorder were almost 4 times more likely to abuse
amphetamines (3.8 times more likely). Those with ADHD were 4.45
times mire liekly to abuse prescription drugs. In addition, those with
ADHD had higher use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.
Treatment of ADHD with Medications Appears to Lower Substance
A study has found that ADHD patients who are treated with standard
medication, Adderall and Ritalin, are far less likely to become substance
The 2017 study from Indiana State University looked at data on 146
million people in the US over a 10 year period from 2005 to 2014.
Looking at teens and adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD, this
massive study found that drug abuse was higher during those periods
in which the ADHD medication was not being used.
Most analysts looking at this study have drawn the conclusion that the
medication was directly responsible for lowering the substance abuse.
The implication, wrong we think, is that Adderall or Ritalin might in
some sense be a "cure" for substance abuse.
There is a more logical interpretation of the results. Teens or adults
with untreated ADHD seek illegal drugs at higher rates simply to self-
medicate the ADHD.
If a particular vitamin would lower rates of ADHD, then giving that
vitamin to ADHD sufferers also would reduce rates of drug use.
But we can't extrapolate to say that Ritalin and Adderall would cause a
drop in substance use among people who do not have ADHD. There is
northing magical about the medications, other than they help the
underlying problem, the ADHD.
We'll need to see additional research to know whether Adderall or
Ritalin can help non-ADHD sufferers to combat drug addiction.
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