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Adult substance use as a function of growth in peer use across adolescence and young adulthood in the context of ADHD: Findings from the MTA

It is already known that peer substance use has a large impact on adolescent and young adults’ probability of substance use. However, this study specifically looks at this role in ADHD- related risk for substance abuse based on peers use. The participants were 14-26 years of age with ADHD status. They compared peer substance use and personal substance use for alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and other illicit drugs. Results from this study can help to understand social factors when treating young adults with ADHD that are also abusing substances.

To complete this study, they used the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA). This study involved 579 children diagnosed with ADHD over a 14-month treatment period. This was followed up with a 16-year follow up study to assess the participants. To track substance use, the Substance Use Questionnaire was used where participants reported alcohol, marijuana, cigarette, and illicit drug consumption. Finally, a Peer Substance Use Questionnaire was used to asses participants peer substance use.

While they found that peer substance use trajectories were similar to changes in personal use, those with ADHD history coincided less. They also found that escalating substance use in young children remain high at 25 and declined into adulthood regardless of ADHD status. The other big finding was that adolescent heavy drinking increased in young adult use for the ADHD group. This last finding may suggest that young adults with ADHD have trouble matching their peers who have age-appropriately lowered their substance use and may continue to binge drink at a higher rate. With this knowledge, young adults with ADHD may benefit from interventions that help them to lower their substance use behavior at a rate that matches their peers.

Take Away: While there is much research on how peer substance use influences adolescent and young adult substance use, this study looks at those specifically with ADHD. They found that young adult’s with ADHD may have a harder time matching their peers as they age-appropriately lower their substance use. This creates a higher risk for heavy drinking at a young adult age. By knowing this, interventions can specifically help to lower this behavior to help individuals with ADHD match their peers.

Kennedy, T. M., Howard, A. L., Mitchell, J. T., Hoza, B., Arnold, L. E., Hechtman, L. T., … Molina, B. S. (2019). Adult substance use as a function of growth in peer use across adolescence and young adulthood in the context of ADHD: Findings from the MTA. Addictive Behaviors, 99, 106106. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106106

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