A longitudinal study of childhood ADHD and substance dependence disorders in early adulthood

Jessie L. Breyer, Susanne Lee, Ken C. Winters, Gerald J. August, George M. Realmuto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a childhood disorder that is associated with many behavioral and social problems. These problems may continue when an individual continues to meet criteria for ADHD as an adult. In this study, we describe the outcome patterns for three different groups: individuals who had ADHD as children, but no longer meet criteria as adults (Childhood-Limited ADHD, n = 71); individuals who met ADHD criteria as children and continue to meet criteria as young adults (Persistent ADHD n = 79); and a control group of individuals who did not meet ADHD diagnostic criteria in childhood or adulthood (n = 69). Groups were compared with examine differences in change in rates of alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine dependence over 3 time points in young adulthood (mean ages 18, 20, and 22 years). The method used is notable as this longitudinal study followed participants from childhood into young adulthood instead of relying on retrospective self-reports from adult participants. Results indicated that there were no significant group differences in change in rates of substance dependence over time. However, individuals whose ADHD persisted into adulthood were significantly more likely to meet DSM-IV criteria for alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine dependence across the 3 time points after controlling for age, sex, childhood stimulant medication use, and childhood conduct problems. Implications of these findings, as well as recommendations for future research, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014



  • A.D.H.D.
  • Drug abuse
  • Young adulthood

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