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ADHD Treatment Protects Kids from Smoking

May 15, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, stimulant medications used to treat ADHD do not increase a person’s risk for becoming a smoker. In fact, new Duke research shows the medications actually protect young people from picking up the habit.

“Parents have been concerned that smoking may result from treatment with medication,” says Scott Kollins, director of Duke's ADHD program. “I talk to parents about this all the time. Our research shows that proper ADHD treatment is not going to have a negative effect, and will most likely have a positive one.”

The latest research puts to rest a controversy over the long-term effects of ADHD treatment that has been around for nearly 15 years.

“We have relatively few, long-term studies that document outcomes associated with ADHD treatment,” Kollins says. Studies that suggested ADHD treatment increased risk for smoking have been criticized for various reasons. Kollins and his colleagues’ approach for examining the question combined data from numerous studies and thousands of children/adolescents to gain a complete picture of how medication is associated with smoking. For example, “we know that adolescents who smoke may not meet the criteria for nicotine dependence, yet that was used by several studies to measure their outcome,” he explained.

“We broadened the scope of our outcome to include smoking frequency and whether people were current smokers. We found the stimulant treatment actually protected young people from becoming regular smokers.

“Treating the problems associated with ADHD is a good thing,” he concludes.

Learn more about Kollins’ findings, ADHD treatment associated with lower smoking rates

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Treating ADHD at Duke