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ADHD children are more likely to develop substance abuse problems

Children with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) are 2-3 times more likely to develop serious substance abuse problems (nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs) in adolescence and adulthood than children without the disorder.

This greater risk applies to boys and girls, and across race and ethnicity.

ADHD is occurring in 5 – 10% of children in the U.S. and other industrialized countries.

Symptoms of the disorder include being easily distracted, fidgeting, being unable to complete a single task and being easily bored.

However, to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, a child must have at least six of nine symptoms of either hyperactivity or inattention, and the child's behavior must be causing problems in his or her life. The vast majority of children with ADHD have at least six symptoms in both categories (hyperactivity and inattention).

In addition, the symptoms must have started before age seven, the symptoms must be present in multiple settings (at home and school, for example) and must be adversely affecting functioning.

The symptoms must not be explainable by any medical condition or any other mental disorder.

As children with ADHD enter adolescence and adulthood, they typically fall into three groups of roughly equal size:

1/3 will have significant problems in school and socially
1/3 will have moderate impairment
1/3 will do reasonably well or have only mild impairment.

A diagnosis of ADHD must be made by a mental health professional such as a child psychologist or psychiatrist (and not by a parent or teacher).

Study by UCLA psychologists and colleagues at the University of South Carolina.

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