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Treatment for ADHD May Reduce Smoking Risk

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Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may reduce the risk that a child will become a smoker as an adult.

ADHD, marked by hyperactive and impulsive behavior, is treated with stimulant medications (including Vyvanse and Concerta).  

Studies have shown that adults with ADHD are twice as likely to smoke as those without the condition.  People with ADHD also start earlier as smokers compared to the general population and are two to three times more likely to take up smoking as adolescents compared to their peers without ADHD.

Psychologist Erin Schoenfelder with Duke University's ADHD program in Durham, North Carolina, says stimulant drugs appear to act on the same neural pathways in the brain as nicotine.  

An analysis of 14 studies led by Schoenfelder found lower smoking rates in adults who were treated for ADHD compared to those who were not.

Researchers also found a much larger effect in treated adults with severe ADHD and those who had been taking medication for a long time.

The study looked at the smoking habits of some 2,300 participants.

Previous research looking at the impact of stimulant medications on smoking behavior have been mixed. Some studies suggested that treatment increases smoking rates, suggesting people with ADHD who smoke are trying to self-medicate with nicotine.  Other investigations showed the stimulant drugs decreased the risk while still other research has found treatment has no effect on smoking at all.

But Schoenfelder was quoted as saying her group's findings should "debunk" the perception that stimulants increase the risk of smoking.  

The researchers say the findings give them confidence to assure parents that consistent ADHD treatment will not increase their children's risk of taking up the cigarette habit.

The study by Duke University researchers was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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