A new study has suggested that young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop problems with drugs and alcohol misuse if they take up smoking.
The results, published today [26 July] in the British Journal of Psychiatry, support the theory that cigarettes are often a 'gateway' for subsequent dependence to alcohol or drugs and raises important healthcare questions, according Dr Joseph Biederman from Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the research.
"We found that smoking greatly and significantly increased the risk of young people with ADHD developing alcohol and drug misuse and dependence," said Biederman.
"This has important public health implications, and suggests that if smoking could be prevented in young people with ADHD then a large amount of problems associated with alcohol and drugs could also be prevented."
The researchers looked at the results of more than 650 young people in America and found smokers with ADHD were 28% more likely to become alcohol dependent by age 23 and 40% more likely to become drug dependent than non-smokers without ADHD at the same age.
While the research did not fully establish why cigarette smokers with ADHD are more inclined to become drug or alcohol dependent, Dr Biederman suggested that; "may be because nicotine affects the way dopamine [a mood-enhancing chemical] is transmitted in the brain, which may in turn reinforce other addictive behaviours."
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking charity ASH, added: "This research further supports the overwhelming evidence of the negative impacts of smoking from a young age. Although smoking prevalance among children has fallen by half [in the past five years] there are still hundreds of thousands of children putting themselves at risk by taking up smoking every year."
Reference: Biederman J, Petty CR, Hammerness P, Batchelder H and Faraone SV (2012) Cigarette smoking as a risk factor for other substance misuse: 10-year study of individuals with and without attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry