The use of stimulants, such as Ritalin, for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is deeply controversial with concerns about the side effects and the ethics of prescribing this medication to children. One of the worries is that treatment with these drugs may increase the risk of drug and alcohol abuse. However, several studies of boys and young men with ADHD have found that stimulant treatment actually decreases the risk and delays the onset of substance abuse in adolescence although it does not affect the risk of using tobacco, alcohol or drugs in adulthood. A study of 114 girls (aged 6-18) with ADHD by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital assessed them for tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drug use five years after they enrolled in the study. They compared the 94 participants who had received the stimulants with 20 who had not. The girls who had been treated with stimulants had half the risk of smoking, drinking alcohol and drug abuse as those who had not received treatment although the researchers could not say whether the stimulants had the same protective effects as the girls moved into adulthood.
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