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May 12, 2014 10:24 AM EDT

ADHD Treatment May Reduce Smoking Rates

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Adolescents taking stimulant medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are less likely to smoke, according to a recent study HealthDay reported.

Researchers at Duke Medicine found that ADHD treatment, including Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse, is associated with lower smoking rates. Children who were treated with these medicines were about half as likely to smoke as children with this disorder who were not treated with these medications.

ADHD is a common childhood disorder that can continue through adolescence and adulthood, and is characterized by hyperactivity, difficulty paying attention and impulsivity. About 11 percent if American children aged 4 to 17 are diagnosed with the disorder, HealthDay reported, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Given that individuals with ADHD are more likely to smoke, our study supports the use of stimulant treatment to reduce the likelihood of smoking in youth with ADHD," Scott Kollins, senior author and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Duke ADHD Program, said in a statement. "The risk is further lowered when adherence to medication treatment is consistent, presumably since this increases the chances that symptoms are managed effectively."

For the study, researchers examined 14  longitudinal studies of cigarette smoking and ADHD treatment, including a total of 2,360 individuals with ADHD, making this the largest meta-analysis on the issue to date.

Based on their findings, there is a significant association between stimulant treatment and lower smoking rates. The effect was larger in those with more severe ADHD and when participants took stimulant medications continuously.

However, researchers said they were not able to identify a causal relationship between reduced smoking risk and stimulant treatment.

"This study may debunk the perception that stimulants will increase one's risk for smoking," Kollins said. "It gives us more confidence when we talk with parents to reassure them that consistent ADHD treatment won't increase their children's risk of smoking, and in fact, may actually do the opposite."

The findings were recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

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