A recent study suggests that teen girls may be less likely to have symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but if they do have the symptoms, they may be more likely to have problems with substance abuse. The study represents a multi-year exploration of connections between teen ADHD symptoms and drug or alcohol usage, spanning a timeframe of age 11 to age 17.
Researchers in Finland, representing the University of Helsinki and the University of Jyvaskla, looked at the ways boys and girls differed in ADHD symptoms and likelihood for substance abuse. The information about their symptoms was provided by their parents and teachers when the students were 11 or 12 years old. When the students were 14, information was gathered about their substance use, following the guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, versions III and IV. When the participants reached age 17 and a half, their substance use levels were evaluated again using a questionnaire format. More than 1500 teens in Finland participated.
While boys had symptoms of ADHD more frequently than girls, girls seemed to have higher rates of substance use outcomes when they had ADHD than did males. When the girls in the study were 14, their ADHD symptoms were considered a predictor toward their use of drugs or alcohol, according to a ScienceDaily report.
When the teens became older, at age 17, both boys and girls with ADHD symptoms also showed repeated alcohol use – but for the girls, the symptoms were a more solid predictor of recurring alcohol or drug use. When parents said they believed their daughters showed signs of ADHD, such as an inability to pay attention, this information was considered a predictor for whether or not their daughters would use illegal drugs during their teen years.
Researchers said these gender-oriented research results should encourage further research into the ways teen behavior can be addressed to help them achieve greater success as they become adults.