ADHD Could Present Higher Risk for Nicotine Addiction

December 17, 2019 – A study showed that young adults with ADHD were more likely to self-administer nicotine in both relaxing and cognitively difficult scenarios.

Study results recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology indicate that young adults with ADHD are at higher risk of becoming addicted to nicotine after even the first exposure to the substance.

The study included 136 non-smokers between ages 18 to 25, about half of whom had a clinical diagnosis of ADHD. Participants were administered two different doses of nicotine and a placebo. Then, they were asked to choose a spray while engaged in two different scenarios: a relaxed setting and a setting in which they were asked to solve math problems.

Scott Kollins, PhDThe researchers hypothesized that participants with ADHD would be more likely to choose the nicotine while solving the math problems.

“We have known for a long time that nicotine does have some of the same properties that medicine used to treat ADHD has,” said the DCRI’s Scott Kollins, PhD, while discussing the findings in an interview with NPR. “It increases vigilance and attention.”

However, while participants without ADHD were more likely to choose nicotine when working on the math problems, those with ADHD were more likely to self-administer nicotine in both scenarios. Participants with ADHD were also more likely to report pleasurable effects from the nicotine.

Kollins, who was the lead author of the paper, said that these results indicate that young adults with ADHD could be at higher risk for nicotine addiction after only one exposure to the substance. Conversation, education, and prevention efforts surrounding nicotine use and addiction need to start early, he added.