New study looks at link between ADHD symptoms and smoking
in a community sample of high school students
PA) Adolescents with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) are more likely to experiment with smoking
and become regular tobacco users, a study by researchers
from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
and Georgetown University indicates. This study appears
in the July issue of the Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that is characterized
by impulsivity, hyperactivity and distractibility, or
difficulty in sustaining attention. It is estimated
that ADHD affects three-to-five percent of school-age
Previous research has linked ADHD with smoking in the
clinical setting, but this study is the first to investigate
the association of ADHD symptoms with smoking practices
in a community sample of high school students. "This
information is important because screening for symptoms
of inattention might be useful in targeting tobacco
control efforts toward high-risk youth, which could
help to arrest their smoking at an earlier stage,"
said senior author Janet Audrain, PhD, of the
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania,
and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry
at Penn's School of Medicine.
While research has yet to prove why ADHD is so strongly
associated with smoking, the researchers note that one
possible explanation might be that nicotine helps manage
ADHD symptoms. According to study co-investigator and
author Kenneth P. Tercyak, PhD, assistant professor
of Oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center,
"stimulation derived from nicotine may help some
smokers with ADHD compensate for their difficulties
sustaining attention and concentration."
Audrain and her colleagues interviewed 1,066 tenth-grade
students from five high schools. The students completed
a survey that assessed ADHD symptoms, as well as current
smoking practices and exposure to other smokers. These
students are part of a four-year study Audrain is conducting
to explore the social, psychological and genetic predictors
of adolescent smoking adoption.
The researchers examined the extent to which symptoms
of ADHD were associated with smoking practices. Adolescents
with clinically significant symptoms of inattention
were found to be over three times more likely to have
ever smoked, and almost three times more likely to be
current smokers. The researchers also found that while
clinically significant symptoms of inattention were
associated with smoking, symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity
This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute
and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and was conducted
by the University of Pennsylvania/Georgetown University
Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.
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