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In adults who do develop a problem, doctors suggest treatment with nonstimulant medications, including guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv), Clonidine (Kapvay), or atomoxetine (Strattera), and sometimes certain antidepressants such as Desipramine (Norpramin) and Bupropion (Wellbutrin).
Whether Ritalin and other stimulants are effective treatments for ADHD patients with substance abuse problems is less clear.
A child with ADHD who has a parent with alcoholism is more likely to also develop an alcohol abuse problem.
Researchers have pointed to common genes shared between ADHD and alcoholism.
When carefully taken as prescribed, though, Ritalin is less likely to be addictive in children or adults.
In large doses -- greater than what is typically prescribed for ADHD -- Ritalin does have effects similar to those of cocaine.
However, researchers have found marked differences between the two drugs.
One of the longest-term studies, which followed 100 boys with ADHD for 10 years, showed no greater risk for substance abuse in boys who took stimulant drugs compared to those who didn't take the drugs.
An earlier study by the same authors even suggested that stimulant use might protect against later drug abuse and alcoholism in children with ADHD by relieving the ADHD symptoms that often lead to substance abuse problems.