Justin Yates, Northern Kentucky University – ADHD and Substance Abuse

On Northern Kentucky University Week:  Kids with ADHD could be at risk as they grow older.

Justin Yates, professor of psychological sciences, discusses medication and addiction issues.

Dr. Yates first taught at Northern Kentucky University in 2012 and during the 2013-2014 academic year as an instructor before being hired as an Assistant Professor in 2014. He has published over 30 journal articles on addiction and the neural mechanisms of maladaptive decision making and published a textbook on addiction at the end of 2022. His research has been recognized at a national level, having received three early career awards from the American Psychological Association.

ADHD and Substance Abuse

People with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) are more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder later in life. As the most common treatments for ADHD are stimulant drugs with high misuse potential, there are some concerns that long-term treatment for ADHD can further increase addiction risk. 

We need to understand this risk if we are going to reduce it. Animal research can help with that.

In my lab, testing on rats is providing valuable insights on the relationship between long-term stimulant administration and risk for future addiction-like behaviors.

In a recently published study, we determined whether long-term administration of Ritalin increases preference for the stimulant methamphetamine in both ADHD-like and non-ADHD-like rats.

This is an important research question considering methamphetamine use disorder has increased substantially since the mid-2010s. And overdose deaths resulting from stimulant use increased by 180% between 2015 and 2019.

While long-term Ritalin treatment did not increase the rewarding effects of methamphetamine in either type of rat tested, we found that ADHD-like female rats showed enhanced drug-seeking behavior that is analogous to relapse.

The current results suggest that women with ADHD may be more susceptible to relapse if they have received long-term stimulant treatment. These results highlight the need to consider sex differences when examining addiction vulnerability in animal models of ADHD.

This work can help better inform clinicians of best practices for treating ADHD in men and women.

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