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Teens With ADHD More Likely To Get Hooked On Nicotine, Research Shows


We have a new detail of the way vaping affects teens. E-cigarettes were supposed to help smokers quit. Instead, they often lead young people to start nicotine. And one group of teens may be more likely to get hooked - those with ADHD. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: It's been known for a while that people with a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD are at increased risk for tobacco use and other substances. But what has not been clear is just how important the first exposure of nicotine may be. In the new study, researcher Scott Kollins of Duke University and his collaborators recruited a bunch of young adults, aged 18 to 25, who did not use nicotine. About half of them had ADHD. They were all asked to do math problems that require some attention and focus. They were also given a chance to just hang out and do things like read magazines. In both situations, they were offered nicotine.

SCOTT KOLLINS: We've known for a long time that nicotine does have some of the same properties that medicines that are used to treat ADHD has. It increases vigilance and attention.

AUBREY: So they hypothesized that those with ADHD may use the nicotine when they needed to focus - say, doing the math problems - but maybe not so much when they were just hanging out. So Kollins says it was a bit of a surprise when they documented that, no matter the situation, after a first exposure to nicotine, those with ADHD seemed to want more of it.

KOLLINS: The big picture is that individuals with ADHD chose to self-administer nicotine more than those who didn't have ADHD.

AUBREY: Given the rise in the number of kids and teens diagnosed with ADHD in recent years and the big increases in vaping, Kollins says the new finding is important.

KOLLINS: The risk for starting to, you know, get hooked on nicotine might begin with the very first exposure.

AUBREY: And at a time when more teens are experimenting...

KOLLINS: It means that the conversation and the education about risk for nicotine needs to start early - really early.

AUBREY: Something that parents and schools may want to consider.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.
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