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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and substance abuse was the research topic of two recent PhDs in Pharmacy at Nelson Mandela University.

ADHD expert in Africa, Research Associate in the University’s Drug Utilisation Research Unit (DURU), and former University of Port Elizabeth staff member, Prof Anneke Meyer (84), was the promotor and co-promotor respectively of Corné Coetzee (graduating at the Autumn Graduation) and Judith Regnart (who graduated in December 2020). Prof Meyer specialises in Neuropsychology.

Mandela Uni’s Prof Ilse Truter of the Pharmacy Department (left) was the co-promotor of Corné and promoter of Judith’s studies. Corné (55) is a senior lecturer in the Pharmacy Department at the University of Limpopo.

ADHD is prevalent among two to four percent of young adults in the general population.

The findings of Corné’s study on the prevalence and effect of past pharmacotherapy in young adults indicated that ADHD occurs in 30% of young adults treated for substance abuse. Nicotine and cannabis use are significantly more prevalent among adults with ADHD. Persons with ADHD experimented with and used a variety of substances.

In addition, females with ADHD were using cannabis more frequently and started at a younger age than those without the disorder. The results showed that to a large extent, early treatment for ADHD prevented later substance abuse.

Prof Meyer and Corné want to continue their research on the association of ADHD and substance abuse but will focus on adolescents and prevention.

Prof Meyer was an invited speaker and Corné presented a paper on her research results at ICASA (The International Collaboration on ADHD and Substance Abuse) in Stockholm, Sweden in 2017. At that time, she was collaborating with the University of Oslo, Norway, and this led to their ongoing collaboration with ICASA and international conferences. Prof Meyer also supervised Corné’s Master’s study.

Because of the diversity of their research populations and the opportunity for cross-cultural research, there is keen interest in the data they obtain, says Prof Meyer.

Prof Meyer only started her studies in Psychology at the former UPE after she married in 1966. She first obtained a BSc in Biological Sciences and was a secondary school teacher for a couple of years. She then obtained her Honours, Masters and PhD and was appointed as junior lecturer in Psychology at UPE in 1979. The combination of her background in Biological Sciences and Psychology resulted in Neuropsychology as her field of specialisation. She is also a research associate at the University of Limpopo and an Honorary Professor at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, where she supervises PhD students and assists in research.

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