Those skinny jeans-wearing hipsters popping Adderall over a steady House beat may be among the least likely to require the medication — at least as commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Ironically, people least likely to develop ADHD or schizophrenia are the most receptive to the euphoric high of abusing amphetamine, also known as dextroamphetamine. New research from a geneticist at the University of Chicago also shows the supposed dichotomy between those two disorders as more complicated than the classic “chemical imbalance” of too much, or too little, dopamine.

"The people who like amphetamine would tend to be less likely to ever have those [disorders]," investigator Abraham Palmer told Popular Science.

In a double-blind experiment, Palmer compared the effects of dextroamphetamine — the generic version of Adderall or Ritalin — to the genetic profiles of some 400 study volunteers whose genomes were sequenced. Those most likely to enjoy the euphoric recreational high were also less likely to carry genes implicated in the development of ADHD and schizophrenia.

The association between an affinity for the recreational high and protection from those disorders surprised Wade Berrettini, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, who commented on the study. "It tells us that alleles predisposed to euphoria are protective against schizophrenia, and we didn't know that before," he told Popular Science. "You would also assume that alleles for any response to amphetamine might be predictive of risk increases for ADHD — in this, I’m a little surprised.”

Although people who enjoy the euphoric effects of amphetamine are more likely to abuse it, Palmer was careful in his study to screen volunteers for substance abuse problems as well schizophrenia.

“We show that the genetic susceptibility to the euphoric effects of amphetamine also influences the genetic predisposition to schizophrenia and ADHD,” Palmer wrote in the study. “Specifically, we found that the alleles associated with increased euphoric response to amphetamine were associated with decreased risk for schizophrenia and ADHD.”

The study also offers a relatively new way of approaching the analysis of behavioral symptoms suggesting genetic predilection for the development of a chronic psychiatric illness, Palmer says.

 

Source: Harta AB, Gamazonb ER, Engelhardt BE, et al. Genetic Variation Associated With Euphorigenic Effects Of D-amphetamine Is Associated With Diminished risk For Schizophrenia And Attention deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2014.