The Link Between ADHD and Addiction

ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, is a common behavioral condition that affects millions of people around the world.
ADHD is much more common in children than in adults. According to the CDC, an estimated 6.1 million kids between the ages of 2-17 are diagnosed with ADHD at some point during their childhood. Most kids are diagnosed sometime between 6 and 11 years old.

Adults can also get diagnosed with ADHD, but the rate of diagnosis is much less frequent. Some data suggests that about 2.5% of adults suffer from ADHD. Nevertheless, ADHD can affect people at any age. When ADHD goes untreated, it can lead to a variety of other issues, including an increased risk of addiction and substance abuse.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurological disorder that impacts brain functions that are needed to assess, plan, and execute basic tasks in everyday life. As the name suggests, ADHD presents with symptoms like poor concentration (inattention) and hyperactivity (excessive movement). In both kids and adults, ADHD is generally more common in males than in females.
ADHD affects the brain in a few different ways. Research shows that people with ADHD have low levels of neurotransmitters that control the brain’s reward center, regulate mood, and ultimately, are responsible for triggering appropriate responses in certain situations.

Children and adults with ADHD also have abnormalities in their prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia. The prefrontal cortex helps to regulate emotions, behaviors, and judgment, which is what causes inattention and lack of focus in some ADHD sufferers. The basal ganglia, which regulates impulsivity, functions improperly and causes automatic responses to certain stimuli.

adhd and addiction

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD usually has very specific symptoms. In children especially, it’s nearly impossible to mask the symptoms of the disorder. Some of the most common symptoms of ADHD in kids and adults include:

  • Constant fidgeting and squirming
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate places or situations (for children)
  • Having trouble staying quiet
  • Speaking out of turn or trying to finish other people’s sentences
  • Difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupting others
  • Carelessness or having no attention to detail
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Struggling with organization
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing things often

One of the reasons why ADHD is frequently diagnosed in childhood is because the symptoms are much more noticeable in young children. Specifically, a child’s behavior in their school classroom is often a strong indication of a possible ADHD diagnosis. When kids have trouble sitting still throughout the day, struggle to focus on basic tasks, talk out of turn, or have constant energy, it can be a sign of ADHD.

Like all mental health disorders, the symptoms of ADHD are different for everyone. Some people have mild ADHD which doesn’t cause significant impairment. Other people have severe ADHD which contributes to more serious behavioral issues that require special attention and professional treatment.

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If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

Does Having ADHD Increase the Risk of Substance Abuse?

Adolescents and adults who suffer from ADHD are at a higher risk of substance abuse than their peers. According to ADDitude, more than 15% of adults who have ADHD struggle with substance abuse or substance dependence. Alcohol and marijuana are the most commonly abused substance among ADHD sufferers.

People with ADHD struggle with severe imbalances in their brains which cause troubling side effects, like inattention and hyperactivity. Although these behaviors are involuntary in ADHD sufferers, many people wish they could act more normally with fewer impulses. To create some sense of balance, it’s common for individuals with ADHD to use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and calm themselves down.

In fact, one study from Harvard Medical School found that most people with ADHD don’t use drugs and alcohol to get high or drunk. About 70% of people in the study said they use substances to improve their mood, to sleep better, or to improve their wellbeing in some way. For some people, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol helped them improve their concentration and stay productive

Research also shows that a majority of people who have ADHD often suffer from other conditions, like mood disorders, anxiety, OCD, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities, and autism. Mental illnesses tend to coexist with addiction, and people who struggle with addiction are usually unaware of their co-occurring mental health conditions. People with ADHD may also develop mental health issues that are triggered by the frustration of coping with ADHD symptoms.

How Can I Help My Alcoholic Son

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

ADHD and addiction are both serious disorders that require professional treatment. Controlling ADHD symptoms usually requires stimulant or non-stimulant medications in combination with behavioral intervention and therapies.

If someone is suffering from addiction and ADHD simultaneously, both disorders must be treated together in order for the person to successfully recover. When it comes to co-occurring disorders, one cannot be treated without the other. Otherwise, the person isn’t able to fully recover and they risk relapsing.

At Nexus Recovery, we treat addiction, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders like ADHD and substance abuse. Our clinical staff creates a customized treatment program for every client that caters to their specific needs and goals for recovery. Depending on the severity of a person’s condition, we offer a partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and outpatient program at our Los Angeles treatment facility.

Our approach to treatment encompasses holistic and evidence-based therapies for the mind, body, and soul, with a focus on staying active and connected to nature. Our mission is to provide the tools and support for every client’s seamless transition into a more meaningful and fulfilling life of sobriety.

To learn more about ADHD and addiction treatment at Nexus Recovery, call us at (310) 881-9151 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

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