What You Need To Know: ADHD and Addiction
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has existed for over 100 years. As of 2023, an estimated 6.1 million children aged 2-17 years living in the United States had been diagnosed with ADHD. (CDC) Many are diagnosed with ADHD as children, as symptoms become prominent in early development and academic work. ADHD symptoms can persist into adulthood and affect one’s social relationships as well as academic and work performance.
Both Children and Adults can be diagnosed with ADHD. It has been shown that children diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol addiction as they grow older. The linkage between ADHD and addiction is much closer than you may think. But more on that later; first, let's cover what ADHD is.
Symptoms of ADHD
According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Here are the definitions of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Inattention means a person may need help staying on task, sustaining focus, and staying organized, and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
Hyperactivity means a person may seem to move about constantly, including when it is inappropriate or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, hyperactivity may mean extreme restlessness or talking too much.
Impulsivity means a person may act without thinking or have difficulty with self-control. Impulsivity could also include a desire for immediate rewards or the inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may interrupt others or make important decisions without considering long-term consequences. (NIHM)
You may have ADHD and not even know it, OR you may experience a lack of motivation or the inability to stay focused now and again, which is perfectly normal. Generally speaking, all of us will experience inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity at some point in our lives.
It is important to note that people with actual ADHD experience the previously mentioned symptoms on a much more significant scale.
Getting Diagnosis for ADHD
For a person to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must be chronic or long-lasting, impair the person’s functioning, and cause the person to fall behind typical development for their age. Stress, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and other physical/mental conditions can cause symptoms similar to ADHD. Therefore, a thorough evaluation is necessary to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Researchers are unsure what exactly is the cause of ADHD, although many studies suggest genetics play a large role. Like many other disorders, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors that might raise the risk of developing ADHD and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and social environments might play a role in ADHD.
The common diagnosis of ADHD leads to a prescription drug of some kind. Some form of stimulant or non-stimulant drug can provide those with ADHD relief from their symptoms. It is up to you to be honest with your doctor as you try out these medications. The risk of abuse is high in stimulant drugs because of the rise in dopamine it creates when first taking it.
The most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD are:
Adderall XR (amphetamine)
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)
Strattera (atomoxetine hydrochloride)
If you are considering getting tested for ADHD, contact your primary care physician today for assistance.
The Risk of Abuse of ADHD Medication
There is a potential for abuse and addiction with any stimulant medication. It is not necessarily more common for someone with ADHD to form an addiction; the research shows that as long as they are taken as prescribed, they are no more at risk than the average person. So, we suggest using caution just like with any other medication, take it as prescribed by your doctor.
The real risk of addiction starts when someone uses more than the prescribed dosage or tries to self-medicate with a non-prescription medication.
According to the research, over 75% of high school and college students aged 18-26 reported taking a stimulant drug without a prescription.
If you take more than prescribed or take a stimulant such as Adderall or Ritalin without a prior diagnosis, this is really where the risk of dependency rises.
Addiction and ADHD
The ADHD brain is much more malleable than the average brain. The likelihood of being impulsive and rash decision-making creates the perfect formula for addiction to start brewing. Several studies have shown a strong connection between ADHD, drug abuse, and alcoholism. ADHD is five to 10 times more common among adult alcoholics than those without the condition.
Researchers have also found links between ADHD and the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs, particularly in people who also have other psychological disorders (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder). Moreover, people with ADHD typically start having problems with drugs and alcohol earlier than those without the condition. (WebMD)
Getting Treatment For ADHD and Addiction
With an accurate diagnosis, many treatment options and coping strategies become available. ADHD and addiction are not a “one size fits all” scenario; many factors must be considered before a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment is found. Everyone needs to approach their ADHD and their addiction in a way that is unique to them. Finding a rehab facility that offers a Dual-Diagnosis treatment plan is essential to your recovery.
People with ADHD often have other conditions, such as learning disabilities, anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, depression, and substance use disorder. These mental health issues often go hand in hand with getting the proper treatment for ADHD and addiction.
LA Valley Recovery offers a great dual-diagnosis program that is created to meet each individual's needs. The process is pretty straightforward. If you want more information, contact us by phone or email!