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The Link Between ADHD and Addictive Behavior

Living with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, provides a lot of challenges for children and adults. As well, individuals dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol struggle to manage their lives. What many may not know is that a large number of people have both ADHD and a substance use disorder. Recognizing the link between ADHD and addictive behavior helps people in need of treatment for both conditions.

Understanding ADHD

ADHD is a syndrome that affects both children and adults. It involves patterns of difficulty in paying attention or focusing on one thing and experiencing hyperactivity. People with ADHD often cannot resist urges of impulsivity. They may engage in activities without giving them any forethought. 

There are no medical tests to show proof of ADHD, such as a blood test. Diagnoses of children with ADHD comes from clinical professionals who get information from parents, teachers, and others. Medical testing can rule out other causes of behavior, such as hearing or vision difficulties. They can also rule out an inability to understand direction from authority figures.

There are three types of ADHD. Diagnosis of which kind a person has is based on symptoms experienced over the previous six months. The types of ADHD are inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and a combination type. 

While no one specific cause for ADHD exists, genetics can come into play for some people. Psychiatry.org reports that three out of four kids with ADHD also have at least one relative with the same condition. Children who are born prematurely, or to a mother who smoked or used alcohol during her pregnancy, may develop ADHD.

ADHD and Addictive Behavior Commonly Co-occur 

The National Institutes of Health reports that ADHD is the most common mental disorder that affects 5-10% of children. Up to 60% of children with the condition become adults with ADHD. ADHD and addictive behavior often co-exist. In fact, about half of all people who have a substance use disorder also experiencing at least one mental illness. 

As well, people with diagnosed mental illness also have an addiction to either drugs or alcohol in about half the cases. In addition to ADHD, a substance use disorder may be accompanied by anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. 

The Epidemiologic Catchment Area survey found that individuals who have a lifetime history of a mental disorder have twice the risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. They have more than four times the risk of developing an addiction to drugs.  Even when treated, ADHD takes a large toll not only on individuals but society in general. Estimates put the number of annual lost workdays in the U.S. caused by the results of ADHD at 120 million.

Is There Treatment for Both ADHD and Addiction?

ADHD and addictive behavior often coexist. A person with ADHD may attempt to manage or reduce their symptoms by abusing drugs or alcohol. Because they may not know how to cope with the symptoms of ADHD, a person who does not have the tools for coping with their symptoms often has an elevated risk of using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

It’s common for people to have a substance use disorder and have ADHD or other types of mental health issues. Many treatment centers provide care for both situations. Often a person receiving treatment for ADHD finds that, as they learn to manage their symptoms, they no longer need drugs or alcohol to cope. Proper ADHD management, including any needed medications, makes living with the condition more tolerable and manageable. This helps a person feel less of an impulse to use addictive behaviors.

In addition, a person who is in treatment for addiction often finds their approach to ADHD shifts in positive ways. Someone in recovery in a formal treatment program typically has thing such as private therapy, support groups, and any needed medications. Having these healthy coping skills in place helps them feel less impulsive and more in control.

ADHD and the Onset of Addiction

ADHD has an effect on the development of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Individuals who have both ADHD and a substance use disorder often experience earlier onset of their addictions than those who do not have ADHD. The faster a person with ADHD receives a diagnosis, the more it positively impacts the amount of time they need treatment for addiction. Commonly used ADHD medication treatments often contain forms of amphetamines and methylphenidate, making it important for medical professionals to be involved in treating a patient with both ADHD and a substance use disorder. This is because both of these types of medication have the potential for abuse, and patients with addiction who take them for ADHD should be closely monitored.

ADHD and Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

Riviera Recovery provides gender-specific sober living houses for young adults who want to learn how to stay sober. Our modern homes in Southern California provide the perfect location to focus on recovery from addiction and manage any accompanying mental illnesses.
If you are ready to embrace sobriety, contact Riviera Recovery today and let us help you take the first step.