ADHD and Addictive Behavior: What’s the Connection?

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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neurological condition often referred to as ADHD, often develops in childhood and can continue to affect millions into their adulthood. People with ADHD often develop a substance use disorder, further complicating their lives when they have to deal with both issues. Because ADHD and addictive behavior often co-exist, it makes it important that those who live with the co-occurring diagnoses receive proper help that addresses both situations.

Facts About ADHD

There are no blood or other medical tests that definitely show the presence of ADHD. A diagnosis must be made by a doctor or therapist qualified to recognize the signs and symptoms of ADHD. This can be achieved both by observing a person’s behavior as well as interviewing them. If the individual is a child, discussing the child’s behavior and thought processes with their parents helps the clinician make an official diagnosis. 

There are three different types of ADHD: Inattentive Type, Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined Type. Combined Type is the most common kind of ADHD.

Typical symptoms of Inattentive Type include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Trouble focusing on one thing at a time
  • Easily distracted
  • Unable to understand or follow instructions
  • Forgetful 
  • Doesn’t seem to listen to others
  • Easily loses things

Typical symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive Type include:

  • Fidgets and squirms a lot
  • Talks excessively 
  • Interrupts others when they speak
  • Difficulty staying seated for long
  • Exhibits an excessive amount of energy
  • Trouble playing solo and quietly

Typical symptoms of Combined Type include at least a few symptoms of both Inattentive Type and Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. 

There isn’t just one cause to point to that explains why a person develops ADHD. Some studies show that genetics can sometimes contribute to it. states that three out of four children with ADHD have at least one relative who also has it. Many cases can come from exposure to toxic substances, including drugs, tobacco, or alcohol a person’s mother used while pregnant. ADHD often occurs in children who are born prematurely or at a low birth weight. In a small number of cases, ADHD can be related to trauma, such as brain injury, a stroke, or the development of a brain tumor. 

The Correlation Between ADHD and Addictive Behavior

People with ADHD generally have difficulty resisting urges and sometimes engage in risky behavior. This can lend itself to a person combining ADHD and addictive behavior. Because living with ADHD presents challenges and frustrations, some people end up turning to drugs or alcohol to help them cope. What may begin as a simple attempt to dilute behaviors or ease accompanying stress or anxiety can turn into drug and alcohol abuse. 

ADHD causes a person to have difficulty regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate emotional responses and feel pleasure and reward. When this process is compromised, it can make it tempting to use other avenues to achieve those feelings, including abusing drugs and alcohol. About 25% of people who seek help for drug and alcohol addiction also have ADHD. As well, adult alcoholics are five to ten times more likely to also have ADHD than others.

Medications such as Adderall, which is an amphetamine or dextroamphetamine, and Ritalin and Concerta, which are methylphenidates, are commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. These medications help levels of dopamine increase in the brain. It’s important to take the correct dosage because one that is too high can contribute to the very ADHD symptoms a person is trying to alleviate. When dopamine levels reach an excessively high level, a person often has difficulty focusing.

In some cases, the very drugs prescribed to help control ADHD, which are often in the stimulant family, end up becoming addictive. When a person deals with both ADHD and addictive behavior, everything becomes more complicated. For those who become addicted to their ADHD meds that have stimulants, there are non-stimulant options available.

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

Someone who has both ADHD and an addiction to drugs or alcohol finds themselves in a complicated cycle. The addiction can feed into the ADHD behaviors, which in turn can make an individual want to continue or even increase the amount of drugs and alcohol they abuse. Because of the complications of having co-occurring conditions, people tend to benefit greatly from professional help designed to address both situations. 

A detox program is typically the first step, providing medical and psychological monitoring of a person as they go through the process of detoxing from the toxic drugs or alcohol in their system. As they move into the next step of treatment, which can consist of an outpatient or inpatient program, a determination is made about whether or not a change in medication is needed. For the individual who developed an addiction to their ADHD medication, it’s particularly important that this be addressed. 

Drug Treatment in Los Angeles

If you are looking for treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol that also addresses mental health issues, Launch Centers can help. We offer a clinical and holistic program that combines educational and career elements to help set up young adults for success.

Contact Launch Centers now and let’s talk about how we can help you change your life starting today.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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