The Connection Between ADHD and Addiction

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The connection between ADHD and addiction is strong, especially when ADHD goes untreated.

In an age where mental illness and behavioral disorders are no longer nearly as taboo of a subject as they used to be, hearing that your child has ADHD might not be as devastating as it once was. Not only is there more acceptance surrounding mental illnesses and behavioral disorders, but there is much more information available and treatment techniques known. Now, anyone can be diagnosed with ADHD at any age, but this diagnosis typically comes when children are in grade school. This is when symptoms become most prominent and can be noticed not only at home, but in school and in extracurricular activities, too. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.1 million children total have been diagnosed with ADHD over the years. It is a disorder that is far more common in boys than in girls, with it 12.9% of cases being male and 5..6% being female. These numbers show that it is one of the most common disorders in children, prompting most parents to quickly begin taking action to help ease symptoms. 

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD, which is the well-known abbreviation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is characterized by a number of symptoms, specifically hyperactive behavior. ADHD symptoms are broken down into three categories — inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Some of the most recognizable symptoms within these categories include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Appearing forgetful or losing things
  • Being unable to carry out instructions
  • Having difficulty staying organized
  • Being unable to sit still
  • Excessive talking
  • Constant interrupting 
  • Being unable to wait their turn
  • Little or no sense of danger

Those who have ADHD are at risk for experiencing a number of challenges throughout their lives simply because of the complications that this behavioral disorders can present with. These symptoms, if left untreated, can create additional issues that likely would not have developed with the absence of ADHD.

ADHD and Addiction — How Do They Connect?

Studies have shown that those with ADHD are more likely to develop an addiction than those who do not. In fact, roughly 21% of males and 13% of females with ADHD also abuse drugs and/or alcohol. But why?

Social struggles

When someone, especially a child, adolescent, or young adult, has ADHD, the symptoms they experience can negatively impact their social interactions. Inattentiveness, impulsivity, and being unable to sit still can drive others away, as most young prospective friends want to hang out with people who can pay attention to them and be able to relax. Unfortunately, these side effects of ADHD can make someone come off as “annoying” to other young individuals, even though they are certainly not trying to be. It is common for individuals with ADHD to not have many friends, struggle with being social, and grapple with their self-esteem. These feelings, when left unaddressed, can fester to the point where using drugs or alcohol feel like a viable solution to make them go away.

Negative academic experience

People with ADHD have trouble paying attention, listening to detailed directions, and remembering where they put things. This can make keeping up with academics more challenging than it would otherwise be for the average kid. As a result, a young person’s grades may slip, their confidence in their intelligence may become diminished, and the sadness they feel as a result of not succeeding in the manner that they want can be depressing and anxiety-provoking — enough so to start using drugs or alcohol to make these problems “go away”.

Attempts at self-medication

Young people with ADHD, whether they are diagnosed or not, can easily become fixated on finding ways to tone down the symptoms that bother them or others. For example, if a high-schooler has a major exam but can never focus, they might abuse a stimulant substance like cocaine or amphetamines to get through the exam. An adolescent who has little sense of danger might be intrigued by the prospect of drugs or alcohol being able to influence their ADHD symptoms.

Family influence

ADHD is one of the most genetic behavioral disorders. It is one that can often be linked back to several members of one’s family. Unfortunately, though, there are many families with adult members who maybe were never officially diagnosed with ADHD or who were but chose not to seek further treatment. When this occurs, the behaviors that are synonymous with ADHD are viewed as being “normal” by the family unit, when in reality they are not. Therefore, those young people who are experiencing ADHD may not get the help they need to properly manage it, increasing their odds of using drugs or alcohol in the future.

Treating ADHD and Addiction

Thankfully, ADHD and addiction can both be treated — and at the same time! When developing a skill set to help mitigate the overpowering symptoms of addiction, individuals can also work to establish a set of skills that can help them manage their ADHD symptoms. It is extremely common for those who abuse drugs or alcohol to also have a co-occurring condition like ADHD, making the entire situation more complex. But, when approached as one, both ADHD and addiction can be treated in ways that allow for a happy, healthy life to be lived.

Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

If you or someone you love is struggling with ADHD and addiction, know that there is help available. Going through this alone is not necessary. At Launch Centers, we can help you or your loved one get the treatment needed to put an end to the cyclical pattern of trying to self-medicate symptoms or effects of ADHD. Call us right now to learn more about how we can help make a difference in you or your loved one’s life today.

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