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.

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

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

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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