Recent research suggests there is a legitimate link between ADHD and addiction. People with ADHD can experience difficulties that can be hard for the general population to understand. ADHD is characterized by the chronic difficulty with paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. It is one of the most common disorders among children and adults and many physicians are quick to diagnose children with the condition.
Approximately 6.4 million American children between the ages of four and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many of these people will be more inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs and recent research has suggested that the two often run hand-in-hand.
How Does ADHD Relate to Addiction?
Attributes of ADHD, such as the impulsivity and being easily distracted, both make it easier to fall into some patterns of addictive behavior. Quite simply, they are easily bored and tend to always have to be doing something, which is where the relationship between ADHD and addiction is born. People with ADHD are much more prone to impulsive behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, and substance abuse.
Some adults with ADHD who abuse drugs do so as a means to “self-medicate” and to cope with some of the difficulties they deal with from having the condition. One study found that only 30 percent of their participants used drugs to get high, where the other 70 percent claimed they were doing it just to “improve their mood, to sleep better, or for other reasons”. The persistent feelings of hyperactivity and restlessness associated with ADHD are a driving factor behind impulsive behaviors and drive many with the condition to be more driven to drug abuse.
ADHD is highly correlated with poor performance in school and work. Sadly, for many of them, they will endure many issues with underperformance throughout their childhood and adolescence, which has negative effects on their self-esteem and this ultimately correlates with a higher risk of substance abuse.
They also tend to have more trouble with forming meaningful relationships. They steer more towards isolating behavior, lack sufficient social support, have feelings of loneliness and tend to have a higher occurrence of depression. Both depression and isolation significantly increase the risk of drug abuse.
How Does ADHD Carry into Adulthood?
Studies were conducted that monitored patients who had ADHD throughout their lives and found that in many, the hyperactivity part of the condition tended to wear off, but the inattentiveness didn’t go away. It becomes more internalized and can show itself in addictive behavior.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 4.4 million adults struggle with ADHD. Their survey suggests that those adults with ADHD were more likely to be divorced, unemployed and tended to have more problems associated with substance abuse. Symptoms of ADHD also tend to coincide with other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which by themselves are all associated with higher levels of drug abuse.
So I Need Adderall, Right?
All of this does pose a problem for those in recovery who struggle with ADHD, because the most common method for treating ADHD nowadays is to prescribe stimulants like Adderall, which some would consider to be like “legal speed”. While this medication has shown to be highly beneficial to help alleviate symptoms of ADHD, it does have a high potential for abuse and has already become largely popular among college students and working professionals in demanding positions.
According to a study published last month in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, between 2005 and 2011, the nonmedical use of Adderall has risen 67 percent among young adults ages 18 to 25 and the emergency room visits associated with the drug shot up by 167 percent. Now the point of this article is not meant to shed a bad light on using Adderall for treating ADHD, but the research has ultimately shown that due to the evidence in previous studies, using highly addictive medication to treat a population that is more prone to addiction could possibly even do more harm than good. Many people have managed to handle the symptoms of their ADHD in a constructive way and without the aid of stimulants.
While having ADHD does not guarantee problems with drug abuse will occur, the two do seem to have a strong correlation. Many of the behaviors associated with ADHD have shown to be potential precursors to other addictive behavior down the road.
Morningside Recovery ADHD and Addiction Treatment
Morningside Recovery is among the leading addiction treatment providers in the country and offers a variety of treatment options to patients struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders. We offer traditional 12 step-based and alternative treatment options, such as SMART Recovery. We offer treatment for many prescription medications, including:
If you or a loved one are struggling with ADHD and addiction, please don’t hesitate to call. You may reach us anytime at (855) 416-8202. Our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.