Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that mainly affects children and teens, but can continue on into adulthood. The disorder may cause children to be hyperactive and impulsive, or they may have difficulty paying attention. These symptoms commonly cause interference with school and home life. For adults with ADHD, they may have trouble being organized, managing time, and maintaining a job. They may also experience difficulty with relationships, self-esteem, and addiction.
Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD in children are divided into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
- Is easily distracted
- Doesn’t follow directions or finish tasks
- Doesn’t appear to be listening
- Doesn’t like doing things that require sitting still
- Forgets about daily activities
- Has problems organizing tasks
- Doesn’t pay attention
- Often loses things
- Tends to daydream
- Doesn’t stay seated
- Often squirms, fidgets, or bounces when sitting
- Has trouble playing quietly
- Is always moving, running, or climbing
- Talks excessively
- Is always “on the go”
- Blurts out answers
- Has trouble waiting his or her turn
- Interrupts others
The symptoms of ADHD in adults can change as the person ages.
They can include:
- Chronic lateness
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble controlling anger
- Problems at work
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Poor Judgement
- Easily frustrated
- Chronic boredom
- Trouble concentrating on written material
- Mood swings
- Relationship problems/social awkwardness
Is There a Correlation Between ADHD and Addiction?
In a word, yes. there is a correlation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and addiction. In fact, several studies have shown a strong link between ADHD, drug abuse, and alcoholism. It is estimated that about 25% of adults who have substance abuse issues also have ADHD. The patterns of distraction and impulsiveness, both traits associated with ADHD, can make it easier for an individual to fall into addiction. Additionally, people with ADHD typically experience a lot of stress dealing with the disorder, and that can also lead to self-medicating and sometimes, addiction.
The relationship between ADHD and addiction doesn’t only affect adults. It is also more common for children diagnosed with ADHD to start abusing alcohol in their teenage years. In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry by Timothy Wilens, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, it was found that 14% of children ages 15-17 with ADHD had problems with alcohol as adults, compared to 3% of their peers without ADHD. It seems that the trouble starts in adolescence – until about age 15, those with ADHD are no more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol than those without ADHD. But from that age on, the rates of abuse and addiction skyrocket. Half of all adults with untreated ADHD will develop a substance use disorder in their lifetime.
Why Do People with ADHD Use Drugs or Drink?
With all of the symptoms listed above, it’s easy to see why someone with ADHD might turn to drugs or alcohol, and study findings support the correlation. Of the young adults interviewed, only 30 percent said that they used drugs or alcohol to get high. The other 70 percent used drugs or consumed alcohol to sleep better, improve their mood, or some other reason. This kind of self-medication seems to be the biggest reason that people with ADHD use drugs or drink.
The symptoms of ADHD themselves also contribute to drug and alcohol use. Impulsivity, poor judgement, and social awkwardness are all symptoms that come with ADHD, making way for overindulgence.
Another risk factor for substance abuse in ADHD patients is financial. Compared to people without the disorder, those with ADHD do more poorly in school. Fewer people with ADHD finish high school and graduate from college, thus earning less money in their adult lives.
Additionally, genetics may play a part. Both ADHD and alcoholism run in families, and researchers have found common genes shared between ADHD and alcoholism.
Does Taking Medication for ADHD Lead to Drug Abuse?
Treatment for ADHD usually includes psychiatric medication. The most widely prescribed are methylphenidate and amphetamine, which are controlled substances – meaning that they can become addictive. These medications are often abused by people without ADHD for the feeling they produce. It’s logical to wonder if it is a good idea to treat patients who might be predisposed to addiction with these drugs. In the case of ADHD, research has shown that it is. In fact, people with ADHD who do take these types of medications are actually less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. Treating ADHD properly is a powerful preventative measure against substance abuse and addiction.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with ADHD and are struggling with drug or alcohol problems, take heart. There is effective help and support to begin your recovery. When properly treated, those with ADHD can live much more productive lives. Many rehab facilities are equipped to care for patients who have a dual diagnosis, treating both issues at the same time.
At Serenity at Summit, we have had success in treating these types of patients. Please contact us today to have your questions answered, and we will be happy to guide you in the right direction for your individual needs. Recovery is possible, and we can help.
Serenity at Summit New Jersey Addiction Center Answers
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