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ADHD and Substance Abuse

man talks with therapist about adhd and substance abuse

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral and developmental disorder marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is characterized by a person’s inability to focus, sit still and give prolonged thought to a decision-making process. It is also characterized by a person’s disposition towards distractibility, an inability to listen, excess talkativeness, and even risky behaviors such as substance abuse. Research also shows that ADHD and substance abuse are closely linked.

Despite perhaps a greater focus on this age, ADHD is not a condition found only in childhood. Beginning in childhood, this disorder can actually extend beyond adolescence and young adulthood and impact an adult through the entirety of their life. This means that an understanding of the connection between ADHD and substance abuse can be helpful. A co-occurring treatment program can help those who are ready to start on a new path.

Understanding ADHD and Substance Abuse

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by problems with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

The following behaviors are typical of those who have ADHD:

  • Inattention: Those with ADHD are prone to forgetfulness even in the completion of everyday tasks and obligations, and they often lose things.
  • Hyperactivity: Constantly restless, a person struggling with hyperactivity commonly feels the need to move about, even in environments where it is not suitable behavior.
  • Impulsivity: An impulsive individual lacks the refrain to take pause and consider a decision and the results of their actions, for either the short- or long-term, instead of jumping directly into a behavior, action, or conversation without any thought to the consequences

An adult with ADHD may encounter a variety of problems within both their personal and professional life, including poor or impaired performance within their job, struggles at the academic level, frustration at their inability to stay on top of tasks within home and family life, and difficulty maintaining intimate relationships. These factors are also all issues that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD).

Why Does ADHD Increase a Person’s Risk of Substance Use?

Contrary to the characteristics of recreational drug use, many of those with ADHD who use substances don’t want to get high or achieve a euphoric state. Rather, they are using drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate symptoms associated with this disorder.

In some instances, a person may use their own stimulant ADHD medications, most typically, again, in an attempt to self-medicate. Stimulant medications work differently on the brain of an individual with ADHD versus that of a non-ADHD individual. The latter individual experiences a pleasurable effect, whereas the former—those in need—experience an adjustment to their thought process by becoming more balanced and focused. Administration of stimulants may actually help to prevent the occurrence of a SUD, especially in youth.

Finding Treatment for Both ADHD and Substance Abuse

To avoid the risk of substance use accelerating into an addiction, appropriate treatment, including ADHD medications, is essential. In many instances, this may be best supported when used within the context of medication-assisted treatment, either during instances of use or addiction. As ADHD is, in part, a behavioral disorder, certain behavioral therapies that impart behavioral modifications may be vastly beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders. This approach can help those in recovery uproot dysfunctional ways of thinking, behaving, and feeling while developing positive alternatives.

Find Help at Vertava Health Mississippi

If you’re overwhelmed with your life due to the adverse effects of ADHD and you find that you’re turning to drugs or alcohol for relief, it’s time to reach out for help. Call Vertava Health Mississippi at 844.470.0410 or connect with us online to learn more.