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Is There a Connection Between ADHD and Addiction?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a normal disorder that people of all ages experience. The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as having difficulty concentrating on tasks and staying still to the point that it affects your daily life negatively. Research in Current Psychiatry Reports cites that ADHD affects between 6-9% of children and roughly 5% of adults. Those who have ADHD are twice as likely to face substance addiction later in life, primarily due to symptoms of ADHD having an influence on their choices. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. 

But having ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. Just as there are many who have ADHD, there are many who learn to function with ADHD as well. A large percentage of people who experience addiction issues either already know or eventually find out they have ADHD. Ultimately, there are no specific reasons why or ways to predetermine if someone who suffers from ADHD will also suffer from addiction, but it could be helpful to take a few precautions.


Prescriptions and Addiction

Though many people with ADHD do not need a prescription, there are some who do. Research shows that most children who rely on pharmacotherapy to calm their ADHD symptoms have not formed an addiction due to their prescriptions. Prescriptions like Adderall, which is a stimulant, are common for ADHD. Some doctors will prescribe other kinds of prescriptions, like non-stimulants or antidepressants. It all depends on the person and their ADHD symptoms. 

But for those who do not have ADHD, taking drugs like Adderall can create some of the same effects as cocaine, keeping the person awake all night and providing hyper-focus and energy. Prescriptions for ADHD are often sold illegally among young people for this very reason. People who feel pressured to sell or give away their prescriptions to their peers may be exposed to other substance trading, buying, or selling.


Peer Pressure

Teens with ADHD who are introduced to drugs by peers may be more at risk of becoming addicted. For some teens with ADHD, their desire to fit in and try the positive effects of different drugs may simply be too tempting. Also, the impulsivity that sometimes accompanies ADHD can play a role in negative decision-making. 

When teens are experimenting with drugs, they often talk about the positive effects, such as how it is okay or how it will “help.” Those who suffer from insecurity due to their ADHD or their performance in school or at work may feel that a drug can solve their issues. This can lead to addiction, creating an even larger problem for teens with ADHD. 

Most people who struggle with addiction began using substances when they were young, causing a delay in their progress or major learning curves growing up. Talk to your teen, whether they have ADHD or not, about peer pressure and substance use. For young people, the use of certain addictive substances just one time can alter their brain to need that substance forever. 


Diagnosis Issues

Many adults find out when they are older that they have been suffering from ADHD for their entire lives. This may have seriously impacted how they performed at school and work, and they did not even know they could get help. There is still some generational stigma surrounding ADHD and mental health when there should not be. 

People are born the way they are, and everyone deserves to feel like they can learn and find success. Adults who find out later in life that they have ADHD may look back on their lives and realize their mistakes or their dependence on the effects of drugs stemmed from issues with ADHD, not just addiction. Even as adults, those who discover they have ADHD can find treatment and help.


Hereditary Traits

Many people who suffer from addiction find that addictive tendencies run in the family. Again, this is nothing to be ashamed of — but it is something to remain aware of. Like addiction, ADHD also runs in families. For families with histories of both, there is an increased risk that their children may have addiction issues with ADHD. It is important to know our hereditary traits so that parents and children can have honest conversations about safety and boundaries.


Get Therapy

ADHD can be treated effectively with therapy and pharmacotherapy. Some people even do both. Therapy can give children and adults strategies for managing impulsivity, listening to their bodies when they need to move, and focusing on tasks. Therapy is not one-size-fits-all but should be catered specifically to you or your child. Early therapy after an ADHD diagnosis can help your child with problem-solving, decision-making, and communicating their feelings. Talk to your doctor about therapy and how it can work for you or your child.


ADHD and addiction seem to run hand in hand, but ultimately they are separate conditions. Together, they can make life very difficult and manipulate a person’s choices and decision-making. There is no need to feel any shame for having a condition. But if you are struggling with addiction and your ADHD seems to be making it harder, call RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, we understand that having multiple co-occurring conditions is a big challenge and can feel both demeaning and chaotic. With therapy and proper diagnosis, you can learn strategies to help manage your ADHD and addiction. Are you tired of just surviving and ready to start thriving? At RECO Intensive, our professional staff and experienced alumni will cater your treatment specifically to you with therapy, addiction treatment, and much more to fit your needs. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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