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ADHD and Substance Abuse

A man thinking 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 toward 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 disorders treatment program can help those who are ready to start on a new path. Call us today at 662.222.2989 to find out more.

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 mitigate the risk of substance use escalating into a full-blown addiction, it’s critical to employ the appropriate treatment strategies, including the use of ADHD medications. In numerous cases, the effectiveness of such treatments is significantly enhanced when they are part of a comprehensive medication-assisted treatment plan. This approach is particularly beneficial either in instances of ongoing substance use or in cases of established addiction.

Given that ADHD encompasses behavioral issues, incorporating specific behavioral therapies aimed at introducing positive behavioral changes can be exceptionally advantageous. Among these, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) stands out as a particularly effective method for treating individuals with co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders. CBT operates on the premise that many of our difficulties are rooted in dysfunctional patterns of thinking, behaving, and feeling.

By engaging in this type of therapy, individuals in recovery can systematically identify and challenge these unhelpful patterns, gradually replacing them with healthier alternatives. This not only aids in managing ADHD symptoms but also equips individuals with the tools necessary to overcome substance dependence, fostering both psychological resilience and overall well-being.

Find Help at Woodland Recovery Center

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmingly burdened by the challenges that come with living with ADHD and notice you’re increasingly relying on drugs or alcohol as a form of escape or relief, it’s a crucial sign that it’s time to seek support. The journey might feel lonely, but reaching out for help is a vital step toward finding healthier coping mechanisms and regaining control of your life.

Take the first step toward recovery. Call Woodland Recovery Center at 662.222.2989 or use our online contact form to learn more.