ADHD and addiction

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health disorder. ADHD can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors in children and adults. Individuals who suffer from ADHD have trouble focusing or staying still for long periods of time.

Those individuals that have ADHD may experiment with drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism This is considered a co-occurring disorder. Others may already take a stimulant, such as Adderall, and they may already be addicted; there is always the ability to suffer from both addiction and ADHD. Addiction is a brain disease that individuals fall victim to as severe substance abuse drives their compulsions. 

Addiction can completely take over a person’s life, so much so that their entire life revolves around taking a certain drug. Those with ADHD may resort to drugs and alcohol as a way to fit in with society, relax, or escape their reality. Developing an addiction can cause severe consequences or a co-occurring disorder.

Developing ADHD

Genetics is one of the most important factors in the development of ADHD and other mental health disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who develop ADHD are four times more likely to have a family member also diagnosed with ADHD. A study performed by the CDC reveals the prevalence of ADHD among children soared from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 11.0 percent in 2017. This does not compare to the 6.1 million American children (9.4 percent) who have ever received a diagnosis of ADHD.

Research also finds that pregnant women who consume alcohol or tobacco products are most likely exposing their baby to the development of ADHD and other mental health disorders. Forms of trauma will also cause mental health disorders. Injury to sensitive places such as the brain can cause inattention and poor regulation of motor skills and activities. While a brain tumor, stroke, or disease is an uncommon cause of ADHD, there is a possibility. 

Individuals who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder lack the correct amount of dopamine in their brains. Since the lack of dopamine, an individual may take drugs or consume alcohol to try and make up for it. This can result in a form of ADHD and addiction.

Symptoms and Effects of ADHD

While there is more than one type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some main characteristics of ADHD include:

  • Trouble focusing or paying attention 
  • Easily distracted from current tasks
  • Forgetful about completing tasks
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Constantly fidgeting or moving
  • Inability to control speech or actions
  • Frequently misplaces items

Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or substance abuse can be challenging. The medications used to treat ADHD and alcoholism can actually be addictive and habit-forming. Medications like Ritalin and Vyvanse are known as stimulants that treat up to 70-80 percent of the ADHD population. However, these medications have a high potential for creating a form of habitual abuse. 

How Addiction Forms

Addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol. Physical dependence is described as one’s tolerance to a drug. If one’s tolerance level is high, they may resort to taking larger doses so they can feel the desired effect. The psychological dependency results from the cravings for the drug; one will obsess over getting the drug and staying high.

Just like developing a mental health disorder, developing an addiction is very much associated with genetics; it’s very easy for one to develop disorders like ADHD and alcoholism. Those with addicted parents may know the harrowing details behind addiction and discovering the root of development is an important part of understanding.

Genetics plays an important role in determining the likelihood of developing a substance abuse problem. Having close relationships with those inside the family dynamic who struggle with addiction may increase the likelihood. The home environment is also important. Growing up or living in a home with heavy substance use doesn’t benefit the development of substance abuse disorder. 

Trauma is another defining factor. Exposure to trauma like sexual and physical abuse, natural disasters, or near-death experiences contribute to the use of drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Trauma experiences contribute to both mental health disorders – such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ADHD – and substance abuse disorders. 

As mentioned above, prescribed stimulants are a cause of addiction; those with ADHD may choose to cope with the state of their mental health by using and abusing drugs or alcohol. Some may abuse a substance as a way to fill a void. When an individual is dependent on more than one substance, they have developed a co-occurring dependency. It’s described as a disorder when the individual doesn’t get their substance of choice and experiences tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is used to describe an individual with a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness, such as ADHD and alcoholism. Substance abuse ranges anywhere from drugs like cocaine and oxycodone to alcohol. Mental illness can include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder.

A co-occurring disorder can be described as someone who uses drugs to calm themselves as they suffer from PTSD or anxiety. However, after the first few uses, they’ll find the drug doesn’t work as well and will have to take heavier doses to feel anything. These two conditions can begin to feed off each other over time. A co-occurring disorder can also be referred to as dual diagnosis.

Treating ADHD and Addiction

Those that suffer from both a mental health disorder and an addiction tend to be considered high-risk; coping with one form of mental illness is grueling enough, but to factor in addiction, suicide rates tend to climb. About half the people that suffer a drug and alcohol addiction also suffer from mental illness, such as the combination of ADHD and alcoholism. 

The recovery process may take longer for those who suffer from both as well because they have to overcome addiction while treating mental illness. This process moves at the pace the patient feels comfortable with. Mental illnesses can slow the process of recovery from weeks to months or in some cases, years. Don’t let this discourage the process as everyone is different.

Integrated Treatment Programs

Integrated treatment programs are designed for patients who suffer from two or more mental health conditions or substance abuse disorders, like ADHD and addiction.

Integrated treatment programs can include: 

  • Evaluation and Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Aftercare Plan
  • Medical Detoxification: Alcohol and Drugs
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Evaluation and diagnosis is the process in which a mental health professional re-evaluates an original diagnosis. They do this to ensure that the current mental health symptoms were accurately diagnosed. For example, the professional would want to ensure that a diagnosis for ADHD and addiction is correct. 

Based on the results of the evaluation, a diagnosis is then reported to better help the patient understand. Additionally, this process may reveal other obstacles in the patient’s path to recovery. It can also identify reasons for the actions of past events and experiences. 

Treatment

A treatment plan is important as it is designed for each individual patient in a treatment center. The goal of a personal treatment plan is to empower the patient. It gives them the motivation to take control of their symptoms and address the problematic issues. These plans will help them stay on track and keep a record of the steps that have been taken.

Aftercare Plan

An aftercare plan is just as important as a treatment plan. Before leaving therapy, a person may meet with a therapist to ensure progress will continue. Just like a treatment plan, creating an aftercare plan that includes the combination of therapeutic and medical interventions is beneficial. This form of treatment can take the form of inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient rehab services.

Detoxification

Medical detoxification is the process of removing toxic substances from the body. During the process, a patient may feel physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Performing a medical detox provides a safe environment in which the patient can recover. When needed, a health professional can administer medication to relieve certain symptoms of detoxification. 

Participating in a medical detox can be safer and easier than if you tried to go through the detoxification process alone. There is a wide range of symptoms associated with detoxification, such as: 

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Shaking
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats

Medical detox helps cleanse the body of addictive substances, but only for the short term. It also does not address the initial cause of addiction or what to do to continue to stay sober. To fully overcome addiction, make use of other integrated treatment programs.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy includes a one-on-one session with a therapist. This is the most popular form of therapy and allows the patient to feel safe and comfortable during a session. 

Furthermore, the individual may feel more inclined to share past experiences and current issues one-on-one. For example, the individual can share experiences about their disorders – such as ADHD and alcoholism – without the feeling of being judged. Individual therapy allows the therapist to re-evaluate the treatment plan and adjust it accordingly. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is there for individuals that need an active group discussion and extra support. This therapy option helps develop communication and socialization skills. The participants also learn how to express their feelings about issues while accepting criticism from others. These support groups help individuals deal with commonly shared lifestyle issues and are widely available to all.

Start the Recovery Process Today

It’s important to seek treatment before the consequences of addiction become dire. Pursuing any one form of treatment is taking a step in the right direction. Treatment programs aim to help understand the desire to take drugs or consume alcohol.

Dual diagnosis treatment is important because it identifies the causes of substance use and emotional suffering. Furthermore, it allows the individual to gain better insight into the relationship between addiction and mental illness, such as ADHD and alcoholism.

Developing a mental health disorder or addiction can occur from the simplest of things: genetics. Regardless of how a person developed an addiction, now is the time to get help. Suffering from a co-occurring disorder can be draining. If you or a friend are experiencing the effects of mental illness and substance abuse, contact us today for information on our treatment center and addiction resources. 

 

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/adhd-statistics/

https://dualdiagnosis.org/10-things-you-should-know-about-treatment/

https://dualdiagnosis.org/an-introduction-to-integrated-treatment/