ADHD And Addiction

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

According to various studies backed up by south Florida rehab centers, there is an estimated 25 percent overlap within adolescents that have substance use disorder and also fit the criteria for ADHD diagnosis. ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a chronic condition that includes a combination of persistent problems such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Many teens who experience ADHD also may struggle with low self esteem, poor school performance and troubled relationships. There is not any specific ‘cure’ for ADHD but treatment will involve medications and behavioral therapy and intervention, very similar to treatment options for many substance use disorders.

ADHD also comes with it a difficulty of ‘staying on task’, or even simply being still for extended periods of time. People with ADHD also find themselves interrupting people when they talk and being forgetful about completing activities they start.

One thing the research didn’t uncover, though, is that there’s no real answer as to why there is such an overlap between these two conditions. According to Dr. Sarah Johnson, MD, medical director at Landmark Recovery, people with ADHD have issues regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. People who have severe addiction often are found to have issues associated with dopamine releases in the brain. Addiction neurobiological research, which is relatively young compared to other medical research, has already identified connections between dopamine and behavior.

Many adults have been found to be carrying with them ADHD but haven’t been properly diagnosed. Just as with addiction, the earlier the identification of the symptoms, the higher the likelihood of success when dealing with the symptoms in the person. Behaviors end up becoming habits, which in turn make reversing the behavior far more difficult as the condition is allowed to progress and be untreated.

Treatment centers that deal with substance use disorders are moving more and more toward a holistic approach, in which conditions like ADHD, as well as depression and other mental health conditions are simultaneously treated as many times, the addiction is triggered by these undiagnosed mental illnesses. However, if someone with one of these related mental health issues develops a chronic addiction, simply treating that condition without addressing the addiction is guaranteed to actually handle the addictions themselves. When substances also introduce a chemical dependency, such as alcohol and opiates like heroin, the problems can become complicated by withdrawal symptoms. In fact, many people who find themselves addicted to opioids like oxycontin and heroin will attest that many times, they simply continue using to avoid the pains and discomfort of withdrawal itself and not for any ‘high’ that comes from using the substance itself.

As research continues to uncover more about how the human mind works at a neurobiological level as well as how habits are formed and induced by brain activity, treatments for conditions like ADHD and how they tie into substance use disorder will become more effective.

Substance abuse disorder is a chronic mental illness that affects thousands in south Florida and requires drug rehab. 1st Step offers treatment options in south Florida including detox. For more information, call (866) 319-6126.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.

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