ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and studies show that some individuals suffering with ADHD also turn to substance misuse. Here, we explore the link between ADHD and drug addiction and highlight what you can do if you’re concerned about your own behaviour or a loved one.

Understanding ADHD and Its Impact on Mental Health

Research suggests that ADHD and drug addiction often go hand in hand. But to determine the reason for this, it’s important to delve deep into what ADHD is. Short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD is classed as a neurological disorder. It’s typically diagnosed during childhood but some adults are also not diagnosed until later on in life.

Some of the most common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • An inability to pay attention
  • Difficulty staying still
  • Boredom
  • Controlling and impulsive behaviours

It is important to remember that individuals with ADHD may also experience different symptoms. However, individuals with ADHD are commonly overactive and struggle to pay attention for long periods of time. This can have a huge impact on someone’s mental health. Some studies show that individuals with ADHD may turn to drugs and alcohol in order to help them cope with their symptoms including using substances to relax in social situations and feel more calm.

Other individuals suffering from ADHD may be prescribed certain medications such as stimulants. These can also become very addictive and the controlling and the addictive nature of ADHD can make it a very difficult cycle to break, meaning there is a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues.

Can ADHD Lead to Substance Abuse?

Studies show that 15% of adults suffering from ADHD have abused drugs or alcohol. This is nearly three times the rate of adults without ADHD. ADHD is also 5-10 times more common in people suffering from alcohol addiction compared to those without the condition. These stats alone highlight a strong link between ADHD and substance abuse.

There are a few reasons why this could be. For starters, ADHD tends to make people more impulsive and quick thinking as well as struggle with behavioural issues which could all increase the chances of taking and therefore becoming addicted to various substances.

In addition to this, it’s not uncommon for ADHD patients to struggle with social situations as well as poor judgement which makes the likelihood of trying and overindulging in drugs and alcohol to be higher compared to people without ADHD. Studies also show that the brain receptors affected by ADHD are the same as the receptors affected by addiction which means that ADHD individuals are more likely to develop addictions.

Another reason why individuals with ADHD may be more likely to develop a substance use disorder is that many ADHD patients turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Furthermore, two of the most common ADHD medications – Ritalin and Adderall – are also very addictive substances and have a high chance of substance abuse, resulting in a link between ADHD and drug addiction.

ADHD Medication and Addiction

One of the most effective and common treatments for ADHD symptoms is stimulant medication, including amphetamines, but in some cases, these drugs can lead to stimulant addiction. Over time, taking stimulant medication improperly such as taking higher doses or taking it for long periods of time, can result in stimulant use disorder as well as mental health concerns like depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

When ADHD medication is used alongside other drugs and alcohol, there can be serious health effects. This includes a change in body temperature, irregular heartbeats and paranoia. Studies have shown that proper use of stimulants for the treatment of ADHD can be very effective, however, and safe.

To ensure the safe use of ADHD medication, it’s important that individuals only take their medication as prescribed by a medical professional. What’s more, if symptoms persist, it’s important to discuss these as well as further treatment with a medical professional as well as side effects from the medication. This will help individuals to take their medication safely and prevent an addiction disorder from developing.

Signs of ADHD and Addiction

The signs of addiction in someone suffering from ADHD are similar to those without the condition. This includes:

  • Taking ADHD medication without a prescription, or at a higher dose
  • Becoming dishonest and secretive about their behaviour or medication dose
  • Cravings and withdrawal symptoms without ADHD medication
  • Becoming withdrawn from family members and friends
  • Prioritising their ADHD medication and substance use over day-to-day responsibilities

The nature of ADHD and the characteristics of behaviours associated with ADHD can make it very difficult to differentiate between ADHD-related behaviour and substance abuse-related behaviour. However, the use of ADHD medication should improve symptoms and help individuals to live a better life. Drug abuse, on the other hand, does the opposite.

If you notice someone with ADHD increasingly struggling with mental health concerns, becoming more withdrawn, seemingly struggling with their ADHD symptoms more often or even lying and becoming secretive, it could be an indication they are suffering from ADHD symptoms and drug abuse.

Friends, family members, employers and healthcare professionals have an important role to play in the event that they suspect anyone to be abusing drugs or alcohol. With quick action, you can get the individual the right help and treatment which is essential for them to recover. That’s exactly where the team at Ocean Recovery comes in.

As a leading rehab treatment centre, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment for ADHD and drug addiction which can help individuals to regain control of their life. This type of specialist care and treatment focuses on treating the addiction as well as any mental health concerns and ADHD symptoms and requires an integrated medical team working together. So, if you have any questions about ADHD and substance use disorder or would like more information, contact our friendly team today.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 9, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.