ADHD and Substance Abuse

It's very common for individuals with ADHD to also suffer from substance use disorders.

ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a mental health condition that occurs in children and adults. More than 40% of children with ADHD have a parent with the condition. In adults, over 40% of ADHD cases are severe. ADHD and substance abuse often co-occur in both children and adults.

ADHD is three times more common in males than it is in females, and the condition can increase the risk of alcohol and drug abuse issues. In fact, 27% of teens with substance use disorders also have ADHD.

This article will help you understand ADHD and the link between the condition and substance use disorders. It will also cover appropriate treatment options and where to go to find help.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a health condition that begins in childhood. In roughly 30% to 50% of cases, ADHD continues into adulthood. ADHD is a chronic condition in which individuals have long-term difficulties with attention. They may also display frequent hyperactive or impulsive behaviors.

What Causes ADHD?

Although the exact causes of ADHD are not yet known, researchers believe that genetics and environmental factors may contribute to the development of the condition. It is also possible that the condition may be caused by central nervous system issues that occur during brain development. Premature birth and exposure to lead may increase the risk of developing ADHD.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

There are three subtypes of ADHD, and each subtype produces varied symptoms. Symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person. Children with ADHD may have different symptoms than adults with the condition, and boys can have different symptoms than girls.

Symptoms of ADHD begin before the age of 12. Some patients may have symptoms as early as age three.

Symptoms of Predominantly Inattentive ADHD

Predominantly inattentive ADHD is diagnosed when most of the patient’s ADHD symptoms are related to inattentiveness. In children with this type of ADHD, typical symptoms may include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Having trouble maintaining focus during tasks or play
  • Having difficulties with organization
  • Avoiding homework or other activities that require sustained focus
  • Forgetting to do chores or other daily activities
  • Losing pencils, toys, or other items needed for activities

When parents of a child with predominantly inattentive ADHD speak directly to the child, they may notice that the child appears not to listen to them.

Symptoms of Predominantly Hyperactive or Impulsive ADHD

This type of ADHD features symptoms that are mostly related to hyperactivity or impulsivity. Children with this form of the condition may display:

  • Excessive talking
  • Difficulty doing quiet activities
  • Fidgeting or tapping with the hands or feet
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Difficulty waiting for his or her turn

Other symptoms could include interrupting other people’s questions or activities, running or climbing in inappropriate situations, and squirming while seated.

Symptoms of the Combined Subtype

The third subtype of ADHD is the combined subtype. Patients with this ADHD subtype display symptoms of both inattentiveness and hyperactivity or impulsivity.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

In adults with ADHD, the primary symptoms also tend to be inattentiveness, restlessness, and impulsivity. Some adults find that they experience a decrease in ADHD symptoms as they age, and they may have fewer symptoms of hyperactivity than children with ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD in adults may not be as clear as symptoms in children. 

Some of the symptoms that adults with ADHD may notice include:

  • Difficulties with multitasking
  • Poor time management and planning
  • Trouble with completing tasks
  • Difficulties with prioritizing tasks
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties with stress management
  • Becoming angry very easily
  • Problems with tolerating frustration

Adults with ADHD may miss deadlines or forget social plans or appointments. Their work or school performance could decline, and their relationships could be unstable. They may also have low self-esteem.

Symptoms in Males and Females

Although ADHD symptoms tend to be similar for all genders, males may be more likely to experience hyperactivity. Females could be more likely to have quiet inattentiveness.

How Do Clinicians Diagnose ADHD?

Since there are no specific tests to diagnose ADHD, patients will need to have several different evaluations to arrive at a diagnosis. First, a medical exam may be necessary to rule out conditions with similar symptoms, including autism, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, epilepsy, and brain injuries. 

The clinician will review the patient’s personal and family medical history, and he or she may also look at the patient’s school records. The doctor may interview the patient’s teachers, family members, and others who know the patient well. The physician may use ADHD rating scales, too.

What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD?

Medications, counseling, behavioral therapy, and education services can all help with managing the symptoms of ADHD. Stimulant medications, including amphetamines and methylphenidates, may be prescribed to individuals with ADHD. 

Alternatively, doctors may also choose to prescribe atomoxetine, clonidine, guanfacine, or antidepressants to patients with ADHD. Patients will need monitoring for suicidal thoughts and psychiatric changes during ADHD treatment. Patients who use prescription stimulants for ADHD treatment may need frequent heart monitoring as well.

Are ADHD and Substance Abuse Connected?

Recent studies have found strong links between ADHD and substance abuse. For example, among adults in treatment for alcohol use issues, roughly 25% also suffer from ADHD. This is five to 10 times higher than the rate of ADHD in people without alcohol use issues.

In addition, children with ADHD are much more likely to start using alcohol at younger ages than children who don’t have ADHD. In one study, 40% of children with ADHD reported using alcohol at age 14. 

The same study found that only 22% of children without ADHD reported using alcohol at that age. Young adults with ADHD are more likely to drink excessively than young adults without ADHD.

Studies have also found links between ADHD and drug abuse. In fact, children with ADHD are more likely to use marijuana and other recreational drugs much earlier than kids without ADHD.

Researchers believe that some ADHD symptoms may increase the risk for addiction, particularly symptoms associated with impulsive behavior. Researchers also believe that ADHD and substance abuse disorders run in families. In fact, researchers have identified several shared genes that are linked to ADHD and substance addiction.

ADHD and Substance Abuse Treatment

In patients with ADHD and substance abuse issues, doctors recommend avoiding stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD. Instead, non-stimulant medicines are preferred. For example, physicians may prescribe clonidine, guanfacine, or atomoxetine to individuals that suffer from ADHD. 

Doctors may also consider prescribing antidepressants, including bupropion and desipramine, to individuals with ADHD and substance use issues. If stimulant medicines must be used to treat individuals with ADHD and substance use issues, they should be prescribed in a long-acting formula and in a controlled manner to minimize the risk of physical dependence.

In addition to medication, patients with ADHD and substance abuse may need individual therapy, group therapy, and support groups to have a successful recovery.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Help Patients With ADHD and Substance Abuse Issues?

Dual diagnosis enables patients with ADHD and substance abuse issues to receive care for both conditions at the same time. This type of care can be more effective than treating each condition separately. Typically, patients receive dual diagnosis care at specialized facilities. Depending on the patient’s specific health needs, treatment may be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

What Treatments Are Provided With Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis treatment for ADHD and substance abuse issues provides medical and psychological support throughout the patient’s recovery. When the patient with ADHD and substance abuse issues comes for his or her first day of treatment, a medical examination may be conducted so that treatment providers can understand the patient’s overall health. A medical examination will also help treatment providers create an effective treatment plan for the patient with ADHD and drug abuse issues.  

If the patient with ADHD and substance abuse issues is going through withdrawal, doctors will prescribe him or her medications to ease any nausea, anxiety, other symptoms that may occur. Individuals who go through the withdrawal process at a residential facility when being treated for ADHD and substance abuse will have their vital signs checked frequently.

Individual and group therapy sessions are often used to help ADHD and substance abuse patients with the psychological aspects of recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most frequently used types of therapy for individuals with ADHD and drug use problems.  

Dialectical behavior therapy, person-centered therapy, and family therapy can be effective when treating individuals with ADHD and substance abuse issues as well. Mindfulness, yoga, self-hypnosis, art therapy, and other treatments may be used as part of a holistic approach to ADHD and substance abuse patient care.

Where Can I Get Treatment for ADHD and Drug Abuse?

If you believe that you may suffer from ADHD and substance abuse issues, visit your doctor for treatment recommendations. Your doctor will be able to recommend treatment centers where you can receive dual diagnosis care. Your local health department can also provide this information.

If you are looking for a treatment center in Tennessee, Grace Land Recovery may be an appropriate facility for your needs. Located near Memphis, Grace Land Recovery offers all forms of outpatient treatment. This includes partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment, intensive outpatient program (IOP) treatment, and standard outpatient program (OP) treatment. Detox care and relapse prevention services are also available at Grace Land Recovery on top of numerous other unique rehab and clinical services. 

Grace Land Recovery also provides patients with many different types of therapies that can help patients reach a full recovery. For example, here at Grace Land Recovery, we offer anger management therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, trauma therapy, and rational emotive behavior therapy. All Grace Land patients can take part in all of our different types of therapies in an individual, group, or family format.

Where Can I Find More Information About Grace Land Recovery?

At Grace Land Recovery, we are honored to be part of your recovery journey. Our compassionate team will answer any questions you have about treatment options at our rehab facility. Our staff will also help you find the right treatment plan for your needs. Furthermore, we can assist with any questions that you may have about insurance coverage for care at our rehab center. To find out more about how we here at Grace Land Recovery can help you, contact us online or over the phone. 

References:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd 

https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html 

 

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