ADHD and Addiction


It’s common for people to have a mental illness, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which slowly contributes to the development of addiction. Typically, illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, because of the emotional pain that one endures with these illnesses, contribute to addiction. However, other disorders have also been known to contribute to addiction, such as ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). These are illnesses that affect one’s ability to concentrate, which can create significant problems at work, home, and in relationships. These symptoms can create significant problems in one’s life, which may cause someone to turn to drinking or the use of drugs as a means to cope with their life.

In fact, research indicates that those who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as children or teens have a good chance of developing a problem with addiction later in life. They may initially find use of drugs or alcohol as a way to feel better, which might have gotten worse over time, creating an addiction. Experts have also found that 60% of children and teens who were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD will continue to experience symptoms of the disorder in adulthood. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD in an adult include:

  • Can get angry easily
  • Can easily get bored
  • Indecisiveness
  • Impulsivity
  • Poor ability to organize
  • Unable to find motivation to start or complete tasks
  • Easily distracted
  • Maintains poor time management skills
  • Can get frustrated easily
  • Will tend to procrastinate
  • Has a very difficult time multi-tasking

ADHD is different from ADD in that it also includes symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. If an adult were to seek treatment for addiction, it’s essential that he or she get treatment for both the addiction and the ADD/ADHD. Treating the addiction without treating the ADD/ADHD will make recovery very difficult and may even sabotage a person’s ability to get sober.

Treatment for ADD/ADHD may include therapy as well as medication. For instance, Ritalin is a stimulant, a type of drug which is frequently prescribed for ADHD and ADD. Stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain in order to improve concentration and decrease fatigue. Ritalin can make a person experience intense focus and sharp thinking, which is great for anyone who is having trouble concentrating.

However, because Ritalin is a stimulant, it has been abused by those who are prescribed the drug, as well as those who aren’t. In fact, Ritalin is sometimes described as “kiddie coke”. Although Ritalin does not have as addictive a high as cocaine, it comes with certain dangers that its users should be aware of. Also, anyone taking Ritalin should also know that it comes with side effects, which include insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, loss of appetite, changes in heart rate, weight loss, heart problems, and even anorexia.

If you or someone you know is struggling with ADD/ADHD and has developed an addiction as a result, contact a mental health provider for assistance.


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