ADHD and Addictions
People struggling with ADHD may cope with their symptoms by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
Although, these drugs may help soothe the disorder for a while, addiction is often formed in this scenario.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common mental disorder that makes it difficult for children and adults to pay attention and control their impulses. It is more commonly diagnosed among children and teens.
The symptoms of ADHD can continue into adulthood and may manifest slightly different in adults than in children.
Adults struggling with ADHD often find it difficult to remember things, control their anger and anxiety.
According to Web MD, about 25 percent of adults who are treated for alcohol and substance abuse also have ADHD.
It can be more difficult to detect in adults with addictions. The cycle of substance abuse easing behavior health issues is common for addicts with ADHD.
In an article titled, “Thoughts on Addiction and ADHD,” written by psychiatrist and ADD expert, Edward Hallowell, wrote, “…near-addictions and intermittent substance abuse are more the rule than the exception. This may be because of an inborn physiological problem that makes finding pleasure in ordinary things much more difficult for the person who has ADD than for the person who doesn’t.”
For adults dealing with ADHD and addictions, the drugs produce stimuli that their brain isn’t generating. Many people suffering from the mental disorder feel like substances are their only solution to help them function normally in society.
But different treatment options that will attack the addiction and the mental disorder are available for adults.
Symptoms of ADHD
According to Web MD, ADHD affects about 4% of adults in the U.S.
Symptoms and signs of it can affect an adult’s personal and work life. When a person is diagnosed, they can begin to seek treatment options and medication for the illness.
On HelpGuide.org’s website, they separate the symptoms of ADHD into five categories including trouble concentrating and staying focus, disorganization and forgetfulness, impulsivity, and emotional difficulties.
Some of the symptoms on website includes:
- “Zoning Out” without realizing it
- Extremely/easily distracted
- Struggling to finish projects
- Overlooking details
- Difficulty listening
- Forgetting important appointments and meetings
- Constantly losing or misplacing things
- Sense of underachievement
- Doesn’t deal with frustration
- Easily stressed out
- Irritability or mood swings
- Trouble staying motivated
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Short, explosive temper
- Low self-esteem and insecurity
- Over-talking or disrupting others
- Poor self-control
- Shout out thoughts that are rude or disrespectful
- Have addictive tendencies
- Act recklessly or spontaneously with no regard for consequences
- Have trouble acting socially appropriate
Furthermore, the effects of ADHD include:
- Physical and Mental Health Problems: According to HelpGuide.org, the symptoms of ADHD can lead to a variety of health issues such as overeating, substance abuse, anxiety, stress, tension and low self-esteem. Also, an adult with it may neglect their physical health by forgetting doctors’ appointments and check-ups.
- Work and Financial difficulties: Adults struggling with ADHD may find it difficult to keep a job, following corporate rules and guidelines, and sticking to a 9-to-5 schedule. Managing finances will also prove to be difficult because they may lose bills, paperwork, or have compulsive spending habits.
- Relationship Problems: ADHD can place a strain on work and family relationships. Untidiness or unorganized habits may upset your loved ones, but their constant nagging may drive the person out of their homes. Bosses may also be disappointed by the lack of urgency and memory of their employee.
Common substances used by ADHD addicts
Many addicts dealing with ADHD turn to stimulants such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and speed.
Whereas in users without ADHD, the drug speeds up their thoughts and functions, in users with ADHD, they slow down their impulsive thoughts.
In an article on Vice titled, “The Disturbing Relationship Between Addiction and ADHD,” a recovering addict, Niall Greene, who was diagnosed with ADHD details his struggle with substances and the disorder.
In the article written by Leah Sottile, his struggle into a dark abyss of addiction was profiled. “In his 20s, he was using cocaine compulsively and would sometimes take five Ecstasy tablets at a time. He’s explicit that he wasn’t doing this for fun— it was out of a sense of desperation.”
Other stimulants that ADHD addicts draw to are marijuana and alcohol.
Alcohol is commonly used, along with other substances, to help a person with it escape from their mental and physical anxiety.
“‘This is what ADHD is like.’” Niall Greene said in the Vice article. “’You wake up, everything’s fine. And by five o’clock your life is upside down. You have to find a new job. You’ve been kicked out of your flat. Once one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong.’”
Treatment Options for ADHD
There are medicinal and holistic practices that a person can consider when treating their disorder.
Dual diagnosis treatment facilities also offer methods that treat both the mental illness and addiction.
Before ADHD symptoms become out of control, there are preventative steps a person can take.
These practices may help an adult with ADHD to gain control of their emotions and impulses before it spirals into an addiction.
Preventative measures include:
- Exercise: Working out more boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all of which affects focus and attention.
- Pick a hobby and stick with it: Finding hobbies that relate to a person’s strengths can teach them communication and social skills.
- Get into nature: According to HelpGuide.org, studies have shown that nature can help people with ADHD. A person can hike, bike ride, run, or walk a trail to help stimulate their focus and attention.
- Eat healthy: Adding more Omega 3s, fatty acids, vitamins and creating an eating schedule can help a person with ADHD to focus more.
- Meditation: Practicing meditation can train focus and attention, as well as, relax the body and mind.
- Yoga: Yoga combines the physical benefits of exercise and meditation. It creates mental balance and helps a person with ADHD control their emotions.
Medical Treatment for ADHD
If a person struggling with this disorder decides to go to a treatment facility, then they will be under the supervision of clinical psychologists and therapists.
The specialists will help them treat both of their illnesses, which may include a diagnosis if that hasn’t taken place yet.
Treatment at a facility may include:
- Stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are common medications for adults with ADHD. Non-stimulant medication, Strattera is also common when treating ADHD.
- Group Therapy: Therapists will provide group counseling sessions involving other patients and family members. During these sessions, alternative coping mechanisms are explored to help treat the addiction and ADHD.
- Activities: Activities, such as painting and cooking, are offered to help a dual diagnosis patient channel their focus and to learn how to control their behaviors.
Treatment can take place at a long-term residential facility, intensive outpatient program, or in a recovery program.
Today, modern treatment facilities are incorporating more options for dual diagnosis patients suffering from mental illnesses such as ADHD.
Making the right choice on how to treat ADHD and addictions can lead to a new lease on life.
If you or a loved one struggles with ADHD and addiction, you have the ability to take back control over your life by entering into a treatment program that will pinpoint and help your behavioral distress.