ADHD and Addiction

ADHD impacts a group of skills known as executive function. Executive function impacts the ability to focus, organize, use working memory, and other executive skills.

There are two subcategories of ADHD, you may present with either or with a combination of traits from both. People with the hyperactive-impulsive subtype of ADHD act have issues around – moving, squirming, and talking at even the most inappropriate times. They are impulsive, impatient, and interrupt others.

People with the inattentive subtype of ADHD are easily distracted and forgetful. If you have this subtype of ADHD you might find it difficult to direct your attention effectively and consistently.

The onset of ADHD occurs in early childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, ADHD is not recognized or diagnosed until the person is an adult. Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder or collection of traits that include a combination of persistent symptoms, such as;

  • difficulty focusing,
  • hyperactivity

ADHD rarely looks the same in any two people. IT is most commonly diagnosed in children of school ages when a child’s inability to focus or other behaviour triggers teachers involvement. Adult women comprise the fastest growing population of ADHD diagnoses today as women identify with their children who have acquired an ADHD diagnosis.[1]

ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counselling (psychotherapy) and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD.


While the exact cause of ADHD is not clear, factors that may be involved in the development of ADHD include:

  • Genetics. ADHD can run in families though it is difficult to discern how much that can be contributed to genes.
  • The physical environment. Lead toxins in the environment may contribute to the onset of ADHD
  • Issues during development. If there are problems that impact the central nervous system at key moments in development that may play a part in the development of ADHD

Risk factors

Risk of ADHD may increase if:

  • Your relatives are diagnosed with ADHD
  • Your mother smoked, drank alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy
  • As a child, you were exposed to environmental toxins — such as lead, found mainly in paint and pipes in older buildings
  • You were born prematurely


ADHD can impact your life in all kinds of ways. ADHD has been linked to:

  • Compromised productivity at work
  • Risk of Unemployment
  • Alcohol or other substance abuse
  • Frequent accidents
  • Unstable relationships
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Poor self-image
  • Suicide attempts


Some people diagnosed with ADHD as children have fewer symptoms as they age. This is not the case for everybody though, some adults continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.

Many adults with ADHD aren’t aware they have it — they just experience things as more challenging than those without the disorder.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization
  • Difficulty prioritizing
  • Erratic time management
  • Difficulty with focusing
  • Difficulty with multitasking
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive activity
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty with commitment

Almost everyone has some of these symptoms at some point, ADHD, however, is severe and persistent and will have an impact on your life.

ADHD symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, such as anxiety or substance misuse. Many people with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or addiction.

Why Is Addiction More Common In Those with ADHD?

Using drugs and alcohol is particularly likely if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A recent survey found that substance misuse was an issue for adults with ADHD at nearly three times the rate to which it presents in the general population.

Studies have confirmed that there’s a strong connection between ADHD and substance misuse and addiction. The National Alliance on Mental Illness research found that while 11 percent of boys and 3 percent of girls without ADHD drink alcohol, 21 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls with ADHD abuse this drug. In many cases, the symptoms of ADHD present before substance abuse begins, this suggests that perhaps young people begin to use substances to ‘self – medicate’, unfortunately, substance misuse will end up exacerbating the symptoms of ADHD.[3]

As with other mental and emotional health conditions, the reason for using drugs and alcohol in the ADHD affected population is not b=necessarily recreational. Many people fall into addiction in an attempt to manage their symptoms, improve their mood, or to sleep. This kind of “self-medication” may be particularly prevalent in those who are undiagnosed and are trying to cope with symptoms alone.

Biology is another factor. There is a document correlation between addiction and those who have ADHD in the family. This may be because of a genetic element. Genes associated with risk-taking and novelty-seeking behaviour may predispose an individual to both ADHD and substance abuse.[4]

Half of all adults with untreated ADHD will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. ADHD and addiction can intensify the symptoms of each disorder. This means that to prevent relapse both disorders should be addressed. There are specific programmes available to help those with dual-diagnosis through medication, therapy, peer support, education and relapse prevention for both addiction and ADHD. Recovery is possible!

Treatment Options

A dual diagnosis of ADHD and addiction is complex. There is no single best treatment option as each case is unique. YOUR addiction and underlying mental health issues can be managed and treated through rehab, medication, and therapy, or most effectively by a combination of all three.


Dual Diagnosis programmes in a residential rehab will be able to offer you a rigorous tailored programme, including;

  • Supported medical detox
  • Medication for co-occurring illnesses
  • 12 Step work
  • Group therapy
  • One-to-one therapy
  • Regular sessions with a key worker
  • Skills workshops
  • Holistic treatments
  • Relapse prevention
  • Group activities
  • Gender Groups
  • An Introduction to meditation

In rehab, you will be assigned a focal counsellor, who will usually be your counsellor for the length of your stay. This counsellor will be responsible for designing and adapting your treatment plan to best accommodate your needs and your goals as they relate to your addiction and ADHD recovery.

Rehabs offer a combination of the latest evidence-based practice designed to enable you to address your addiction and your ADHD. This will allow you to get the best information possible as it relates to developing positive and effective strategies for a sober life.

Rehab can really help you with building resilience, breaking through the addiction and overcoming your mental health difficulties.

> Our rehab programme for ADHD and Addiction


Treatment for ADHD usually involves taking medication, but a comprehensive approach that also includes behavioural therapy and education is recommended to optimally manage symptoms.

Proper treatment to control or reduce ADHD symptoms can lead to better performance at school or work and an improved quality of life.

Stimulant Drugs for ADHD

Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD.

These drugs can cause possible side effects, such as stomachache, headache, irritability, decreased appetite, and insomnia. Some stimulants may increase the risk of developing heart or psychiatric problems.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD include:

  • Adderall (amphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate patch)
  • Metadate or Methylin (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine or Dextrostat (dextroamphetamine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)

Nonstimulant Drugs for ADHD

Nonstimulant drugs are sometimes used along with or as an alternative to, stimulants.

Nonstimulants may have fewer side effects than stimulants and can last up to 24 hours. Common nonstimulants include:

  • Strattera (atomoxetine)

Antidepressants for ADHD

Antidepressants are sometimes used, alone or in combination with a stimulant, to manage the condition. Though caution is exercised due to the very low risk that they may lead to an increased risk of suicide.

Antidepressants prescribed for ADHD include:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)
  • Aventyl (nortriptyline)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)


There are various therapies are designed to empower you to change, heal, and grow. Counsellors may draw on cognitive therapy, behaviourism, and attachment theory, emotion-focused and relationship-based therapies, mindfulness practice, among other things.

An integrative approach allows the therapist to tailor their treatment approach to your needs, requirements, and goals. Research suggests that mindful meditation can train the ADHD brain to better concentrate and hold focus.

  • Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help you to focus your attention on and accept the present moment, and to maintain self-regulation. This makes mindfulness practice incredibly powerful in recovery from ADHD and addiction.

Mindfulness can help improve your ability to control your attention by helping to strengthen your ability to self-observe. Mindfulness is very versatile and there is no requirement for you to be an expert at focusing your attention, this is all about skills building.

Using various techniques you and your counsellor will work together to;

  • Identify and change self-defeating patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour.
  • Build on your natural strengths and develop your ability to deal with situations in a positive and healthy way

The goal of the therapy as it relates to addiction and ADHD is to help you to develop your healthier coping mechanisms and deal with triggers successfully and safely.

[1] “Data & Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ed. Center for Disease Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

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