ADHD and addiction
Do you feel like ADHD and addiction are tag-teaming you and making recovery seem impossible? You are not alone. ADHD is far more prevalent in people with substance use disorders than in the general population with one study finding that 25% of people with alcohol addiction also had ADHD. The negative interaction between ADHD and addiction can greatly exacerbate the symptoms of both conditions, making them harder for sufferers to cope and for effective treatment to be given. However, Banbury Lodge has vast experience helping people with addiction and ADHD and we are here for you too.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention which can significantly impair an individual’s daily functioning. While there is still more to be learned about the condition, it is thought that ADHD is caused by both genetic and environmental factors, including prenatal exposure to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, premature birth and brain injuries.
What are the most common ADHD symptoms?
ADHD symptoms can vary depending on the subtype of the disorder. There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and combined type.
ADHD symptoms of predominantly inattentive type include:
- Difficulty paying attention to details
- Poor listening skills
- Trouble organising tasks
- Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort
ADHD symptoms of predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type include:
- Fidgeting and restlessness
- Excessive talking
- Difficulty waiting for one’s turn
- Interrupting others
- Impulsive decision-making
ADHD symptoms of combined type include a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.
What is dual diagnosis addiction and ADHD?
Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe the co-occurrence of mental health and addiction disorders in an individual. In the case of ADHD and addiction, it refers to individuals who have both conditions. Addiction is a compulsive need to take substances or engage in behaviours even though they are causing negative consequences. It has both physical and psychological causes and can affect people of every gender, age group and socio-economic background. However, cases of ADHD are far higher in people with addiction than without.
This link between ADHD and addiction is complex, and there are several factors that can contribute to these disorders co-occurring:
One reason why people with ADHD are at an increased risk for addiction is that they may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. Substance use can provide temporary relief from ADHD symptoms but unfortunately, this can lead to a cycle of addiction that only exacerbates the underlying symptoms of ADHD.
People with ADHD are often more impulsive than those without the disorder. This impulsivity can lead to risky behaviours, such as substance abuse and addiction. For example, a person with ADHD may try drugs or alcohol on a whim, without considering the potential consequences and end up becoming addicted.
Addictive ADHD medication…
Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are commonly used to treat ADHD. These medications can be highly effective in managing symptoms but they can also be highly addictive. People with ADHD may become dependent on their medication leading to serious substance abuse and ultimately addiction.
How are addiction and ADHD treated?
The close link between ADHD and addiction can create a vicious cycle which is why effective treatment considers both conditions. While rehab treatment at Banbury Lodge is addiction treatment, not ADHD treatment, the skills, knowledge and growth you get from rehab will have major benefits in terms of ADHD symptom management.
Some of the most effective addiction counselling therapies for co-occurring ADHD and addiction include:
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to addiction and ADHD symptoms. CBT has been shown to be effective in treating addiction by addressing underlying issues that may be contributing to substance abuse such as low self-esteem or trauma. It can also help individuals with ADHD learn coping strategies to manage their symptoms and improve their overall functioning.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
DBT is a type of therapy that combines CBT with mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies. It was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been used to treat a range of mental health conditions, including addiction and ADHD. DBT focuses on teaching individuals skills to manage intense emotions, which can be particularly helpful for people with ADHD and addiction, as impulsivity is a common symptom of both disorders.
Motivational interviewing (MI)
MI is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify their reasons for wanting to change and increase their motivation to do so. It can be helpful for individuals with ADHD and addiction who may struggle with motivation or ambivalence about treatment. MI is often used as a first step in addiction treatment to help individuals move from contemplating a change to taking action.
Holistic therapies, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, can help individuals with dual diagnoses manage their symptoms and reduce stress. These therapies focus on treating the whole person, rather than just the symptoms of addiction or ADHD. Holistic therapies can also help individuals develop a deeper sense of self-awareness and improve their overall well-being.
Group therapy can be a particularly helpful form of treatment for individuals with addiction and ADHD. Group therapy provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who are going through similar experiences, providing a sense of community and support. It can also help individuals develop social skills and improve their ability to communicate with others, all of which can help people with ADHD commit to addiction treatment which can be an issue for people with the condition.
Individual therapy can provide a safe and supportive space for individuals with addiction and ADHD to explore the unique challenges and experiences associated with both disorders. It can help individuals understand how their ADHD symptoms may be contributing to their addiction and develop strategies to manage both conditions effectively. With the help of a therapist, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of their addiction and ADHD and work towards developing healthy coping mechanisms.
Aftercare is an essential part of addiction treatment, especially for individuals with dual ADHD who may lose focus and motivation after leaving rehab. At Banbury Lodge, aftercare involves weekly group therapy sessions for up to a year after completing formal addiction treatment. These sessions provide ongoing support and help individuals maintain their progress in recovery.
Unique challenges for ADHD sufferers in addiction treatment
While addiction treatment can be challenging for anyone, individuals with ADHD may face additional barriers to recovery. Here are some of the unique challenges that people with ADHD may experience in addiction treatment:
One of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD is difficulty with attention and focus. This can make it challenging for individuals to engage in structured activities, such as therapy sessions and group meetings. Some possible solutions include shorter sessions, frequent breaks or alternative therapies like art or music therapy to help ADHD sufferers relax.
Many individuals with ADHD take medication to manage their symptoms. During addiction treatment, it is important to manage medication carefully to avoid potential interactions or complications. A psychiatrist or other medical professional should closely monitor medication management to ensure the safety and efficacy of treatment.
Need for structure and routine…
People with ADHD often struggle with routine, which can make it difficult to adhere to the rules and expectations of rehab programmes. To address this challenge, addiction treatment centres like Banbury Lodge provide a highly structured environment with a set schedule of activities and a clear set of rules and expectations. This can help individuals with ADHD feel more comfortable and supported during addiction treatment.
What to do next
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and ADHD, getting started on the road to recovery can be daunting. Contact Banbury Lodge today to find out more about how our addiction treatment programmes can help you overcome your dependencies and relieve the symptoms of ADHD.