Understanding ADHD And Alcohol Addiction

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders found in children. They will have difficulty focusing and controlling their energy levels and impulses. This condition greatly impacts a person’s academics or career, social skills, and interpersonal relationships.   

Children with ADHD are more likely to experiment with illicit substances as they grow older. Some adults with untreated ADHD may be coping by self-medicating using alcohol or stimulants. From reports and cases of alcohol consumption, people with ADHD are susceptible to substance use disorder.   

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can lead to poor self-esteem and social abilities. An adult with untreated ADHD may have a poor self-image, sensitive to judgment, and may be more critical of themselves. ADHD is often noticed in children when they start school. Some individuals will have difficulty keeping up with other students. This condition is often diagnosed in males rather than females. 

ADHD Symptoms

A person with ADHD will have difficulty being still and paying attention. They may be more impulsive, agitated, and restless than other kids. These symptoms can cause challenges in dealing with stress at home, friends, school, or work. Individuals with ADHD are often misunderstood for being defiant or not understanding instructions.

Symptoms of ADHD:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty being organized and structured
  • Constantly moving 
  • Fidgeting
  • Extreme restlessness
  • Taling excessively
  • Act without thinking
  • Lack of self-control
  • Poor decision-making skills

An adult who shows symptoms of ADHD may have struggled with ongoing treatment for ADHD or never received proper treatment. On top of this, adults with ADHD are likely to have anxiety. Anxiety can come as a result of ADHD symptoms, but a person can also have anxiety on top of ADHD.

A person with ADHD and another mental disorder will have difficulty treating their ADHD, leading to other risky behaviors. 

Diagnosis of ADHD 

Many adults with ADHD do not realize or are in denial that they have the condition. A comprehensive assessment reviews symptoms from childhood through adulthood. When a person is diagnosed with ADHD, they are protected by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Institutions with federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities like ADHD. Work accommodations are considered for patients with ADHD who struggle in the regular work setting. 

How Do You Treat ADHD?

ADHD is treated with medications and therapy. Behavioral strategies are developed with the intervention of parents and a school. For adults, other types of therapy approaches are implemented. These can include strategies for coping with stress, increasing organization, family support, and behavioral therapies. 

What Are ADHD Medications?

Some individuals may require ADHD medications in combination with psychotherapy. Psychostimulants like amphetamines and methylphenidate are the first line of treatment for managing ADHD. The brands Adderall and Ritalin are popular stimulants prescribed for ADHD.

 Other medications used for treating ADHD include:

  • Clonidine and guanfacine (alpha agonists)
  • Atomoxetine (selective norepinephrine inhibitor)
  • Qelbree
  • Xelstrym
  • Mydayis

Why Do People With ADHD Turn to Alcohol?

Untreated ADHD can last up to adulthood. It was found that children who have ADHD may be at higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder. Moreover, 90% of children who have ADHD carry their symptoms into adulthood.

Some adults may not have been diagnosed with ADHD and are unaware, struggling with impulsive behaviors. Adults with ADHD will have trouble keeping up with stress in everyday life. You will find most adults with ADHD will appear restless.

These challenges in coping with societal standards and interpersonal relationships can lead an individual to turn to illicit substances like alcohol. Depressants or “downers” are used by people who self-medicate with their ADHD. Alcohol can help them relax and calm down hyperactivity. 

What Are the Risk Factors for Substance Abuse Among People With ADHD?

A person with ADHD may have anatomical differences in their brains. They have reduced grey and white brain matter volume. The regions of the brain that activate during certain tasks are also different from people without ADHD.

Further studies of the brain with ADHD have indicated risk factors such as genetics, low birth weight, exposure to stress and toxins like alcohol, smoking, and lead during pregnancy. Other researchers also add that nutrition, social environments, and brain injuries may have an impact on developing ADHD.

Is There a Link Between ADHD and Alcohol Use?

Studies have investigated the connection between ADHD and alcohol misuse. The rate of patients with ADHD being treated for substance abuse is tenfold higher. They are also likely to start experimenting with illicit drugs at a young age.

Symptoms of ADHD can make a person more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Impulsive behavior of a person can contribute to the risk of abusing alcohol.

Moreover, patients who have ADHD and alcoholism can be passed on genetically. Children who have a family history of substance use and ADHD are at higher risk. 

Moreover, medications for children with ADHD can affect their brain development. Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderal are highly addictive. This can be a risk for a person to chase the euphoric effect of psychoactive substances. Taking ADHD medications may lead to misuse and eventually become susceptible to trying other illicit substances.

There are concerns from parents about how their children may be more likely to experiment with other drugs. However, long-term studies have found no link between proper treatment of ADHD with stimulants. In fact, children who received treatment earlier are protected from the risk of alcohol use.

It further solidifies the theory that ADHD symptoms are the link between ADHD and alcohol use. Impulsive behavior and the attempt to self-medicate with substances to regulate their dopamine levels are triggers for using alcohol and other drugs.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It can increase your risk of developing several diseases, including cognitive impairment and heart failure.

Moreover, alcohol can affect the brain’s reward system, causing physical and psychological dependence. A person may develop depression, anxiety, and alcohol use disorder. Harmful levels of alcohol can have long-term effects. It can lead to social problems, family problems, and competence at work.

Even small amounts of alcohol can carry some risks. The level of risk of alcohol consumption can depend on several factors. A person with a co-occurring condition like ADHD may experience a higher susceptibility. 

Can Alcohol Make ADHD Symptoms Worse?

A person with ADHD will experience worse cognitive impairment. Alcohol’s effects are similar to the symptoms of ADHD. It can affect how a person can think clearly and make logical decisions. Therefore, increasing risky behaviors may lead to binge drinking and overdosing on substances. Alcohol use can only worsen the consequences of untreated ADHD. 

In addition, people with ADHD often have co-occurring conditions such as learning problems, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. ADHD symptoms and co-occurring conditions can, in turn, increase vulnerability to alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment for People With ADHD

Treating alcohol abuse in patients who have ADHD may still need ongoing treatment with stimulants. A doctor can assess if a patient will need alternative drugs or therapy approaches for their ADHD.

Not every with ADHD will develop a problem with illicit drugs. However, for adults who have a higher risk, doctors may recommend non-stimulant drugs or antidepressants. Nevertheless, a patient can also benefit from participating in support groups, individual therapy, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Addressing symptoms that trigger the use of alcohol or other substances that boost their dopamine levels is a crucial step toward lifelong recovery. Therapies that can help them deal with stress and focus may also reduce the risk of impulsive choices. 

Addiction Treatment Programs

A comprehensive treatment plan may be needed to address addiction in patients who have coexisting health conditions. A rehab treatment facility that has a wide range of expertise and therapies can accommodate patients with ADHD better.

Luxe Recovery offers various types of holistic therapy that can help regulate stress and deal with psychological disorders. This is along with having expertise in alcohol abuse treatment.  

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