The Connection Between ADHD and Alcohol Addiction

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About half of all people who develop a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. Adults who struggle with alcohol abuse are five-to-ten times more likely to also have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), making the connection between ADHD and alcohol addiction difficult to ignore.

ADHD Often Coexists With Addiction

Studies show that about one out of four people who get treatment for alcohol abuse disorders also have ADHD. Kids who have ADHD are more likely to begin abusing alcohol while teenagers; before they turn 15 years old, 40% of children with ADHD start using alcohol. Of kids ages 15-17 who have ADHD, 14% go on to develop alcohol dependence or abuse as adults. 

A study reported by the National Institutes of Health looked into the correlation between ADHD and alcohol abuse. The dramatic results included finding that almost half of adults with symptoms of ADHD also have a substance use disorder. Other findings from the study showed that individuals dealing with both ADHD and alcoholism: 

  • Developed alcoholism four years earlier than others
  • Were twice as likely to have alcoholism in their family history
  • Drank more per day on average
  • Had three times the rate of developing an antisocial personality disorder
  • Had suicidal thoughts more than twice as often
  • Were seven times more likely to end up in court

In many cases, a person who has ADHD ends up using alcohol to try to control their symptoms. They also may end up addicted due to seeking relief from mental distress that ADHD causes them, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression.

How Impulse Control Contributes to the Problem 

Many studies have been done to determine if genetics can cause a person to develop both ADHD and an alcohol abuse disorder. While results are not conclusive, more studies are being done. While genes cannot be pointed to as an absolute cause for the co-occurring conditions in people, one factor may come into play. People with ADHD have difficulty with impulsivity; something that often happens when a person drinks or uses drugs excessively. 

Often a young person, who by definition has a lack of experience controlling impulsive behaviors, enters the world of alcohol and drug use because of poor impulse control. If they already have ADHD, that can make it more difficult for them to resist behavioral urges or understand how dangerous some can end up becoming. 

Once substance abuse begins for someone, poor impulse control can make it quite difficult for them to resist using larger amounts of drugs or alcohol and using them more often. Even when the person attempts to become sober, the temptations to drink or use drugs again can be particularly overwhelming for someone not accustomed to exercising healthy impulse control.

Symptoms of ADHD

Many people who have ADHD do not realize they suffer from the condition. Even if they are aware they have an issue with alcohol, they may blame that for the behaviors and thoughts that are attributable to ADHD. Signs and symptoms of ADHD come mainly in the form of being inattentive, experiencing hyperactivity, and difficulty controlling impulses. Symptoms can include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Having a short attention span
  • Interrupting others
  • Problems sitting still
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Talking a lot
  • Forgetting things
  • Mood swings
  • Fidgeting and constant movement
  • Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Acting impulsively
  • Changing activities quickly
  • Trouble predicting dangerous activities

Treating ADHD and Addiction Together

People who have both an alcohol abuse disorder and ADHD benefit from treating them simultaneously. Many treatment programs, including residential and outpatient services, provide help for those dealing with substance abuse disorders and mental health difficulties. Due to how many people experience addiction alongside mental illness, many individuals and programs have the training and expertise to help someone learn to embrace recovery and also manage their mental illness symptoms.

Treating both conditions at the same time offers an advantage besides just being a timesaver. A person with ADHD who learns how to manage their symptoms better often finds that their impulses to drink lessen in their intensity and number of occurrences. Conversely, someone who has entered sobriety and has professional guidance in how to understand and maintain it often finds that life with a clear head makes it easier to identify and resist ADHD impulses.

When medications are needed to help control ADHD symptoms, a person already dealing with substance abuse may worry about the results. Treatment for both conditions at the same time allows for medical professionals to make a full analysis of any needed medication, taking into consideration the person’s addiction history. The medical staff can also monitor how the meds are working, assist with any side effects, and recommend any needed changes in dosages or types of medications. 

ADHD and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in California

Clear Recovery Center knows how hard it can be to reach out for help for substance abuse and mental health issues. We provide proven treatment programs, including detox, residential, and outpatient services. We can be the bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.
If you are ready to get the intensive help you deserve, contact Clear Recovery Center today and let us help you take the first step.

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