ADHD And Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction are common co-occurring conditions. These disorders can share similar signs and symptoms. Since these conditions have such a substantial overlap, treatment for these two disorders usually involves a dual diagnosis program.

RehabCenter.net ADHD And Addiction Co-Occurring Disorders

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that is one of the most common mental disorders affecting young children. ADHD is associated with hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. While it is usually diagnosed and treated early, it can be misdiagnosed, and symptoms can continue to last into adulthood.

People who experienced ADHD symptoms as a child will continue to experience ADHD symptoms as an adult. However, the manifestations of the disorder will shift with age. If a person is not diagnosed or misdiagnosed as a child, they may suffer the consequences of a lifetime of ADHD symptoms.

A misdiagnosed adult may battle depression and anxiety and turn to drugs or alcohol to self medicate their ADHD symptoms. Unfortunately, ADHD and substance abuse are common co-occurring disorders that require treatment to manage and overcome.

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Common Symptoms Of ADHD

ADHD can be identified through a mix of presented symptoms and behaviors. A child with the disorder can be diagnosed at an early age if they present at least six of the below symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD in children may include:

  • has difficulty sitting still
  • is always moving
  • running or climbing inappropriately
  • talks excessively
  • has trouble with focus
  • is easily distracted or gets bored with a task before completion
  • appears not to listen when spoken to
  • has difficulty remembering and following instructions
  • frequently loses or misplaces items
  • constantly fidgets and squirms

Children with ADHD show a persistent pattern in their behavior that will interfere with their general functioning and development. It is essential to identify these symptoms early, so there is time to treat and manage the disease. The later the diagnosis, the more challenging it is for medical professionals to pinpoint since ADHD can have similar symptoms to a variety of disorders.

The signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  • forgetting names and dates
  • missing deadlines
  • poor concentration
  • leaves projects unfinished
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • experiences extreme emotions
  • is easily distracted
  • is unorganized or messy
  • relationship problems
  • suffers a generalized anxiety disorder
  • suffers from depression

Types Of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD. A person can present only one kind of ADHD or have a combination of two.

The following are types of ADHD are:

  • Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation – This person feels the need for constant movement. They fidget, squirm, struggle to stay seated, and often talk and run around. This person interrupts others, blurts out answers, and struggles with self-control.
  • Inattentive Presentation – This person makes mistakes because they cannot focus or follow detailed instructions. They are forgetful, easily distracted, and often lose items.
  • Combined Presentation – This person has significant problems with both hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention.

There is no simple test that can diagnose ADHD. Children often display symptoms at an early age, and, if properly diagnosed, these symptoms can be treated and managed. Since ADHD shares traits with other disorders, this disorder can often get overlooked. When a person with ADHD grows up, the symptoms will morph and change and be more challenging to identify.

ADHD And Substance Abuse

Children and adults who have ADHD can be diagnosed with additional co-occurring conditions. For children, the prevalence of other diseases in conjunction with their ADHD is high. These problems can be learning disabilities, speech issues, anxiety, and depression. For adults, depression, anxiety, bipolar, and substance abuse are common co-occurring conditions.

Many people diagnosed with ADHD use substances to maintain a level of balance and as a way to self-medicate. If someone with ADHD abuses drugs or alcohol, he or she may be able to temporarily mask the symptoms of the condition. However, this can result in the person becoming addicted to the substance of abuse.

Another reason why ADHD and addiction often co-occur is due to the symptoms associated with ADHD. Many people exhibit behavioral difficulties and impulsivity as a result of this condition. These symptoms can make individuals with ADHD more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than people without the condition.

Abuse Of Drugs Used To Treat ADHD

The drugs used to treat and control the symptoms of ADHD can also be highly addictive if misused.

Doctors prescribe the following medications for those who have ADHD:

  • Stimulants: These medicines help a person focus thoughts and ignore distractions. The most common stimulant medications are Adderall and Ritalin. These drugs work in the same way, by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.
  • Non-stimulants: If stimulants don’t work or cause unpleasant side effects, non-stimulants are available to assist with concentration and impulse control.
  • Antidepressants: Those who have ADHD often present symptoms of depression or anxiety. An antidepressant can be coupled with a stimulant to help control mental health issues and also manage ADHD symptoms.

Unfortunately, stimulants prescribed for ADHD such as Adderall or Ritalin can have long-term effects, and people taking large unprescribed doses face a higher risk of becoming addicted.

Treatment For ADHD And Substance Abuse

For the best treatment possible, someone with co-occurring ADHD and addiction must work with a professional to determine the root cause of the disorders. Since ADHD and addiction are so tightly linked, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. If the person has been afflicted for years, they should start with proper therapy and an excellent counselor to determine the next course of action.

It is recommended to get into an inpatient treatment facility that can help diagnose these co-occurring diseases and treat them separately. At an inpatient treatment facility, the person will have the opportunity to get the treatment for both ADHD and addiction in a fully supportive and focused way.

To learn more about ADHD and addiction, contact a treatment specialist today.

American Psychiatric Association - https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/

Mayo Clinic - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350878

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