ADHD Co-Occurring with Addiction and Dual Diagnosis Treatment

According the U.S. National Library of Medicine, as many as 5% of all children in the United States meet the criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Many of these cases go undiagnosed during childhood, and some don’t receive a diagnosis for ADHD until they reach their adult or teen years. ADHD can have a profound negative effect on a child’s education, and as an adult, it can make it difficult to focus on work activities or even maintain stable relationships with others. 

A lot of teens and adults who have ADHD – whether it is diagnosed or not – will end up becoming victims of addiction. This usually occurs for one of two reasons. Either the individual chooses to use substances as a way to cope with symptoms, or the individual can inadvertently or purposefully become addicted to the medications that are prescribed to treat ADHD. Either way, when ADHD and addiction occur simultaneously, the result can be dangerous. 

A lot of teens and adults who have ADHD – whether it is diagnosed or not – will end up becoming victims of addiction.

ADHD and Rehab Information

It’s possible that you have ADHD, or you may suspect that you have it. There are so many undiagnosed cases of ADHD in the United States, and a great number of these individuals rely on drugs and alcohol to help them cope with their symptoms. This is not a decision you should have to make. Remaining a prisoner to your addiction doesn’t have to be your story, and when you opt to get the right kind of help, you can find the recovery you truly long for. It can be helpful for you to learn more about ADHD and the effects it can have on you, as well as why addiction and ADHD are so closely linked to each other. 

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Explained

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic brain disorder that is characterized by a continual pattern of inattention with or without hyperactivity and impulsivity. This pattern interferes with normal, daily functioning, and it can also have a profound effect on development too.

To explain ADHD a bit more fully, it can help to understand what the various components of the disorder mean, and how they work together.

Inattention – This refers to what happens when someone wanders off task and has problems with staying focused. Sometimes this is misunderstood as defiance or problems with comprehension. Disorganization is a key factor in this component. 

Hyperactivity – This refers to the way ADHD sufferers tend to move around frequently, and almost constantly, even in situations when doing so is not appropriate. Hyperactivity can also refer to fidgeting, tapping or constant talking. For adults, this can be displayed as restlessness or tiring others out because of continual movements. 

Impulsivity – This component refers to making quick decisions in the moment without giving them a second thought, and regardless of the long-term consequences that may result. These decisions may be dangerous. Also, impulsivity can lead someone to have a hard time waiting for delayed gratification. The social ramifications of impulsivity are also very real, and interrupting others is a common factor. 

How Does Someone Get ADHD?

There are a lot of risk factors that can make someone much more susceptible to getting ADHD, but scientists are still not completely sure what causes it. For example, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD can be contributed to by:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Exposure to toxins during pregnancy
  • Any type of alcohol use, drug use or cigarette smoking during pregnancy
  • Lead or other toxic exposure at a young age
  • A lower than normal birth weight
  • Certain types of brain injuries 

Early diagnosis of ADHD is so important for those who suffer from this condition. Symptoms only tend to get worse as time goes on, and going without treatment can have a detrimental effect on those who have ADHD in adulthood. 


What are the Effects of ADHD on the Person who Suffers from it?

Research has shown that people who have ADHD are actually very smart. They’re usually bright and creative individuals with a lot to offer. Their condition makes it so hard for them to stay focused on a single topic for any period of time, and because of their impulse control issues, acting out behaviors are very common. For children who have ADHD, this is such a major problem, and this is especially true when schools are so quick to label them as troublemakers, or when they struggle to fit in with any one group of friends at school. 

When ADHD is controlled by medication and therapy, people find that they’re able to cope with the stress of everyday life much more easily. However, so many cases go undiagnosed, which means that those individuals are much more apt to choose to self-medicate with addictions. Studies actually indicate that this usually begins in the teenage years, and teens who have ADHD are very likely to drink alcohol to the point of being drug on a regular basis. They also try alcohol at a younger age, and are very likely to use more than one illegal drug. 

If ADHD is not treated, and the disorder is permitted to continue on into adulthood, the risk for addiction increases even more. Adults also tend to take more high-risk chances, which is proof that the impulsivity part of the disorder only gets worse into adulthood. 

Do You Have ADHD? Know the Signs to Look for

It’s possible that you’re someone who feels as though you may have ADHD, but you have never been diagnosed. Maybe it started with you having problems in school when you were a child, and now those issues have carried over into your teen or adult years. So many children are not diagnosed because the parents choose to live in denial that something like that could ever happen to their child. 

If you have questions about whether or not you have ADHD, it can help to know what symptoms or warning signs you can look for within your own life. These might include: 

  • Patterns of struggling to finish tasks on time, or even at all
  • Problems listening when others are talking
  • Difficulties with organizing projects
  • Problems with carrying out responsibilities
  • Trouble with remembering things
  • A tendency to get distracted easily
  • Fidgeting while attempting to sit still
  • Problems with controlling speech or actions
  • Frequently interrupting when others are talking
  • A tendency to lose or misplace items

Have you noticed any of these within yourself? If you only notice one or two of them, you might only have a mild form of ADHD. However, if you notice more than two, it’s best to talk with a professional about getting a diagnosis so that you can get help as soon as possible. Remember, undiagnosed ADHD can cause all kinds of problems for you, and if you also have an addiction, the problems you might experience can become even worse. 

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The Link Between ADHD and Addiction 

The effects that ADHD can have on your life should never be ignored. If you’re suffering from ADHD, you undoubtedly have experienced the dramatic negative impact it has had on you at work or at school. You’ve probably recognized how it impacts your social life as well. Dealing with these consequences for behaviors that are out of your control is so hard, and this is why so many people turn to addictions.

Drugs and alcohol provide a way for ADHD sufferers to cope. They often recognize that the coping only lasts for a very short period of time, but the relief they experience far outweighs any potential dangers of continuing to use.

There is also evidence that suggests that dopamine levels in the brain are much lower for someone who has ADHD, and because drugs and alcohol tend to increase dopamine levels, that alone can make them an attractive alternative to suffering with symptoms that are detrimental to their lives.

The link between ADHD and addiction is very strong. In fact, about a quarter of the people who seek out treatment for addiction also report having ADHD as a part of their diagnosis. Fortunately, today we have much better methods of treating conditions like ADHD that occur simultaneously along with addictions to drugs and alcohol.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help ADHD and Addiction?

Dual diagnosis treatment has shown to be very effective at treating people who have co-occurring disorders, such as ADHD and addiction. While treating conditions like these together has not always been the norm, it is now recognized as being the best way to produce a positive, long-term outcome in most patients. 

One of the challenges that comes with this type of dual diagnosis treatment is the fact that those who present with a current diagnosis of ADHD are often on medications to help them control their symptoms. Many of these medications are addictive in nature, and so extreme precautions need to be taken. For example, it is possible to become addicted to medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. In this way, dual diagnosis treatment is so important because adequate medication adjustments can be made that can promote healing from addiction without driving the individual deeper into addiction. 

Dual diagnosis treatment for ADHD and addiction works so well because of the goals that are focused on during treatment. Even though each patient is different as far as what their needs are, their goals might be close to the following: 

  • Finding a way to modify destructive thoughts and behaviors that encourage addiction
  • Encouraging internal motivation
  • Building self-esteem
  • Using behavioral modification and medication therapy to control symptoms
  • Learning how to manage impulses
  • Identifying various substance abuse triggers 

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NorthPoint Recovery Offers Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

Perhaps you’ve been struggling with both ADHD and addiction for quite some time. You may have even gotten treatment for them, but you’re not convinced that the treatment you received did you any good. While there has been a dramatic shift toward dual diagnosis treatment since the 1990s, there are still clinics and facilities that feel they should not combine the two types of treatment. Usually, they will treat one condition, and then treat the other. This usually means that people receive addiction treatment first, without any consideration into what could possibly be causing their addictions. This is problematic, and it has led to a large number of relapses. 

Here at NorthPoint Recovery, our approach is different. We want to see you be successful with the treatment you receive for both ADHD and addiction. That’s why we offer dual diagnosis treatment. When you opt to get help for a co-occurring disorder, you’re attacking the reasons behind your addiction, while also receiving help for your mental health condition. We’ve seen some really great results with dual diagnosis treatment, and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy them as well.

If you would like to learn more about our approach to treating ADHD and addiction at NorthPoint Recovery, or if you have questions about how you can get started with this type of treatment for yourself, please contact us.



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