The link between addictive behaviour and ADHD

is there a link between ADHD and addiction

Is there a link between ADHD and addiction?

There is ample evidence that shows a clear link between ADHD and addiction. PubMed Central, a highly respected database from the National Institute of Health in the US, estimated that 25% of adolescents with substance abuse problems also fit the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. 

Another recent survey found that over 15% of adults with ADHD had been dependent on alcohol or drugs in the previous year. This is almost triple the rate for adults without ADHD.   

Add to these figures the fact that only 20% of adults with ADHD have been correctly diagnosed or treated for their condition and you can begin to see how many healthcare professionals may have failed to make the link between ADHD and addiction.    

There is a clear and undeniable link between ADHD and addiction but why are people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder more prone to substance abuse? 

Why are people with ADHD more prone to addiction?

It’s a general misconception that people with ADHD use recreational drugs to “get high”. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. When asked what the symptoms of ADHD are, most people living with the condition say it makes them feel agitated and viscerally uncomfortable in their own skin. Other symptoms include intense boredom and maddening impulsivity.  

Most people with ADHD don’t turn to addictive substances for recreational use. They see them as a way to self-medicate their condition. For many people with ADHD, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, drugs are actually used as a coping mechanism to dampen the worst symptoms of ADHD. 

People with ADHD often say their mind moves at a mile a minute and it can be extremely difficult to manage all those thoughts and emotions. Drugs can help people with ADHD keep a lid on these symptoms as well as help them navigate everyday life like: work, studying or even just being alone.    

However, impulsivity and impared decision making are also hallmark symptoms of ADHD. This means that people who choose to use drugs to alleviate their ADHD symptoms often find themselves on a slippery slope to drug dependence and addiction. This is why the root cause of many addicts’ problems is actually undiagnosed ADHD, and you can’t treat one without the other.    

It is important to note though that ADHD is not an illness. We don’t like to say “people suffer from ADHD” because that’s just not true. People with ADHD just see the world in a slightly different way and their ADHD isn’t something to be ashamed of.

If it’s properly diagnosed and managed ADHD can help people unlock their full potential and excel in all aspects of their lives. Don’t believe us? Check out our article: Why ADHD is considered a superpower.  

If you’re struggling with addiction and you have ADHD the best thing to do is treat both at the same time.

Undiagnosed ADHD is often the root cause of substance abuse which means you can’t treat one without the other. You need to be sober before you can begin treating your addiction, but when you suffer from ADHD that can be a very difficult task. 

Breaking this cycle is important for substance abusers who have ADHD but there are many pathways to recovery. A few treatments people can use to break the cycle are: taking prescribed ADHD medication, exercising regularly, and having continual behavioral health checkups during treatment for addiction.

How can Sanctum help?

Tackling ADHD and addiction requires a holistic approach to a person’s treatment. At Sanctum we help individuals battling with addiction by combating the root cause of their substance misuse, which is often ADHD. 

Sanctum is a specialist ADHD and addiction clinic based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer a range of services which stretch from assessing and diagnosing ADHD right through to addiction recovery, trauma recovery and burnout and stress related illness.    

Our team responds to all queries within 24 hours so if you’d like to hear a bit more about how we can help you contact us here.

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