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The Connection Between ADHD and Alcohol Addiction

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The Connection Between ADHD and Alcohol Addiction

Dealing with issues that arise in active alcohol addiction can be overwhelming. This includes when issues arise that may be some form of co-occurring disorder. Not only can it be difficult to determine if another disorder is present due to overlapping symptoms, but also a lack of awareness due to the distractions of addiction. While this can be true with any co-occurring disorders, it is particularly prevalent in those with ADHD and alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Prevalence of Addiction and Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Many people may be unaware that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also affects adults. While it can certainly manifest in adulthood, ADHD tends to show up in adolescence and carry over into adulthood.

According to the peer-reviewed journal, Current Psychiatry Reports, “Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is among the most prevalent neurobehavioral disorders presenting for treatment in children and adolescents,” and “ADHD affects between 6 to 9 % of children and adolescents and up to 5 % of adults worldwide.” Also, “Historically, ADHD was not thought to continue beyond adolescence however, long-term controlled follow-up studies have demonstrated the persistence of the disorder with childhood ADHD continuing into adolescence for approximately three-quarters of cases and into adulthood for half of cases.”

Now, this carry-over increases the chances of having ADHD and alcohol addiction much more likely. According to the same Journal, “Children with ADHD have been found to be at increased risk for developing an SUD,” and “The risk of SUDs have been shown to be twice as high among people with ADHD and four times as high among those with ADHD and comorbid conduct disorder.” This is why it is important to diagnose ADHD as soon as possible, especially with people who have ADHD and alcohol addiction.

Dual Diagnosis: The Importance of Getting a Diagnosis Right, Right Way

Getting the proper diagnosis right away is crucial. This includes dual diagnosis. If a person is misdiagnosed or a disorder goes undetected, it can make the recovery road much more rocky, and can even lead to a potential relapse.

This is also why we should always look to be seen by a clinical professional who specializes in both mental health and addiction. They have the training and tools to determine when there are co-occurring disorders present, and what to do if there are. This includes a diagnosis of ADHD and alcohol addiction.

What Exactly Is ADHD?

ADHD is often one of the most common disorders bandied about in public conversation. Yet, many people may not be familiar with exactly what ADHD is.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood,” and “It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. It also includes the following signs and symptoms:

  • Tendency to daydream more often than is common
  • Forgetting or losing things often
  • Talking a lot, or “too much”
  • Fidgetting and “squirming” more than what is considered normal
  • Taking unnecessary risks and/or making reckless mistakes
  • Difficulties resisting certain temptations
  • Trouble communicating and positively interacting with others

Now, as we can see, there appear to be many overlapping signs and symptoms of ADHD that also correlate to the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Connection Between ADHD and Alcohol Addiction

The connection between ADHD and alcohol addiction relies on the way each disorder is elevated and enmeshed with the other. For example, someone with untreated ADHD may struggle with the symptoms so much that they turn to self-medicating with alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, so it may even have a noticeable calming effect early on. However, over time, addiction can take hold and only exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD.

Also, as previously mentioned, individuals with ADHD tend to engage in much more risky behaviors. This includes using and abusing alcohol, which at a young age makes individuals much more likely to acquire a substance use disorder (SUD). It should also be noted that the human brain doesn’t fully biologically develop until our late 20s, which also makes adolescent alcohol use particularly dangerous, and again, makes developing an SUD more likely in adulthood.

The Importance of Well-Rounded Treatment at Lantana Recovery

A key to any recovery plan is to ensure that it is individualized and comprehensive. For individuals with ADHD and alcohol addiction, this both ensures a proper dual diagnosis and a recovery plan that is going to effectively focus on both disorders at the same time.

Here at Lantana Recovery, we understand the importance of well-rounded treatment. We know that leaving any disorder undisturbed will only play havoc later on in recovery. Our primary purpose is long-term recovery with no end, and that can only happen if the right moves are made at the start.

Here at Lantana Recovery, we understand that addiction often co-occurs alongside other mental health conditions. This includes the comorbidities of addiction and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals with ADHD may turn to alcohol as a means to cope with their symptoms, as alcohol is a downer that may “help” them feel less anxious or energized. However, alcohol abuse can have long-term effects that frankly worsen ADHD symptoms, thus creating a cycle that locks an individual into their addiction. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, mental illness, or both, we can help. For more information on the connection between ADHD and alcohol addiction, please reach out to Lantana Recovery today at (866) 997-2870.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.