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The Link Between ADHD and Substance Abuse

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The Link Between ADHD and Substance Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) “is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.” This mental health disorder is characterized by mechanisms of inattention, hyperactivity, or a combination of the two. When ADHD is left untreated, it can lead to a host of mental, emotional, and behavioral health concerns. Moreover, the link between ADHD and substance abuse remains under-discussed.

Lantana Recovery offers comprehensive therapeutic services for individuals seeking recovery from mental health disorders and substance use disorder (SUD). We specialize in treating comorbidities, such as ADHD and substance abuse, through a diverse range of treatment modalities. By utilizing both evidence-based traditional treatments and holistic treatments in tandem at Lantana, clients can achieve lasting symptom management from their mental and behavioral health concerns.

Understanding ADHD

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that ADHD is “marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” Those with ADHD may experience a range of symptoms, yet these symptoms can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Inattention: Issues with staying on task, maintaining focus, and staying organized
    • Inability to maintain focus when being spoken to directly
    • Consistently missing important details when learning or working
    • Difficulties maintaining attention during lengthy tasks
    • Struggling to follow through and complete tasks
    • Avoiding tasks that require intense mental effort
    • Frequently misplacing important items such as keys or wallet
    • Being easily distracted
  • Hyperactivity: Inability to stay still, moving about constantly, issues with talking too much
    • Being constantly in motion
    • Restlessness
    • Answering questions before a question is finished
    • Struggling with waiting for one’s turn
  • Impulsivity: Issues with self-control, acting without thinking
    • Intruding on others, for example, during conversations
    • Using alcohol and other drugs
    • Expressing violent and/or aggressive behavior
    • Engaging in gambling or binge eating

It is important to understand that symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity often go hand in hand. Additionally, it is common for individuals to experience periods of inattention or hyperactivity from time to time. For those with ADHD, however, these symptoms are often more frequent, more severe, and above all, interfere with their ability to function in their daily life.

ADHD and Substance Abuse

As drug and alcohol use is often a result of increased hyperactivity-impulsive behavior, it is vital to discuss the connection between ADHD and substance abuse. According to a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Studies have found that adults with ADHD are more likely than their peers without ADHD to develop an SUD sometime during their lives.” Several hypotheses are proposed in the publication that may better explain the link between ADHD and substance abuse:

  • Poor executive functioning and lack of self-control can make those with ADHD more vulnerable to substance use.
  • ADHD can facilitate difficulties with learning and memory, informing the use of alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate.
  • Those with untreated ADHD may turn to stimulants (such as nicotine and cocaine) in an attempt to activate brain systems that would otherwise be effectively activated by stimulant medications for ADHD, like amphetamines.
  • ADHD and SUD share similar underlying risk factors, such as genetic risk factors, that can inform the separate development of both conditions.

Meanwhile, leaving ADHD and substance abuse untreated will only worsen the trajectory of both conditions. It is imperative that individuals with ADHD – even if they are not actively using substances – to connect with professional treatment. This will not only help them properly manage their symptoms, but it will also reduce their risk of future substance abuse and SUD.

Treating ADHD and Substance Abuse

Individuals that are experiencing ADHD and substance abuse must participate in a treatment program that specializes in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. For effective treatment and recovery, both conditions must be treated in tandem. If ADHD is treated and underlying substance abuse is not, it will increase an individual’s chance of relapse. Conversely, if the substance abuse is treated and ADHD is not, it is only a matter of time before a person will relapse as means of self-medicating their worsening ADHD symptoms.

Treatment at Lantana

Fortunately, treatment is available for individuals struggling with ADHD and substance abuse. At Lantana Recovery, we offer several treatment programs that can be individualized to fit each client’s needs and recovery goals. For example, our Empowerment Program is our version of residential treatment, allowing clients to reside in our recovery residence while receiving clinical treatment. Additionally, we offer several outpatient programs to ensure that all client’s needs are met throughout different transitional stages of the recovery journey.

Those with ADHD and substance abuse may experience difficulties with finding a reliable support system and recovery community. Fortunately, at Lantana, all of our programs provide multilayered structure as well as holistic support. We believe in the power of utilizing community integration to foster greater independence and social support throughout the healing journey. Moreover, some of the specific interventions we offer for those with ADHD and substance abuse include:

  • Medication management
  • Counseling
  • Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Support groups

Needless to say, those with ADHD and substance abuse can achieve healthy, fulfilling lives. Lantana Recovery can help individuals get there.

If you or a loved one is experiencing ADHD and substance abuse, it is vital to get connected with a professional treatment program. Leaving ADHD or substance abuse untreated can worsen the trajectory of both conditions. Moreover, there are plenty of treatment modalities readily available to kickstart your treatment and symptom management journey. Lantana Recovery offers a wide range of treatment program options, providing both traditional and holistic interventions for whole-person healing. We can create a treatment plan that fits your unique needs and goals for recovery, suggesting modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication management. To begin your treatment journey, give us a call today at (866) 997-2870

Addiction Recovery Publishing

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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.