Last updated: 04/30/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders frequently appear together, particularly in treatment settings. The cause of the association unknown, although one possible cause is that substance use represents an attempt to “self-medicate” ADHD symptoms. Data shows people with ADHD are statistically more likely to develop and alcohol or drug addiction.
ADHD and Treatment
Untreated ADHD leads to significant consequences and may impair a patient’s ability to benefit from alcohol abuse treatment. Therefore, it is important that you be able to determine whether or not you may have undiagnosed ADHD.
If you are uncertain about whether or not you have ADHD, the following information may help you to self-diagnose. However, no diagnosis is accurate until a doctor has been included in the process.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5), is used by mental health professionals to help diagnose ADHD. This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated for ADHD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shortened the DSM’s criteria into the information which follows.
People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
ADHD and Treatment
The most important component of your treatment and recovery will be your education. The more familiar you become with the driving forces behind your addiction and the role your possible ADHD may be playing in worsening those forces, the better able you will be to combat them.
And article titled “The Clinically Meaningful Link Between Alcohol Use and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” references a large amount of valuable data including the following:
- In one study, people with ADHD took more than twice as long to recover from substance abuse than did people without ADHD.
- Another study showed poorer treatment outcomes for patients with undiagnosed ADHD, as well.
One possible reason for these conclusions is that people with ADHD tend to display a greater range of substance abuse symptoms than do people without it. Therefore, studies that depend on charting these symptoms record poorer outcomes for those with ADHD because they show more symptoms. Another reason is that the symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity) cause patients to respond poorly to treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and structured group meetings that depend upon patients sitting and focusing exclusively.
There are a number of ways that ADHD can affect both your addiction and your treatment. For your personal success, it is important that you receive a medical diagnosis and take the time to educate yourself about the condition.