Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed in childhood, but sometimes it lasts into adulthood. Typically, adults with ADHD have trouble staying still, paying attention, coping with stress or boredom, and controlling impulsive behavior. However, some adults with the disorder may show addictive behaviors, including alcohol, stimulants, and food addiction. Up to 25 percent of individuals who seek help at the alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers have ADHD.

Without professional help, identifying and treating coexisting ADHD and addiction is very challenging. This discussion examines why ADHD is linked with addiction and how to manage the disorders simultaneously.

ADHD symptoms can affect the professional, academic, and social spheres of the patient’s life. But these effects can be reduced by proper treatment.

What is the Link Between ADHD and Addiction?

The probability of developing ADHD and substance abuse tendencies or addictive personality depend on multiple factors, including:


Family history [6*]  is the strongest risk factor for ADHD. This implies that the disorder is inherited, and an individual with ADHD is more likely than the general population to have another family member with the disorder. Similarly, genes play a significant role in the development of different addictions, including alcohol.

Toxin Exposure

Research [7*]  shows that exposure to toxic substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol and tobacco products, increases the risk of developing ADHD in children. Heavy metal exposure of the mother is also linked with hyperactivity. Besides, using illicit substances when pregnant puts the child at high risk of substance dependence in adulthood.

Brain Trauma

Head injury, brain trauma, cerebrovascular disease trauma, or brain tumors can cause dysregulation of impulses, motor activity, and attention, precipitating ADHD. These injuries can also disinhibit impulse control pathways leading to substance abuse [8*]  tendencies.

ADHD and Addictive Behavior

Due to the inability to concentrate and impulsivity, people with ADHD often have impaired performance at work and school, along with poor social skills. Some may resort to substance abuse to overcome these negative impacts of ADHD on their lives.

Typically, people with ADHD have lower than normal levels of the stimulant chemical dopamine [9*]  in the brain. To compensate for such deficits, these individuals are usually drawn to novel experiences and thrill-seeking activities, which can include experimenting with drugs. Adults unaware of their ADHD biology are more likely to self-medicate with drugs ranging from caffeine to nicotine in tobacco-based products.

These vulnerabilities put people with ADHD at a higher risk of abusing drugs than the general population. For instance, the lifetime prevalence of substance use problems in the general population is about 13 percent [10*] , while nearly 50 percent of individuals with ADHD show addictive behaviors. Noteworthy, the risk of ADHD addiction is higher in males than females.

Stimulants and ADHD

Some people with ADHD self-medicate with large amounts of stimulant substances such as caffeine, cocaine, ephedrine, and crystal methamphetamine. While the temporary high might be satisfying, the overall damaging effects pose serious health issues. Instead of abusing these drugs to relieve ADHD symptoms, it is critical to reach out to an expert ADHD doctor that can suggest the best treatment plan according to individual needs. It may include stimulant medications prescribed at a safe dosage, behavioral therapy, or a combination of two.

Get ADHD medications from a licensed professional and receive precise instructions on the dosage and the duration of treatment.

Alcohol Addiction and ADHD

While moderate use of alcohol can enhance particular life experiences such as social interactions, excessive consumption is harmful. Adults with ADHD and coexisting anxiety or depression tend to use large volumes of alcohol as a coping mechanism. This can worsen the disorder in the long term.

The use of marijuana is also reported among adults having ADHD. While its use might have a social acceptance level similar to alcohol in some communities, regular and heavy use can exacerbate memory dysfunction, attention difficulties, and brain stimulation.

ADHD addiction can go beyond drugs to behavioral issues like gambling, sexual hyperactivity, shopping, and internet addictions. Therefore, early medical intervention is important for adults dealing with ADHD.

ADHD and Addiction Treatment

The link between ADHD and addictive behavior seems to be a vicious cycle, complicating treatment. Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are effective in relieving the symptoms and signs of ADHD, but they also have the potential for abuse if not used according to medical guidance. There is a risk that individuals being treated with these medications may slip into addiction unintended. Therefore, continuous monitoring and follow-up visits should be arranged with a care provider to avoid addictive behaviors due to ADHD.

In Conclusion

Any successful treatment plan to prevent addictive behaviors associated with ADHD requires a holistic approach that may include medications, counseling, support groups, and family therapy. A secure and supportive environment is also essential for adult healing and recovery from ADHD and addiction. To get personalized ADHD treatment, consult with EZCare doctors.


+10 sources
  1. Genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (2019)
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  2. Prenatal Exposure to Maternal and Paternal Smoking on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Symptoms and Diagnosis in Offspring. (2011)
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  3. Does Traumatic Brain Injury Increase Risk for Substance Abuse? (2009)
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  4. Evaluating Dopamine Reward Pathway in ADHD. (2010)
    Source link
  5. Illicit Drug Use
    Source link
  6. Genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (2019)
    Source link
  7. Prenatal Exposure to Maternal and Paternal Smoking on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Symptoms and Diagnosis in Offspring. (2011)
    Source link
  8. Does Traumatic Brain Injury Increase Risk for Substance Abuse? (2009)
    Source link
  9. Evaluating Dopamine Reward Pathway in ADHD. (2010)
    Source link
  10. Illicit Drug Use
    Source link

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