Substance Use

ADHD and Addiction: Is There a Link?

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ADHD and Addiction

Multiple risk factors can contribute to addiction, and people with ADHD have a compounded risk of developing addictive behaviors and substance use disorders. ADHD and addiction can share overlapping risk factors, such as genetics and environmental influences. Plus, some people with ADHD self-medicate with either illegal substances, illegally obtained prescription drugs, or alcohol to ease triggers and cope with the symptoms of ADHD. 

Self-medicating may provide temporary relief but doesn’t address ADHD’s underlying symptoms. In fact, using drugs to alleviate ADHD inadvertently places this neurodivergent individual at a greater risk of addiction. 

Living with ADHD or addiction is hard enough—navigating your way with both conditions can feel like a roller coaster with no safety harness. If you or someone you love is facing the trials of life with ADHD and addiction, recognizing the link between them is a valuable first step to healing. Zinnia Health has compassionate treatment specialists available 24/7 to answer your questions and provide guidance at (855) 430-9439.

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What is ADHD?

ADHD is the acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is a neurological condition affecting people of all ages. Late diagnoses of adult ADHD aren’t unheard of, with some people living well into their 30s and 40s not understanding their inattention or impulsive behaviors or why they see and approach life differently. However, this condition is most often diagnosed in childhood among children of school age.

People living with ADHD may experience:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Impulsivity
  • Sudden bursts of energy
  • Inability to sit for long periods

For someone without this condition, the best way to understand ADHD is as though your brain is a Ferrari’s engine—with a 10-speed bicycle’s brakes. A person with ADHD has loads of energy and is typically of above-average intelligence, but having the strength to stop and focus is challenging.

Causes & Risk Factors of ADHD

While the exact cause of ADHD isn’t known, it’s generally accepted that a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors plays a role:

  • If someone in your family has ADHD, the chances you may have it increase.
  • Exposure to lead, alcohol, or drug abuse as a developing fetus may contribute.
  • Neurotransmitters in the brain facilitate nerve cell communication; imbalances impair this communication.

Causes & Risk Factors of Addiction

Like ADHD, addiction is complex and can be influenced by a mix of multiple factors, some of which overlap with ADHD:

  • A family history of addiction increases the risk.
  • Peer pressure, stress, and exposure to substances at an early age can play a significant role.
  • Other emotional health or mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, often occur simultaneously alongside addiction, also known as co-occurring disorders.

Do you wonder if your experiences might mean you’re suffering from both ADHD and addiction? You don’t have to face this journey alone. Zinnia Health offers uniquely tailored, whole-person treatment plans that approach both conditions at the same time using a blend of treatment options. Call (855) 430-9439 to learn how we can help you start the healing process..

What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD & Addiction?

Treating ADHD and addiction simultaneously is a complex task. Tailoring a treatment plan that addresses the overlapping nature of these conditions can be puzzling for healthcare professionals. One of the most significant challenges lies in the fact that some of the most commonly prescribed medications to treat ADHD are stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

These medications are scheduled as controlled substances due to their potential for misuse, abuse, and addiction. For someone already struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, using these types of medications is a lot like playing with fire.

Why ADHD Medications Can Be Risky for Those with Addiction

Stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is rewarding and potentially habit-forming. These medications are controlled substances due to the risks of misuse, abuse, and dependence, making them especially dangerous for an individual who’s previously struggled with addiction or shares any other risk factors for addiction.

Adolescents and young adults with ADHD who exhibit behavior problems and grew up in a home exposed to alcohol use, cigarette smoking, or other recreational drugs, like cannabis, tend to be at a higher risk for developing addictive disorders or other mental health disorders.

Alternatives and Integrated Treatment Plans

Despite these challenges, hope is not lost. Substance abuse treatment centers offer various avenues for ADHD sufferers to combat addiction, such as:

  • Medication-assisted treatments: Stimulant medications aren’t the only option for ADHD patients. Non-stimulants, such as Strattera, and some anti-depressant medications, such as Wellbutrin, are alternatives for recovering addicts with ADHD.
  • One-on-one therapy: Various types of therapy have shown promise in the treatment of both ADHD and addiction, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT helps individuals recognize certain behavioral patterns and work towards solutions to minimize and eventually eliminate typical triggered responses.
  • Group or peer therapies: The old adage “it takes a village” is rather apropos in this sense. ADHD peer groups and support groups for drug and alcohol addiction give participants added support. The immense benefits of the camaraderie amongst individuals experiencing the same or similar challenges cannot be overstated in this respect.

ADHD and addiction treatment can pose unique challenges—for individuals and their healthcare providers. A unique, whole-person approach can help individuals successfully navigate these challenging conditions.

At some point, you’ve likely heard the term “addictive personality” tossed around. It’s a popular concept, but it’s important to clarify that it’s not one that’s universally recognized in the medical community.

However, it’s a term that’s often used when describing a person with a set of traits that appear conducive to developing an addiction to something.

What is an Addictive Personality?

If you happened to overhear in passing, “Oh, they’ve got an addictive personality,” the person who said it is most likely referring to a person who exhibits certain personality traits that make them appear more susceptible to addiction.

It doesn’t mean that someone with such traits will unequivocally develop an addiction, but it could be a sign that a person might be more at risk than someone who doesn’t exhibit those traits.

Common Traits of an Addictive Personality

Some of the traits most commonly associated with addictive personalities include:

  • Impulsive actions: Acting without considering the consequences is a trait often seen in people with ADHD.
  • Thrill-seeking: Having a preference for new, exciting, and/or potentially risky experiences.
  • Emotionally unstable: Frequently experiencing mood swings or having difficulties coping with stress or other triggers.
  • Lack of self-esteem: Having a negative self-image may lead someone to look for validation outside themselves, which could be as relatively innocent as posting for likes on social media or as hazardous as experimenting with substances or taking part in dangerous behaviors to experience temporary “highs.”
  • Struggles with delayed gratification: A tendency to prioritize immediate or short-term rewards over long-term benefits.

So, how does this tie back to ADHD?

Impulsive actions are a key symptom of ADHD, and they’re also a trait often considered indicative of an addictive personality. Now, it’s important to emphasize that not all people with ADHD have addictive personalities. The idea here is that the overlap in traits like a propensity toward impulsivity may make some individuals more vulnerable to addictive behaviors than others.

The concept of an addictive personality can offer some insights, but it’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Find Help for ADHD & Addiction at Zinnia Health

If you’re suffering from the crippling effects of ADHD coupled with the life-threatening dangers associated with substance abuse and addiction, Zinnia Health can help. Treatment programs are available for both ADHD and addiction. Our treatment centers specialize in co-occurring disorders and other aspects of this double-edged sword. 

To learn more about how Zinnia Health tailors comprehensive treatment programs to your unique circumstances, call our treatment professionals any time, day or night, at (855) 430-9439.

Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
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