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ADHD and Substance Abuse a Frequent Combination

ADHD is a brain disorder characterized by impulsiveness and the inability to focus or sit still. People with ADHD may have symptoms that can make ADHD and substance abuse a frequent combination, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

3 Minute Read | Published Aug 13 2023 | Updated Mar 04 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Dameisha Gibson
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Dameisha Gibson
Reviewed by

Learn why are ADHD and substance abuse a frequent combination and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Symptoms of ADHD

People with ADHD have trouble with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. In children, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the most obvious symptom, while in adults, inattention is more predominant. Signs and symptoms of ADHD concerning inattention include:

  • Having problems staying attentive during play, school, conversations, or reading.
  • Seeming to not listen when someone talks to you.
  • Having trouble staying organized.
  • Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Losing things regularly.
  • Being easily distracted.
  • Being forgetful about daily activities, such as keeping appointments or returning calls.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD related to hyperactivity or impulsivity include:

  • Constant fidgeting.
  • Having trouble staying in your seat at home, work, or school.
  • Feelings of restlessness.
  • Inability to do activities quietly.
  • Talking nonstop.
  • Having trouble waiting in line or waiting your turn.
  • Frequently interrupting others or finishing their sentences.

If these symptoms sound like you, you may also have ADHD and an ADHD addictive personality.

What Makes ADHD and Substance Abuse a Frequent Combination?

ADHD addiction facts show that children with ADHD may be at a higher risk than the general population of substance abuse down the road. One study found that 14 percent of children ages 15 to 17 who had ADHD also had problems with substance abuse as an adult. Another found that 40 percent of children with ADHD started using alcohol at a mean age of 14.9 years old, compared to 22 percent of kids without ADHD.

Other ADHD addiction facts show that young adults 18 to 25 are likely to use alcohol regardless of whether they have ADHD, but those with ADHD are more likely than those without to engage in excessive alcohol abuse.

Some symptoms make ADHD and substance abuse a frequent combination. For example, people with ADHD are generally more impulsive than people without it, and they may also have behavioral problems, which can contribute to drug abuse. ADHD also affects the executive function of the brain, and this can make self-regulation difficult.

Genetic factors can also help explain what makes ADHD and substance abuse a frequent combination. Since both ADHD and alcohol addiction run in families, children whose parents have ADHD or alcoholism are more likely to have ADHD and abuse drugs or alcohol. Additionally, researchers have identified common genes that are shared by people with both ADHD and alcoholism.

Treatment Works

Although some symptoms of ADHD can make ADHD and substance abuse a frequent combination, getting help for ADHD can lead to reduced substance abuse and prevent addiction. ADHD is diagnosed and treated by mental or medical health professionals, and a combination of medication and therapy can dramatically improve symptoms of ADHD and reduce ADHD addictive personality traits.

For those with ADHD who abuse drugs or alcohol or who have developed an addiction or dependence, a high quality dual diagnosis treatment program is essential for long-term recovery from both conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders treats the substance abuse or addiction and the ADHD at the same time, each in the context of the other. Treating just the addiction or just the ADHD doesn’t offer the same positive outcomes as treating both together.

If you suffer from ADHD and abuse drugs or alcohol, Better Addiction Care can help you find a high quality treatment program to help you control symptoms of ADHD and overcome an addiction. We can help you get on the road to successful recovery and improve your quality of life and wellbeing for the long-term. Call us now at (800) 429-7690.


bullet National Institute of Mental Health
"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder"
Retrieved on September 29, 2017

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