Are ADHD and Addiction Connected?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and addiction are two conditions that impact the way a person’s brain functions, especially when they occur at the same time. While the route to receiving a diagnosis in either ADHD or addiction is very different, they have some similarities. However, medical professionals throughout have suspected that there might be a connection between the two disorders. 

What Does ADHD Looks Like?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurologic condition that is typically diagnosed in childhood. People with ADHD can have trouble with many behaviors that involve the frontal lobe of the brain, including paying attention, controlling their impulsive behaviors, and hyperactivity. Other symptoms can include:

  • Trouble with time management 
  • Disorganization 
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty completing tasks 
  • Inability to multitask 
  • Irritability and frustration 

These symptoms are often noticed early on in childhood, making it one of the most common conditions seen by physicians.

Although less frequent, a diagnosis can be given in late adolescence or adulthood. As we learn more about ADHD and how symptoms present themselves, more adults are figuring out that they have it. This is leading to an uprising in late diagnoses. 

Drug Effects on the Brain

When a person uses drugs, no matter what kind, it has an impact on their brain. These drugs can cause neurotransmitters, or chemicals in the brain, to overproduce. The brain also becomes “overstimulated,” making structures like the frontal lobe, amygdala, and the cerebral cortex work in overdrive. This impacts the way people think and behave.

The Connection Between ADHD and Addiction  

When a person has both a diagnosis of ADHD and experiences addiction, it is considered a dual diagnosis. Receiving a dual diagnosis is more common than you might think. A study by researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles found that people with ADHD are at least two to three times more likely to experience addiction at some point during their lifetime. Additionally, 25% of adults that seek addiction treatment also have a diagnosis of ADHD. 

While there are many causes for why a person might develop ADHD or addiction, here are a few things that are similar between the two disorders:

  • Genetics
  • Exposure to Toxic Substances 
  • Trauma 

The two conditions also have similar symptoms. People that have both ADHD and addiction may face additional challenges when it comes to monitoring their impulsive behavior. When a person is unable to have proper control over their behavior, they are more likely to take risks – potentially putting them in harm’s way. Since experimenting with drugs and alcohol usually occurs in late childhood and adolescence, a diagnosis of ADHD can put a person at an even larger risk than their non-diagnosed peers. 

Seeking Treatment for ADHD and Addiction 

If you’re looking for immediate care options for opioid and alcohol addiction, American Treatment Center in Dover, DE is a great option. The trained professionals at American Treatment Network also offer mental health services, meaning you can receive treatment for both conditions under one roof. Contact us today for more information on how to get customized integrated health care at any of our locations, including our other centers in Havertown, PA, and Newark, DE. 


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