What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental health disorder that causes hyperactivity and an inability to focus. While everybody finds themselves unable to focus from time to time, the difference is that people with ADHD experience these symptoms more often and for longer durations than the general population. Furthermore, ADHD impacts the individual’s ability to perform well at work or at school. A person with ADHD may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Being easily distracted
- Daydreaming that interferes with tasks
- Impulsive or risky behavior
Doctors have identified three different types of ADHD. Those with the inattentive type (formerly called ADD) don’t usually experience the hyperactivity symptoms that are commonly associated with ADHD. In fact, these individuals often have quiet, introverted personalities. If you have trouble with focus but not with impulsivity, don’t let the lack of those symptoms keep you from seeking ADHD treatment.
ADHD and Substance Abuse
Among young adults with ADHD who abuse substances, 70% are aiming to get relief for symptoms, not to get high.
Substance abuse is more common among people with ADHD than in the general population. Researchers have identified some connection between addiction and ADHD. First, some of the genes that cause ADHD have similarities with the genes that cause substance use disorders. Second, some people with ADHD use alcohol and recreational drugs to self-medicate for their symptoms. Many use alcohol, for example, to quiet racing thoughts and “turn off” their brains so that they can sleep. Very few people with ADHD use substances to get high. Instead, they use substance because they’re seeking relief.
If you struggle with substance abuse, with or without ADHD, call 800-492-QUIT today for help.
ADHD Medication and Treatment
Many adults with ADHD, especially those who already deal with addiction, worry about the addictive nature of ADHD medication. People commonly abuse ADHD medication to get high, and adults in recovery wonder if these medicines will cause them to fall back into addiction. However, you don’t have to fear the possibility of using medication to treat your ADHD.
ADHD medication comes in two main varieties: stimulant and nonstimulant medicines. The stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are the ones that people commonly abuse. However, prescription stimulants are far more addictive for people without ADHD than for people with ADHD. Why? Because people with ADHD have brains that work differently than the brains of people who don’t have it. A brain with ADHD lacks adequate dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure and reward. Dopamine also helps people to maintain focus. In a person with ADHD, stimulants help the brain bring its dopamine supply up to a normal, functioning level. In a person without ADHD, stimulants bring dopamine up to an unhealthy, overloaded level. This dopamine overload is what causes the “high” feeling for people who abuse stimulants, and that high is what leads to addiction.
As a matter of fact, addiction is more of a problem in adults with ADHD who don’t get treatment than it is for adults who do get treatment. When one has access to the right medication, one doesn’t have to self-medicate with other substances.
Precautions to take
Of course, if you already have a substance abuse problem, you should still take certain precautions with your ADHD medication. We’ve listed some of the ways to protect yourself below:
- Make sure that your doctor knows about your addiction.
- Ask your doctor for a nonstimulant prescription. These take longer to work, but they’re non-addictive and do effectively treat ADHD.
- Ask your doctor for smaller prescriptions that you can fill more often, as opposed to getting 30 days’ worth of pills at a time.
- Store your medication at a trusted friend or family member’s house. If you live with someone else, ask that person to store your medicine for you.
- Always take your medicine in the presence of another adult
Dual Diagnosis and Recovery
If you have both an addiction and ADHD, you should seek treatment for both. Some doctors will recommend beginning addiction treatment before starting ADHD treatment. You and your doctor can work together to pursue the most effective treatment plan.
When looking for rehabs, treatment programs, and support groups, look for programs whose staff are knowledgeable about ADHD and addiction. After rehab, continued therapy can help you with both disorders.
Let Rehab Info Help
If you’re not sure how to start looking for treatment for both ADHD and substance abuse, we understand. You have a lot of different factors to navigate, and sometimes the hardest part is getting started.