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ADHD and Addiction

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a man struggling with adhd and addiction treatmentAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction are common co-occurring conditions. These disorders can share similar signs and symptoms. Since these conditions have substantial overlap, ADHD and addiction treatment usually involve a dual diagnosis treatment program.

ADHD involves problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior, which may affect school functioning, work patterns, and social and family relationships. Not every person with ADHD has problems in all ADHD behavioral areas of concern. Some have trouble paying attention, while others may combine inattention with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior. ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, but it can continue throughout adulthood and can also be diagnosed for the first time in adulthood. At Vertava Health, we treat ADHD and addiction through behavioral health interventions and medication. To learn more about our co-occurring disorder treatment center, call 844.470.0410 today. 

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect children as young as age three and can last into adulthood. ADHD is associated with hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. While many children receive the diagnosis and treatment early, it can be misdiagnosed, and symptoms can continue into adulthood.

People who experienced ADHD symptoms as a child will continue to experience ADHD symptoms as an adult. However, the manifestations of the disorder will shift with age. If a person is not diagnosed or misdiagnosed as a child, they may suffer the consequences of a lifetime of ADHD symptoms.

A misdiagnosed adult may battle depression and anxiety and turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their ADHD symptoms. Unfortunately, ADHD and substance use are common co-occurring disorders that require treatment to manage and overcome.

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

There is no single diagnostic test for ADHD. Instead, clinicians rely on tools such as:

  • A physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Educational history
  • Social functioning
  • Family history
  • ADHD rating scales
  • Psychological tests

Whether diagnosed during childhood or adulthood, the diagnosis of ADHD is individualized. Diagnosticians will also seek to rule out neurological conditions or other illnesses that may cause the observed symptoms of ADHD.

Common Symptoms Of ADHD

Many symptoms of ADHD are normal parts of behavior. However, people who do not have ADHD can control them without needing professional intervention or treatment with medication. With ADHD, these symptoms occur frequently and can last for at least six months.

A child with the disorder can be diagnosed at an early age if they present at least six of the below symptoms.

  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Always moving
  • Running or climbing inappropriately
  • Talking excessively
  • Having trouble focusing
  • Being easily distracted or getting bored with a task before completion
  • Appearing not to listen when spoken to
  • Having difficulty remembering and following instructions
  • Frequently losing or misplacing items
  • Constantly fidgeting and squirming

Children with ADHD show a persistent pattern in their behavior that will interfere with their general functioning and development. It is essential to identify these symptoms early, so there is time to treat and manage the condition. The later the diagnosis, the more challenging it is for medical professionals to pinpoint since ADHD can have similar symptoms to a variety of disorders.

Types Of ADHD in Adults or a Child

There are three types of ADHD. A person can present only one kind of ADHD or have a combination of two.

The following types of ADHD are:

  • Hyperactive/impulsive presentation — This person feels the need for constant movement. They fidget, squirm, struggle to stay seated, and often talk and run around. This person interrupts others, blurts out answers, and struggles with self-control.
  • Inattentive presentation — This person makes mistakes because they cannot focus or follow detailed instructions. They are forgetful, easily distracted, and often lose items.
  • Combined presentation — This person has significant hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention problems.

There is no simple test that can diagnose ADHD. Children often display symptoms at an early age, and if properly diagnosed, these symptoms can be treated and managed. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder And Substance Use Disorder

Children and adults who have ADHD can be diagnosed with additional co-occurring conditions. For children, the prevalence of other diseases in conjunction with their ADHD is high. These problems can be learning disabilities, speech issues, anxiety, and depression. For adults, depression, anxiety, bipolar, and substance misuse are common co-occurring conditions.

Many people diagnosed with ADHD use substances to maintain a level of balance and as a way to self-medicate. If someone with ADHD uses drugs or alcohol, they may be able to mask the symptoms of the condition temporarily. However, this can result in the person becoming addicted to the substance of use.

Another reason why ADHD and addiction often co-occur is due to the symptoms associated with ADHD. Many people exhibit behavioral difficulties and impulsivity as a result of this condition. These symptoms can make individuals with ADHD more likely to use drugs or alcohol than people without the condition.

Misuse of Drugs Used to Treat ADHD

The drugs used to treat and control the symptoms of ADHD can also be highly addictive if misused.

Doctors prescribe the following medications for those who have ADHD:

  • Stimulants — These medicines help a person focus thoughts and ignore distractions. The most common stimulant medications are Adderall and Ritalin. These drugs increase the concentrations of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.
  • Non-stimulants — If stimulants don’t work or cause unpleasant side effects, non-stimulants are available to assist with concentration and impulse control.
  • Antidepressants — Those who have ADHD often also display symptoms of depression or anxiety. An antidepressant can be coupled with a stimulant to help control mental health issues and also manage ADHD symptoms.

Unfortunately, stimulants prescribed for ADHD, such as Adderall or Ritalin, can have long-term effects. In addition, people taking large unprescribed doses face a higher risk of becoming addicted.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Recovery For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

For the best treatment possible, someone with co-occurring ADHD and addiction must work with a professional to determine the root cause of the disorders. Since ADHD and addiction are so tightly linked, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. 

It is often best to attend an inpatient treatment facility that can help diagnose these co-occurring diseases and treat them separately. At an inpatient treatment facility, the person will have the opportunity to get treatment for both ADHD and addiction in a fully supportive and focused way.

Treatment plans for ADHD can incorporate individual psychotherapy, education and skills training, and prescribed medication.

Adults and children with ADHD can have treatment plans that include:

  • Medication for ADHD, including stimulants and non-stimulants
  • Behavioral therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Assistance with developing social, school, and work skills
  • Family therapy or couples therapy (for adults)
  • Stress management techniques
  • Peer and family support groups

Adults with ADHD can benefit from professional counseling, therapy, and behavior management techniques. ADHD can’t be cured, but it can be successfully treated and managed.

Seek ADHD and Addiction Treatment at Vertava Health

Vertava Health offers virtual and on-site treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. To learn more about ADHD and addiction, contact a treatment specialist today. Call us today at 844.470.0410 to get the care you deserve.