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How is substance abuse linked to ADHD?

Fredrick Wade
Addiction Medicine

The impulsivity (and inherent Conduct Instability) that comes with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been proven to have a high propensity in the development of substance use and abuse disorders for those with the diagnosis of ADHD.  It is also true, that across all forms of addiction you will find varying levels of ADHD in those who are abusing opioid, stimulants, hallucinogenic, and sedative hypnotics, just to name a few as an intrinsic part of their presenting clinical picture.  There is no doubt that ADHD creates a strong foundational environment for the development of a host of substance use, abuse, or dependence disorders.    

In addition to the other answers, as a mother of an ADHD son, the link may also be related to the abuse these children are subjected to socially. The torment they endure from other children is constant. Little wonder they may turn to drugs or other substances to dull the pain, escape their reality. I tried to teach my son how to deal with his tormentors in a positive and non-violent way, knowing that it would not stop when school finished. He is 26 and still having to deal with tormentors in the workplace. He is still trying to hone his skills to deal with these folks. However, I am very proud of his progress. At 26, he is alive, no addictions, mostly self-sufficient, no criminal record and he has been working with the same company for several years. He has beaten the odds for ADHD children!

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
The latest findings show that teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at greater risk of substance abuse, including smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and using illicit drugs. Adults with ADHD have a higher incidence of cigarette smoking and more problems stopping nicotine use when compared to people who do not have ADHD.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.