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A Significant Number of Adults with ADHD May Struggle with Substance Abuse

Table of Contents

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be a debilitating mental illness. It is estimated that upwards of 5% of adults suffer from ADHD, which can manifest as difficulty concentrating, organizing, hitting deadlines, and following directions. ADHD often occurs in children, but up to 60% of these kids do not outgrow it in adulthood. ADHD can also cause lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. As a result of these deficits, those with ADHD may not feel the same pleasure response as those without the disorder.

A Canadian study of almost 7000 20 to 39-year-olds showed that those suffering from ADHD had a greater risk of having a substance-abuse issue. While most of these substance-abuse disorders involve alcohol or cannabis, it was shown that one in six were suffering from abuse of harder drugs including cocaine and heroin.

It is known that ADHD may increase the incidence of depression and anxiety, in part because of the chemical deficits mentioned above. This depression and anxiety can lead to substance abuse especially if the ADHD goes untreated or undertreated.

Destination Hope’s Take

The results of this study are not entirely surprising as Destination Hope treats many clients that have cooccurring substance abuse with ADHD and/or anxiety and depression. In fact, anxiety and depression are two of the most seen mental illnesses alongside substance abuse. This study shows that mental health treatment is nuanced. While there may be a defined protocol for the treatment of ADHD, there must also be the understanding that many adults who suffer from this condition will also experience depression and anxiety. To reduce the risk of substance abuse disorders and other knock-on effects, including suicide, treatment should be comprehensive and procured by knowledgeable staff

See also  Diagnosed With Substance Use Disorder...Now What?

The Solution

Treatment for ADHD and concurrent substance abuse disorder shows the need for specialized cooccurring disorder care. Not only does the substance abuse have to be treated but underlying mental health issues require treatment as well. This means also attacking the depression and anxiety caused by ADHD. Ultimately, addressing any one of these problems only partially solves the issue and leaves the client at higher risk of relapse. A comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program can reduce the risk of relapse while also addressing some of the mental health issues through medication assisted treatment and talk therapy.

ADHD, anxiety and depression and substance abuse is treatable. The first step for you or a loved one is to contact someone who understands where you are and where you need to be. Destination Hope has compassionate, understanding representatives ready and willing to talk about the process, confidentially, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We encourage you to call us to learn more and start the process toward healing and recovery.

Esme Fuller-Thomson, Danielle A Lewis, Senyo Agbeyaka, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Alcohol and Other Substance Use Disorders in Young Adulthood: Findings from a Canadian Nationally Representative Survey, Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2021;, agab048,

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