Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Addiction

adhd and addiction

Millions of people in the United States live with substance abuse or addiction. These complex conditions often require professional treatment and ongoing support so that people can lead healthy, sober lives.

Many factors can make it harder for someone to get the treatment they need to overcome addiction. Mental illnesses, chronic health conditions, and other disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can complicate addiction treatment and require special care.

If you or someone you love requires treatment for ADHD and addiction, contact the admission staff at Moving Mountains Recovery for more information about starting one of our comprehensive treatment programs.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is the most commonly-diagnosed childhood mental health disorder. About 5% of the US population–around 11 million people– is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[1]

The symptoms of ADHD are sometimes divided into two categories.


  • Short attention span
  • Frequent, careless mistakes in school work or other tasks
  • Frequently losing or misplacing items
  • Difficulty listening and following directions
  • Challenged by tasks that require focus and sustained attention
  • Quickly loses interest in tedious tasks

Impulsivity and Hyperactivity

  • Excessive talking
  • Fidgeting
  • Unable to remain still, especially in a quiet or calm environment
  • Difficulty waiting their turn
  • Frequently interrupts conversations
  • Unable to assess risk or danger
  • Excessive physical movement

The average age of diagnosis for kids with ADHD symptoms is seven years old. Data from 2016-2019 shows that about 9.8% of US children aged 3-17 are diagnosed with ADHD during childhood.[2]

ADHD is associated with poor school performance, behavioral issues, and social problems. Some research suggests that there is a link between ADHD and substance abuse.

The Connection Between ADHD and Substance Abuse

One of the main symptoms of ADHD is a lack of impulse control. This, combined with difficulty assessing risk, can put people with ADHD at increased risk of developing substance abuse and addiction. Why? People who have impaired impulse control and lack the ability to gauge danger may be more likely to start using drugs than those who don’t have ADHD. They may not be as likely to stop and think about what will come next–they may decide to use drugs or alcohol impulsively.

Another theory about the link between ADHD and substance abuse is that kids and adolescents may be more likely to be in social situations where others are using drugs and alcohol. Kids with ADHD skip school more often and are less likely to refuse drugs and alcohol when offered to them.

Once someone begins using drugs, they may develop tolerance over time–meaning they need to use more of the substance to get the desired effects. Tolerance builds quickly with some substances. Repeated or heavy substance use can cause changes in the brain and body that make it difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol without professional treatment.

Some research suggests that there is a genetic component to ADHD and alcohol abuse.[3,4] This may explain the higher rates of ADHD in those who abuse alcohol vs. the general population.

Finally, many of the medications used to treat ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin, can be addictive. People who abuse their medication may become addicted to them.

Do I Need Treatment for ADHD and Addiction?

You may require treatment for both conditions if you have been diagnosed with ADHD and have signs of substance abuse and addiction. Some of the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction include:

  • Needing to use more drugs or alcohol to get the same effects
  • Wanting to stop using substances but feeling like you can’t
  • Having withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking or using drugs
  • Neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Experiencing changes in your mood, sleep, appetite, or appearance
  • Facing legal or financial trouble because of your substance use
  • Frequently using more drugs or drinking more than you planned to
  • Spending significant time and energy getting, using, and recovering from drugs and alcohol

Living with ADHD and addiction can be very challenging, and treatment for both conditions is sometimes more complicated. But finding compassionate, comprehensive treatment for ADHD and addiction is possible–and it can give you a chance to manage the symptoms of both conditions so that you can live the healthy, fulfilling life you choose.

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

If you live with ADHD and addiction, you must get treatment for both conditions. Choosing a treatment facility that can provide comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment for your symptoms is essential.

Addiction treatment happens in stages, beginning with an assessment of your mental and physical health. A doctor or addiction specialist will evaluate your needs and recommend the appropriate level of care.

Next, you may require medically-supported detox. During an inpatient detox program, medical and emotional support professionals will assess your withdrawal symptoms and treat them. Treatment during withdrawal may include medications, emotional support, individual therapy, and holistic therapies to provide comfort.

After completing detox, you must begin a treatment program that will address addiction’s physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects. During treatment, you will learn the skills to avoid relapse by participating in evidence-based and holistic therapies, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Education
  • Medications
  • Mental health and medical treatment
  • Holistic therapies like yoga, massage, nutrition support, and music therapy

During your time in treatment, you will receive treatment, including medications and education, to manage the symptoms of your ADHD.

If you treat only your ADHD, your substance use or addiction will likely prevent the treatment from being effective. If you treat your addiction without addressing your ADHD, the symptoms of your ADHD will likely interfere with your ability to have a complete, long-lasting recovery.

Find Help Now

You do not have to manage the symptoms of ADHD and addiction on your own. At Moving Mountains Recovery, we provide thoughtful, comprehensive treatment for ADHD and substance abuse that empowers people to live healthy, sober lives. Contact our admissions staff today to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment programs.


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