Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that affects both children and adults. Its most common symptoms, such as difficulty focusing, restlessness, impulsivity, and aversion to monotonous activities can often lead to addiction issues if not addressed properly. People living with ADHD must have the necessary tools in place to effectively manage their mental health so they don’t succumb to an unhealthy relationship with substances or other addictive behaviors.

For those with ADHD, life can be challenging as they frequently have difficulty focusing and controlling impulsive behaviors. This may lead to drug or alcohol abuse in an attempt to self-medicate the symptoms associated with this disorder. Unfortunately, these efforts sometimes culminate in a cycle of addiction which requires professional help for successful diagnosis and dual diagnosis treatment strategies.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and substance use disorder are often closely linked. In fact, individuals with ADHD are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse problems than those without ADHD.

As stated previously, this link may be due in part to the fact that people with ADHD may feel compelled to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms such as restlessness, impulsivity, and inattention. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may be more prone to sensation-seeking behavior, which can increase the likelihood of experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Facts Regarding Addiction and ADHD

  • ADHD is a prevalent neurobehavioral disorder found in 6-9% of children, adolescents, and up to 5% of adults.
  • Approximately three-quarters of cases follow ADHD into adolescence and half of the cases into adulthood.
  • Adolescents with ADHD often have disturbed social relations and academic underachievement.
  • Substance use disorders (SUD) affect 30% of US adults, 9% of adolescents, and 6% of adolescents have an alcohol use disorder.
  • Early onset SUD increases severity and duration, as well as risks for academic failure, suicidal behavior, and other dangerous behaviors.
  • Marijuana, alcohol, or a combination of both are the most common substances abused by adolescents with ADHD.

The use of drugs or alcohol can also worsen symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty concentrating and impulsivity, making it harder to manage daily tasks and responsibilities.

It’s important to seek help for co-occurring ADHD and substance abuse issues as soon as possible. This usually involves medication, therapy, or a combination of both. With the right support, it’s possible to manage ADHD and addiction issues and lead a fulfilling life.

What Causes ADHD and Addiction to Develop?

ADHD is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Research has found that those with ADHD may have differences in the way certain neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) function in the brain. Additionally, certain genetic factors may make some people more susceptible to developing ADHD.
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There appears to be a relationship between genetics, ADHD, and addiction, but the relationship is complex and not yet fully understood. Several genetic factors have been identified that could increase the risk of developing both ADHD and addiction. ADHD has been found to run in families, and studies suggest that genetics account for approximately 70-80% of the risk of developing ADHD.

Several genes are believed to be involved in the development of ADHD, particularly those related to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate attention, motivation, and reward.

There are several environmental factors that have been linked to the development of both ADHD and addiction. Environmental factors can interact with genetic factors to produce a higher risk of developing these conditions.

Here are a few examples of environmental factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD and addiction:

  • Negative childhood experiences: Exposure to childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect may increase the risk of developing ADHD and addiction.
  • Family dynamics: Family factors such as parental substance abuse, conflict, or instability can contribute to the development of mental health disorders like addiction and ADHD in children.
  • Exposure to toxins: Exposure to toxins such as lead or chemicals can increase the risk of developing ADHD among children.
  • Socioeconomic status: Low socioeconomic status (or poverty) has been associated with a higher risk of developing both ADHD and addiction.
  • Stress: Chronic stress can alter the brain’s reward system and contribute to the development of addiction among people with ADHD.
  • Access to substances: Frequent exposure to drugs and alcohol, and easy access to these substances can increase the chances that someone will develop an addiction.

Overall, environmental factors can have a profound impact on the brain’s development and how it functions, which can increase the risk of developing ADHD and addiction. Addressing environmental factors that contribute to the development of ADHD and addiction can help individuals improve their health and well-being.

When ADHD and addiction occur together, it’s often due to the fact that individuals with ADHD may be more prone to sensation-seeking behavior, making them more likely to try drugs or alcohol in the first place. Additionally, the use of drugs or alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, making it even harder to manage daily tasks and responsibilities.

Therefore, it’s important for individuals with ADHD to receive proper treatment and support to manage their symptoms. This can also lower the risk of developing an addiction. Similarly, individuals struggling with addiction should seek professional help to overcome their addiction and prevent relapse.

Common Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

Individuals with ADHD may experience a variety of symptoms that can interfere with their daily life. ADHD symptoms are typically categorized into two main categories; inattention, and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of ADHD include:


  • Difficulty paying attention or focusing on details
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or activities
  • Difficulty following through on instructions or finishing tasks
  • Easily distracted or forgetful
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities


  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty staying seated or still
  • Excessive talking
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others’ conversations or activities

In addition to these symptoms, individuals with ADHD may also experience mood swings, impatience, and difficulty regulating their emotions. They may also struggle with time management skills, have a tendency to procrastinate, and struggle with impulse control.

It’s important to note that symptoms of ADHD can vary greatly between individuals, and some people may primarily experience symptoms of either inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity, while others may experience both. A diagnosis of ADHD should always be made by a professional healthcare provider, who can evaluate symptoms and provide appropriate treatment options.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

Treatment for co-occurring addiction and ADHD will often be best treated in the form of an dual diagnosis program. This could be an outpatient or residential program. These types of programs will address both behavioral health issues independently but also in relation to each other to make sure that each type of care does not conflict with the other. Dual diagnosis treatment is designed to fit the individual’s specific symptoms and circumstances therefore each person’s program is unique to them.
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As a part of ADHD and addiction treatment, you can expect the see the following included in your treatment regimen.

Common medications prescribed for ADHD are divided into two main categories: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants are a kind of medication that can help people with ADHD focus better and be less impulsive. Stimulants work by blocking the brain’s natural process of taking chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) back up, so more of them stay in the brain and help to improve focus and attention.

Non-stimulant medications also help people with ADHD, but they do it in a slightly different way. Instead of blocking the reuptake of these chemicals, they work by preventing the brain from taking them back up too quickly. This is called “NE reuptake inhibition.” Another kind of non-stimulant medication, called alpha 2 agonists, works by helping the brain to produce more of another chemical called norepinephrine, which can help with focus and attention.

In summary, both kinds of medication help people with ADHD by controlling how the brain uses certain chemicals. Stimulants block the natural process of taking those chemicals back up, while non-stimulants either slow down the process of taking them back up or help the brain produce more of them.

Common forms of therapy used to treat ADHD and addiction include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on changing negative or self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors. CBT can be very helpful in treating addiction by helping people identify how their thoughts can contribute to addictive behavior.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT helps individuals build skills for managing emotions and building healthy relationships. It has been found to be effective in treating addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): MI is a type of therapy that focuses on motivating individuals to change problematic behaviors, such as addiction. It can be particularly helpful in the early stages of addiction treatment when individuals may be resistant to change.
  • Family therapy: This form of counseling involves working with family members to identify and address problematic behaviors related to ADHD and addiction. It can be an effective way to support individuals in treatment and help families better communicate and support each other.
  • Group therapy: Group counseling involves working with a therapist and others in treatment in a supportive and therapeutic environment. It can be a helpful way for individuals to build social support networks, learn from others’ experiences, and improve their communication and social skills.

These are just a few examples of the many forms of therapy that can be used to treat ADHD and addiction. The choice of therapy will depend on individual needs and should be coordinated with a medical professional.

Lifestyle changes can be a crucial part of treatment for individuals struggling with ADHD and addiction. Here are some examples of lifestyle changes that can help individuals overcome these conditions:

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help increase brain chemical levels and promotes the release of endorphins, which can help to improve symptoms and mood.
  • Healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, can support brain health.
  • Stress management: Developing healthy coping strategies such as mindfulness techniques can help individuals manage symptoms of ADHD and reduce the risk of addiction triggers.
  • Sleep: Getting enough restful sleep can help improve mood, and cognitive function, and reduce ADHD symptoms.
  • Social support: Having a strong social support network can help individuals dealing with ADHD and addiction to cope and stay motivated in their recovery.
  • Avoiding triggers: Being aware of triggers related to addiction and avoiding them can help individuals with addiction maintain their recovery.
  • Time management: Utilizing time management techniques, such as planning and prioritization, can help individuals with ADHD better manage their time and stay on top of tasks.

Overall, lifestyle changes can be extremely helpful for individuals to overcome ADHD and addiction. These changes can be incorporated into comprehensive treatment plans along with other traditional methods, such as medication and therapy. Making lifestyle changes can help individuals achieve long-term recovery.

It’s important to note that different forms of treatment work well for different people, based on individual factors such as medical history, genetics, and other variables. Therefore, the decision to utilize medications, therapy, or lifestyle changes will vary based on the individual’s condition and healthcare providers must decide the best course of treatment for each patient depending on their individual needs.

Find Comprehensive Treatment for ADHD and Addiction at Magnolia City!

At Magnolia City Detox located in Conroe Texas, we offer comprehensive treatment for all dual-diagnosis conditions including ADHD and addiction. Our facility is located right outside Houston, just a short drive from the city. Our addiction treatment team is ready to help take back control of your life! Contact us today to learn more!

Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun

Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun is a Neurology & Psychiatry Specialist based in Conroe, Texas, and Lafayette, Indiana. He has extensive experience in treating Individuals with substance use disorders and addiction. He earned his medical degree from University of Ibadan College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

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