ADD/ADHD and Addiction Treatment

ADD and ADHD are deeply distressing conditions that affect the lives of millions of adults. The disordered cognitive, emotional, and behavioral function that characterizes these illnesses can profoundly disrupt your social and professional life, causing painful interpersonal difficulties and devastating your confidence. When ADD and ADHD co-occur with addiction, the damage increases exponentially.

Emotional and Behavioral Disruption

ADD and ADHD are neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders that disrupt your brain’s executive function. Executive function includes the mental skill set that helps you manage time, pay attention, remember details, and make social and practical decisions. Your focus, impulse control, and activity levels may all be affected, disrupting your ability to control your emotions and behaviors. Although ADD and ADHD typically emerge in children, symptoms often persist into adulthood and, left untreated, can have a devastating impact on your social, educational, and professional goals. Many people with these conditions experience great difficulty forming and maintaining relationships and may struggle with poor academic and work performance, damaging their self-esteem and causing some to self-isolate.

Research has yet to reveal the exact cause of ADD and ADHD, but evidence suggests that there may be a genetic component since ADD and ADHD tend to run in families. Brain imaging studies have found that people with these conditions have abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and other vital parts of the brain. These structural irregularities may be accompanied by abnormal neurotransmitter activity, including noradrenaline and dopamine levels, which in turn affect emotions and behavior. Although no causative relationship has been found between home environment and ADD or ADHD, abuse, neglect, and poor parenting may affect the severity of ADD and ADHD symptoms.

Symptoms of ADD and ADHD

People with ADD experience inattentive symptoms while people with ADHD may experience either inattentive or hyperactive and impulse-related symptoms. These include:

  • Inability to focus
  • Poor time management
  • Chronic lateness
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Compulsive multi-tasking

In adults, symptoms of ADD and ADHD are often confused with symptoms of mood disorders or anxiety; as such, misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment are far too common. To achieve diagnostic clarity, it is important to seek diagnosis from a psychiatrist with the experience and training to recognize adult ADD and ADHD.

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ADD, ADHD, and Addiction

The emotional pain, social difficulty, and lack of impulse control many people with ADD and ADHD experience can create a perfect storm for addiction to take hold. Research reveals that people with these conditions are five to ten times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than the general population, and 15-25% of people struggling with addiction have ADD or ADHD. Not only are people with ADD and ADHD significantly more likely to use drugs, they also typically start using them at younger ages than the general population, increasing health risks and fortifying the addictive drive at particularly vulnerable stages of development.

While some people with ADD and ADHD use drugs to get high, studies indicate that the majority turn to drugs to improve mood, regulate sleep, ease anxiety, or improve sociability. In fact, sometimes addiction starts with ADD and ADHD treatment itself. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin can be extraordinary healing tools, but they also present a risk for abuse, and what began as therapeutic use can end up leading to addiction. Regardless of the type of drug used, over time, substance abuse aggravates ADD and ADHD symptoms while simultaneously disrupting your ability to make rational choices, pushing you deeper into the addictive cycle.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Today, increased recognition and understanding of ADD and ADHD have led to the development of highly effective therapies that help you achieve relief from symptoms and make profound emotional and behavioral changes. However, when ADD or ADHD is accompanied by a co-occurring addiction, addiction treatment must be an integral part of the healing process.

Dual diagnosis treatment combines the most effective, evidence-based therapies to help you improve executive function, increase emotional and behavioral regulation, and disrupt your reliance on harmful substances. Because each person’s experiences and symptoms are unique, your treatment plan must be tailored to your individual needs and delivered in a way that speaks to you. Often, your healing process will involve the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

Modern pharmacological treatments may also be used to alleviate ADD and ADHD symptoms along with any mood or anxiety symptoms you may be experiencing. If you are struggling with addiction, however, particularly stimulant addiction, it is essential that you seek the guidance of a psychiatrist with expertise in dual diagnosis treatment. Using specialized training and experience, they can design a safe, effective medication plan that will allow you to experience the psychological tranquility necessary for you to engage in treatment without the risk of addiction.

Dual diagnosis treatment is unique in that it seeks not only to treat your ADD or ADHD and your addiction individually but also to examine the complex relationship between the two and help you understand how they fuel each other. This approach helps you reach deeper levels of self-awareness and begin the path toward true and sustainable healing. With the guidance of compassionate clinicians, you can gain the insight and coping skills you need to establish emotional and behavioral health without using harmful substances. Simultaneously, you can begin to heal from the damage ADD, ADHD, and addiction have had on your sense of self and on your relationships, giving you the opportunity to mend wounds and helping you realize your true potential.

If you would like more information about drug addiction and ADD or ADHD, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you find the treatment you need to move toward lasting wellness and sustainable recovery.