Underlying Issues of Addiction: Adult ADHD

Addiction is a complex disorder and it isn’t always possible to identify the cause. However, it is estimated that at least half of all people with a substance abuse disorder also struggle with an underlying issue such as depression, anxiety, trauma or adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Underlying disorders are often undiagnosed and people may be completely unaware of the problem – they only know that life isn’t working the way it should. Addiction often results when people turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to bury (or self-medicate) emotional or mental pain and discomfort.

Addiction and Adult ADHD

People with ADHD tend to feel isolated and often experience low esteem and lack of confidence. They may have trouble making or sustaining meaningful relationships. Typically, most people with ADHD may also:

  • Be impulsive, easily bored or easily frustrated
  • Lose their temper quickly
  • Have difficulty making decisions
  • Be easily distracted and lack ability to pay attention at work or school
  • Have poor time management skills

ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood, but the condition can continue into adulthood. Medical providers often treat childhood and adult ADHD with stimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, which are considered relatively safe and helpful when used properly, but can become addictive when misused.

Many people are completely unaware they have ADHD; in the United States, it is estimated that as many as three-quarters of adults with ADHD remain undiagnosed. People with undiagnosed ADHD may turn to stimulant drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines to manage the symptoms, as stimulant drugs have an opposite effect for people with ADHD, actually slowing things down instead of speeding them up.

People with ADHD often turn to alcohol to escape the difficulties of life, or in hopes of sleeping better or remaining calm enough to concentrate and manage work or school.

Treating Addiction and Adult ADHD

We at Paracelsus always treat underlying issues such as adult ADHD along with the addiction because addressing one problem without the other doesn’t work in the long term. Treating the addiction alone may be effective for a time, but relapse is common if people haven’t identified underlying issues and had expert treatment for it.

If you are struggling with addiction and you suspect that you might have adult ADHD, skilled counseling can help you learn to make better decisions and develop new strategies for coping. Treatments such as nutritional education, mindfulness meditation and exercise are often helpful as well. We found that a comprehensive assessment and subsequent treatment is the most promising strategy for success, health and happiness.

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