Recently, psychcentral.com posted an article written by Natalie Jeanne Champagne regarding Adult ADHD and Addiction. In this very informative article, Champagne discusses the important fact that ADHD is often difficult to diagnose in adults. This is most likely why more children are diagnosed with ADHD than adults. In fact, Champagne suggests that 1-5% of adults who have ADHD do not realize they are struggling with it.
In regards to addiction, many studies have shown that there is a high correlation between ADHD and the development and exhibition of addictions. Champagne points out that those suffering from ADHD who have not been diagnosed or are not treating their ADHD exhibit a much more frequent incidence of addictive behavior than those who do not suffer from ADHD or those who are being treated for ADHD.
One may wonder why this correlation is so prevalent. Again Champagne cites research conducted that enlarges understanding this correlation: “Addiction and ADHD Adults,” Carl Sherman quotes a study by Timothy Milens, MD: “In our study…only 30 percent [of participants] said they used substances to get high… Seventy percent are doing it to improve their mood, to sleep better, or for other reasons” (2007). Sherman goes on to elaborate that abuse of substances, when connected to adult ADHD, often is based on a need to self-medicate the symptoms: “…This kind of ‘self-medication’ seems especially common among individuals whose ADHD remains undiagnosed or who have been diagnosed but have never gotten treatment” (2007).
Most of the research conducted focuses primarily on how nicotine and alcohol addiction correlate with ADHD sufferers. In fact Champagne cites Carl Sherman who indicates that, “A recent survey found that more than 15 percent of adults with the disorder had abused or were dependent upon alcohol or drugs during the previous year. That’s nearly triple the rate for adults without ADHD” (2007).
However, it has been found that other drugs are often abused as well when an individual suffers from ADHD. This includes cocaine, which can provide temporary relief from the frustrating symptoms of ADHD. The medication used to treat ADHD has stimulant properties and affects the same area of the brain as stimulant drugs (cocaine), though to a lesser (safer) degree. Primarily because of this, the potential for abuse among those being treated with adult ADHD, especially those who have a history of substance abuse, is difficult and requires a comprehensive approach.
Further, it is interesting to note that adults suffering from undiagnosed ADHD may engage in addictive behavior can prevent addictive cycles if they receive a proper diagnosis and proper treatment. With these tools, they will be less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol, and less likely to succumb to addiction.