Understanding ADHD: How are ADHD and Addiction Linked?


One of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders appearing in childhood, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, is characterised by difficulty with sitting, focusing on tasks, impulse control, and hyperactivity, which negatively impact an individual’s work, studies, and life. According to NCBI, ADHD is associated with poor school performance in childhood, and the impairments may persist into adulthood in many cases. It was also estimated that approximately 5% of all school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD worldwide. And in the UK alone, this number was estimated to be 3.6% in children and 2% in adults. Also, people with ADHD are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorder or addiction.

This article will explore the connection between ADHD, a disorder associated with mental health and addiction, its signs and symptoms, how ADHD contributes to addiction, and how it impacts addiction treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

A variety of signs and symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Inability to focus
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty organising
  • Being unable to finish a task or skipping from task to task
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Being forgetful or losing things
  • Making frequent, careless mistakes
  • Little awareness of danger or risk
  • Extreme impatience
  • Impulsive and dangerous behaviours
  • Excessive talking and interrupting others
  • Irritability and mood swings

The symptoms mentioned above of ADHD can significantly impact your current relationships, work, and studies, pushing you towards substance use as a way to cope. On the other hand, substance abuse can cause anxiety and depression and may further worsen the symptoms of ADHD. However, there is scope for help. If you have found yourself struggling with substance abuse, contact your nearest addiction clinic and get the help you need. The healthcare professionals at the rehab centre are experienced in treating mental health and addiction disorders, helping you lead a happier life.

The Link Between ADHD and Addiction

Many don’t know, but ADHD and addiction have a strong link. People who have ADHD are at a higher risk of developing an addiction for several reasons, such as:

Impulsive Behaviour:

Because ADHD is associated with difficulty regulating impulses, it increases the chances of engaging in risky activities, including substance abuse. Also, the frequent use of addictive substances, such as drugs and alcohol, may cause an addiction.


As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetics is one of the biggest risk factors in developing addiction in individuals. For example, if an individual’s family members have substance use disorder, they will likely develop addiction issues. Similarly, having blood relatives with mental health disorders can cause the same problems in you.


Addictive substances usually cause a relaxing and calming effect, eliminating restlessness and irritability, which is why most people with mental health disorders turn to alcohol and drugs. They use the substances to self-medicate themselves from the symptoms of ADHD as they help ease anxiety and depression instantly. However, one must remember that these symptoms are only relieved for the time being and will come back tenfold in the long run.


Experiencing trauma, violence, and abuse in childhood may result in ADHD and thus increase the risk of substance abuse.

Lack of Commitment:

ADHD patients suffer from a lack of commitment and often find it challenging to stick to the treatment plan. Hence, finding a drug rehab specialising in treating mental health and addiction disorders becomes essential.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis can be defined as a co-morbid condition or co-occurring disorder which occurs when an individual experiences both mental health and addiction disorders. Dual diagnosis is complicated because it creates a vicious cycle between mental health conditions and addiction as they interact and exacerbates each other. For example, individuals suffering from mental health issues can exacerbate their symptoms by using alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, people who abuse substances at a young age can experience changes in their brain chemistry, developing severe mental health conditions. Therefore, people with a dual diagnosis must seek a treatment plan for both conditions simultaneously. Without addressing mental health and addiction together, recovery cannot be successful.

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

It’s worth noting that people with ADHD are not necessarily associated with substance abuse. Hence, seeking treatment for ADHD in the early stage is the best way to prevent substance abuse or addiction in people. However, the prevalence of ADHD and addiction in people is higher, and a number of approaches exist when it comes to co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis treatment, including therapies, behavioural interventions, etc. These treatment options alone or in combination with one another are effective in treating patients with dual diagnosis.
Also, inpatient addiction clinics or rehabilitation programmes are best suited for dual diagnosis treatment, providing 24/7 monitoring and support in a structured environment. Another reason inpatient treatment is recommended is that it prevents the risk of relapse in people with severe conditions.

Various therapies that are helpful in ADHD mental health and addiction disorder treatment include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): a type of psychotherapy that help change negative thoughts and behaviours into positive ones and apply coping skills in triggering situations.
  • Dialectical-behavioural therapy (DBT): a part of CBT, dialectical behavioural therapy helps people learn coping mechanisms and improve social skills and relationships.
  • Group therapy: it helps build a peer support network where people can share their struggles and experiences and listen to others. It also helps people feel less lonely.
  • Other holistic activities: includes yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and physical exercises to combat the symptoms of ADHD and addiction.

Find Help for ADHD and Addiction

Despite what this article mentions, there is much more to learn about ADHD and addiction. However, if you suffer from both, seeking dual diagnosis treatment will help you live a healthy life. Many addiction clinics around the UK help people deal with their mental health and addiction disorders by incorporating necessary behavioural therapies and medications in their treatment plans. Also, you cannot treat only one—the success rates of dual diagnosis work only when both issues are addressed simultaneously. If someone in your family or friend circle struggles with ADHD and addiction, contact your nearest rehab today for help and recovery.