Fact or Fiction: ADHD and addiction go together? Addiction is a scary thing particularly for parents with young children or teenagers. It can be especially unsettling for parents with teenagers with ADHD. Or, at least, this used to be the case. Fortunately, now there is much more science available to help parents sort the fact from the fiction.
The fact is that ADHD and addiction do have common denominators and one can influence the other. The fiction, though, is that ADHD and addiction are somehow inseparable, and one must inevitably lead to the other.
In this blog, we’ll look at three key questions that keep many parents up at night worrying about their kids and the intersection of ADHD and addiction. Our source is simple: an interview conducted with one of America’s leading psychiatrists, Dr. Andy Farah. In the end, we hope you feel a little less fearful and more reassured about the real facts.
#1 Does having ADHD make you more likely to abuse substances?
The answer is yes and no. It is true that ADHD itself will put an individual at risk for substance abuse later in life or in the teen years. It is also true that addressing and treating ADD early in life actually lowers the chance of substance abuse later on.
There is evidence that undiagnosed or simply untreated ADHD can lead to greater substance abuse in adulthood mostly due to a desire to self-medicate rather than to get high. If ADHD can be diagnosed early in life, though, there are options—good options—to treat it.
In treating ADHD early in life, parents can help their children learn to manage its symptoms. With good management skills, the risk of addiction due to self-medication can be reduced in later life.
#2 Does the taking of stimulants make you more likely to abuse substances?
In considering the link between ADHD and addiction, many people have assumed part of the link has been the stimulants used to treat ADHD. Many scientists even used to think that kids who were given stimulants when they were young might be predisposed towards substance abuse.
Interestingly, they aren’t.
The fact is that it’s actually the other way around. Children who have ADHD and were treated with stimulants have a reduced tendency towards addiction in later life. The evidence actually points to the reality that treating ADHD early reduces many negative results in teen years or later adulthood.
Stimulants might not be the perfect cure for everyone diagnosed with ADHD, but they at least help to reduce or remove many negative results of not treating ADHD at all.
#3 Does taking a stimulant for ADHD make one addicted to the stimulant?
This final question is just as tricky as the first two. Our natural position is to assume that any stimulant would be naturally addictive. Stimulants are designed to make you feel better. Anything that makes you feel better can be addictive. Right?
Of course any time you deal with a stimulant type medicine the body does get used to it. When you stop using a stimulant, there is a rebound effect where symptoms are much worse. This isn’t necessarily the same thing as addiction and withdraw, though.
In dealing with coming off a prescribed regimen of stimulants, in most cases, you just need to give your body time to adapt. Your body is just adjusting. Give it a few weeks to allow your system to recalibrate.
Studies have found that taking a prescribed regimen of stimulants is not a one-to-one correlation to drug abuse. Abusing narcotics such as cocaine seeks to increase dopamine levels similarly to the effect of ADHD stimulants. Prescribed ADHD stimulants, though, increase dopamine levels at a much slower and lower rate than the immediate “hit” of a dose of cocaine.
Again, treating ADHD with stimulants or ADHD natural therapies can actually lead to a decrease in actual addiction tendencies. With a lower and slower rise in dopamine levels, the body does not reach the “need” level of addiction.
ADHD and Addiction: Resting in the Science
Even with knowing the science, addiction is scary. Hopefully, in addressing each of these questions, parents can rest a little better at night. The fact is that ADHD and addiction do not have to always go together.
As a parent, you do not have to fear that treating ADHD under the counsel and prescription of a doctor will at all increase a tendency towards addiction later in life. So what now? You can always talk to FastBraiin about professional ADHD treatment, or, if this has been a helpful article, share with your network through the links below!