Substance Abuse and ADHD

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Most doctors and scientists agree that ADHD is genetic; that it is passed from one family member to another. This same thing has been noted in families with alcohol, drug, or other addictions.

Some research even claims a link between alcoholism and ADHD; that both are the result of the same gene. In fact, alcoholism and ADHD share many of the same co-morbidities, most notably depression and anxiety. It stands to reason that other addictions might be linked to ADHD as well.

Children with untreated ADHD often grow up to be adults with an addiction problem. The substance abuse is an attempt to self-medicate, to relieve the symptoms of ADHD.

Such attempts are rarely recognized for what they are, and it is important to note that this is relevant primarily to untreated ADHD. Prescription medication is one treatment, but there are others.

It is also important to realize that not all substance abuse problems or addictions involve alcohol or prescription or street drugs. Gambling addictions, sexual addictions, shopping addictions, even milder things like smoking or eating too much can be a way to try and cope. Over medicating with over the counter diet pills or even sinus and allergy pills can also be seen as ways of self medicating.

You know, I think that the majority of people I’ve met or talked to in my life who had ADHD also had substance abuse problems somewhere in their family. I know that both my husband’s family and mine did.

The important thing to understand is that the possibility is there. Forewarned is forearmed.

And if you find that you fall into that category of using something to help you cope, then you can look at your behavior from a different perspective and decide if it’s a concern or not.

My youngest daughter Caitlin has huge problems with anxiety and she has ADHD as well. She takes medication for the anxiety, but she also smokes. I would rather she didn’t, but we both realize that for now, this is her way of coping, just as I reach for the chocolate or the chips when I’m stressed.

Hopefully your coping mechanisms are no more serious than ours, but if they are, there are places to get help. And maybe it’s time to start managing your ADHD a little more effectively, in one way or another.

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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