Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder commonly occurring in children due to which they have difficulty in paying attention. Such children are also observed to exhibit hyperactive and uncontrolled impulses. More common in boys than in girls, ADHD tends to impact the development of the child in his or her growing-up years and tends to hinder his or her school and home life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that ADHD is common and nearly 11 percent of the children in the United States have been diagnosed with this disorder as of 2011. According to studies, ADHD in childhood is defined by three aspects: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. While inattention is described by a lack of persistence, difficulty in sustaining focus and being disorganized, hyperactivity is noticed in activities such as excessive fidgeting, tapping or talking, extreme restlessness indicated by running or climbing on surfaces. The impulsivity can be judged by actions such as exhibiting socially intrusive behavior, frequently interrupting others or an inability to wait for his or her turn.
ADHD is a childhood mental disorder and is believed to go get cured on its own with time. However, in many cases, it tends to continue even during the adolescent years. While ADHD in adults escalates associated problems, studies suggest such teens also carry the risk of developing drug or alcohol abuse. According to a study conducted by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014, “Children with ADHD were twice as likely to have a lifetime history of nicotine use; nearly 3 times more likely to report nicotine dependence in adolescence or adulthood; almost 2 times more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence; approximately 1.5 times more likely to meet criteria for marijuana use disorder; twice as likely to develop cocaine abuse or dependence; and more than 2.5 times more likely to develop substance use disorders (SUDs) overall.”
However, some other studies reveal that while 14 percent of the children with ADHD in the age group 15-17 years reported alcohol abuse or drug dependence as adults, 40 percent of the children aged 14.9 years began abusing alcohol and other substances in childhood.
Relation between ADHD and substance abuse
Treating ADHD primarily includes prescribing stimulants to the patient. Stimulants act upon the nervous system to improve alertness and cognitive function and also increase the dopamine level in the brain. Notably, dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement and attention. Thus, stimulants also arouse feelings of pleasure and calmness. Therefore, many believe that taking stimulants may trigger substance abuse in people with ADHD. This is because such people may try illicit drugs, such as cocaine and myth, to get the same effects as that of stimulants. Also, these drugs help to calm their hyperactivity and provides relief. Although there are no valid findings to back the claim, many reports suggest people with ADHD abuse stimulants to get high.
However, in the case of alcohol abuse, researchers have reported common genes being shared between ADHD and alcoholism. According to their findings, while both ADHD and alcoholism tend to run in families, a child with ADHD having alcoholic parents is more at risk of developing alcohol abuse than children with non-alcoholic parents.
Treating co-occurring disorders
ADHD does not necessarily lead to substance abuse, however, parents should be aware of this possibility. Treating ADHD is all about timing. Children with ADHD, if treated with stimulants at a younger age, are less likely to indulge in substance abuse. While the optimal age for treating ADHD has not been standardized, the AAP suggest treating 6 years and older children with ADHD by using both behavioral interventions and medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, in cases where the patient has developed a dual diagnosis of ADHD and substance abuse, he or she should be treated for both issues simultaneously. If you or your loved ones is struggling to get rid of the co-occurring disorders, feel free to contact the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline to know about the best dual diagnosis rehab in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online with our experts to avail the services of the best dual diagnosis rehab in California.
Read the other articles of the series, “Co-occurring disorders in teens”: