Attention Deficit Disorder Can Lead to Addiction
There are many reasons why people might fall into addiction. They may be using alcohol or drugs as a means to escape difficulties in their life or as a means to self-medicate a mental or physical health condition. Those who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child have a tendency to develop an addiction problem as they get older. They may initially find substance abuse to be a rewarding activity, but it will eventually lead them to despair and loss. It is necessary for such people seeking help for their addiction to also receive treatment for their attention deficit disorder. Otherwise, they will struggle to find happiness in recovery.
Attention Deficit Disorder Explained
Attention deficit disorder is a condition that is usually diagnosed in childhood. It involves problems with inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The child can have one or all of these symptoms. It is classified as a developmental disorder because it can retard the normal development of children. Symptoms will usually become noticeable at around age seven. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder than girls.
The terms attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are used to describe the same condition. Strictly speaking ADD refers to a version of the disorder where the impulsivity and hyperactive behaviors are not present. It has become so common to use ADD to describe all types of the disorder that this distinction is usually ignored by most people. In this article ADD and ADHD are used interchangeably.
Types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
It is possible to divide ADHD into three main subtypes based on the predominant symptoms that the individual is experiencing:
* Predominately inattentive
* Predominately hyperactive-impulsive
* Combined hyperactive-impulsive inattentive
Causes of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Scientists have been unable to find an exact cause of ADHD. It is thought to be due to a several different causes. Some of these are listed below:
* It has been found that those with ADHD can have abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for many executive functions involving behavior.
* People with the condition can have abnormalities in the levels of certain neurotransmitters such as noradrenalin and dopamine. These chemicals in the brain can have an influence on behavior.
* There appears to be a strong genetic component to ADHD. Twin studies have provided good evidence that the condition does tend to run in families. If a child has a close relative who suffers from ADHD then they are five times more likely to also have this condition.
* It is not believed that the home environment causes attention deficit disorder, but it is likely to influence the severity of the symptoms.
* If a baby’s brain is damaged during pregnancy this is likely to increase the risk of that baby growing up to develop ADHD.
In the past there has been the suggestion that attention deficit disorder is caused by bad parenting. This theory is not supported by much evidence. The parents of children with the disorder can sometimes exhibit traits that might be considered bad parenting (e.g. they are short tempered and highly stressed), but this is most often due to dealing with their child’s behavior. There also seems to be little evidence to suggest that the condition is caused by diet. Sugar is not believed to be a cause of ADHD, but it may be true that some food additives increase hyperactivity.
Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder in Children
Attention Deficit Disorder is usually diagnosed in childhood. The young person can display a variety of symptoms depending on the type of ADHD they are dealing with.
The symptoms of hyperactivity include:
* Excessive talking
* Being constantly in motion
* Inability to sit still
* Being unable to do tasks that require being still and quite
* Always touching things and dashing around
The symptoms of inattention include:
* Finding it hard to focus on one thing
* Tending to daydream a lot of the time
* Having trouble when it comes to following instructions
* The appearance of not listening when people are speaking to them
* Easily becoming distracted
* Continuously changing from one activity to another
* Having problems focusing
* Struggling when learning something new
* Processing information slowly
* Becoming bored easily
* Perpetually losing things
The Symptoms of impulsivity include:
* Not liking to wait for anything
* Interrupting conversations
* Making inappropriate comments
* Acting without any thought of the consequences
* Inability to hide emotions
ADHD in Adulthood
Although ADHD is a condition that is most often associated with children, it can still continue to be a problem into adult. This is referred to as Adult ADHD or Adult ADD. It is estimated that about 60 percent of children diagnosed with the condition will continue to have problems when they grow up. The condition can impact the adult’s life by bringing about some of the following problems:
* Poor ability to organize
* Unable to self-motivate
* Easily distracted
* Tendency to procrastination
* Poor time management skills
* Difficulty multitasking
* Inability to make decisions
* Easily frustrated
* Easily bored
* Can easily lose their temper
* Finds sedentary work difficult
Attention Deficit Disorder and Substance Abuse
Those individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD are prone to substance abuse. Alcoholics are ten times more likely to have ADHD than non-alcoholics. Most of these people will have begun the substance abuse when they were teenagers.
One of the reasons why people with ADHD seem more likely to develop an addiction is their tendency to act impulsively. They fail to fully consider the impact of the actions they take. This means that they are more willing to experiment with alcohol and drugs because they are not thinking about the long-term consequences of this behavior. Those who are dealing with ADHD will also tend to have a lot of problems in their life and alcohol and drugs may feel like an attractive means of escape.
Treatment of ADHD and Addiction
A common form of treatment for attention deficit disorder is to use stimulant drugs such as Ritalin. There is a worry that use of this type of medication may increase the likelihood of substance abuse and addiction. This concern is understandable given the fact that Ritalin has been described as the poor man’s cocaine. There is no doubt that abuse of this medication will certainly lead to addiction. When it is only used as prescribed in therapeutic doses, it is unlikely to lead to addiction problems. This is similar to the situation with other types of prescription medication like opiate analgesia. So long as people follow the instructions of the doctor, they will usually not be in any danger of addiction problems.
Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder
There are a number of different treatments available for managing ADHD including:
* Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin
* Non-stimulant drugs such as Atomoxetine. This is a medication that works as a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
*Psychosocial therapies are behavioral treatments for ADHD.
The Treatment of Addiction for People with ADHD
When people with attention deficit disorder first begin using alcohol or drugs it may feel like they have found the answer to all their problems. These mind altering substances act as a type of self medication. If they continue to abuse these substances, it will lead to deterioration in their mental and physical health. Eventually, they will become physically and psychologically dependent. This means that they will suffer withdrawal symptoms should they try to stop using them.
The only solution for people who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs is complete abstinence from these substances. Many individuals will struggle to quit by themselves so they may require a stay in rehab. Those who are dealing with ADHD combined with an addiction often need additional help that may not be available in the more traditional recovery options. Their dual diagnosis means that they have unique needs; for example, a person with ADHD might really struggle to sit through a 12 Step meeting. In order for people with this type of dual diagnosis to build a successful life in recovery they will often need to take medication for their attention deficit disorder. It is vital that both conditions are treated simultaneously or else it could make it difficult for the individual to remain sober.