Dual Diagnosis: Addiction & Adult ADHD | Wellness Retreat
Addiction and ADHD

Dual Diagnosis:  Addiction and Adult ADHD

People with ADHD often have a higher risk of addiction disorders, including alcoholism and drug abuse. ADHD does not necessarily guarantee addiction or addictive behaviors. However, a patient with ADHD may have a much higher risk of suffering from addiction. Especially when compared to a patient who does not have a dual diagnosis. 


ADHD and Addiction

ADHD can cause a number of potential concerns. The CDC notes that ADHD often occurs with a variety of other disorders, including learning disorders, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, ADHD may cause a higher overall danger of risky behaviors, including substance abuse. Taking ADHD into consideration is critical when treating addiction in patients with dual diagnoses. 


What is the Connection Between ADHD and Addiction?

As many as 23% of young adults seeking treatment for substance use disorders may also have ADHD. As many as 40% of substance abusers across multiple countries may suffer from ADHD. 

Why do patients with ADHD have such high rates of addiction? 


Coping with Symptoms

Some patients with ADHD may use drugs or alcohol to help them cope with the symptoms of those disorders. Often, patients with ADHD, particularly patients who are undiagnosed, will struggle with higher rates of anxiety, depression, or racing thoughts. They may feel as though substances will help decrease some of those symptoms on a short-term basis. Often, patients with ADHD turn to self-medication as a coping mechanism. 



Patients with ADHD often suffer from a high degree of impulsivity. They may have a harder time considering the potential long-term consequences of their actions, including the potential for addiction. Furthermore, patients with ADHD may have a harder time turning down substances when presented with them. 

People with ADHD may also be more likely to end up in potentially dangerous situations. In these situations, they may be presented with alcohol or drugs. 


Some Prescription Medications May Cause Addiction

Sometimes, prescription medications prescribed for ADHD, including stimulants, may cause addictive symptoms in patients. Those patients may have a hard time coming off of their stimulants. They may turn to addictive drugs to help mimic the effects if they cannot receive their prescriptions for any reason. 

One of the common symptoms of ADHD is impulsivity. ADHD patients may also have a harder time coping without that medication. Patients with ADHD who take medication may better cope with the overall symptoms of the disorder. 


Signs of Addiction

Addicted individuals may fail to realize that they have become addicted to the substances they are using. Oftentimes, the addiction has already spiraled out of control before the addict can recognize the problem. Friends and family members may notice rising addiction before the addicted individual. Signs may include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Canceling or avoiding plans to use substances/alcohol
  • Changes in daily routine, often in an effort to spend more time using substances
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Sudden change in need for funds
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Poor performance or changes in performance at work or school
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

Early signs of addiction can be difficult to spot. As addictive behaviors increase, however, individuals may show increasingly obvious signs. Prompt treatment can help get addiction under control.


Dual Diagnosis Disorders

Dual diagnosis disorders occur when a patient has both a mental disorder, including ADHD and a drug or alcohol addiction. About half of patients with mental disorders will develop a drug or alcohol problem at some point in their lives. 

A dual diagnosis can both increase the likelihood of developing an addiction and make treatment more difficult. Patients with ADHD may have a harder time receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse than people without those disorders. 


Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Disorders

In order for treatment for drug and alcohol addiction to be effective, both disorders must be treated. One of the most common disorders paired with substance abuse is ADHD. For treatment to be successful, both conditions must be treated. 


Stopping Drug and Alcohol Use

First, patients may need to start by ending all drug and alcohol use. Patients with ADHD may have a harder time moderating alcohol use, which can lead to higher overall rates of addiction. Stopping completely can make it easier to stick to a treatment plan. Furthermore, even mild to moderate drug use can cause long-term consequences to overall health.


Behavioral Therapy

Often, behavioral therapy is a critical part of working with a dual diagnosis disorder. Patients with ADHD may need to learn new techniques for managing their symptoms, including how to effectively handle stress. Diet, exercise, and changes in daily routine can play a huge role in the treatment of ADHD and addiction. 

By working with a qualified behavioral therapist, many patients can better navigate the world. They can build healthy coping skills without relying on self-medication with drugs or alcohol.



In some cases, medication can make it easier to handle drug withdrawal. In addition, effectively treating ADHD symptoms with prescription medication may remove some of the perceived need for self-medication. This can also help patients better cope with the challenges they may face. Using medication under the supervision of a trained professional can offer a more effective system than self-medicating. 


Support Groups

Working with peers can make it easier for patients with ADHD who suffer from addiction to manage their symptoms. Support groups can give patients a safe environment in which to share their daily struggles. This provides them with social and emotional support as they manage the many challenges associated with addiction. 

Furthermore, people in support groups may share their own struggles and the techniques they use to help with them. This approach can help patients build their own coping mechanisms. 


Receiving Care in a Supportive Rehabilitation Facility Can Prove Critical

If you have ADHD and suffer from addiction, a supportive rehabilitation facility can prove critical. A rehab center can assist with managing that addiction and helping you recover. By working with trained professionals, you can receive the support and guidance you need to detox from drugs or alcohol. We will help you move forward with your life as you develop new strategies and behaviors designed to help you cope with the symptoms of ADHD. 

Contact Wellness Retreat Recovery today to learn more about how we can help you on your journey to recovery.

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Wellness Retreat Recovery is here to provide any information needed for new patients and loved ones struggling with addiction