ADHD and Addiction

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Often, those with ADHD are prone to develop addictions to drugs like cocaine, cannabis, benzodiazepines, and opioids to cope with symptoms. Furthermore, ADHD medications, including methylphenidate and lisdexamfetamine, can be beneficial but also controversial due to their potential abuse.

It is estimated that 15% of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have abused alcohol or drugs in the past year, nearly triple the rate for adults without ADHD. At CATCH Recovery, we understand the complexities of dual diagnosis and provide comprehensive, evidence-based treatment programmes to address ADHD and addiction. Speak to our professionals today if you have concerns about compulsive behaviours relating to both conditions.

What Is ADHD and How Does It Relate to Addiction?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by persistent inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity patterns. It affects approximately 5% of children and 2.5% of adults worldwide. However, very little evidence suggests it is a condition that adults grow out of.

The relationship between ADHD and addiction can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours associated with ADHD may lead people to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Secondly, people with ADHD may use substances as a form of self-medication to alleviate symptoms such as restlessness, inattention, and emotional dysregulation. Lastly, co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can further increase the risk of developing an addiction.

The increased likelihood of young adults developing alcoholism is also noteworthy. Research indicates that adults with alcohol use disorder are 5 to 10 times more likely to have ADHD than the general population. This suggests a strong connection between ADHD and addiction, which may be attributed to shared brain receptors.

ADHD and addiction involve dysregulation of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter systems, which play a crucial role in reward and motivation pathways.

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The Impact of Substance Abuse and ADHD on Wellbeing

The impact of dual diagnosis on physical and mental wellbeing is significant, as it presents a complex interplay between mental health disorders and substance abuse. Increased impulsivity and behavioural issues are common in individuals with both conditions, as ADHD symptoms can exacerbate the challenges faced in addiction recovery.

A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that people with ADHD and substance use disorders exhibited more severe symptoms, higher rates of psychiatric comorbidities, and poorer social functioning compared to those with ADHD alone.

This highlights the importance of addressing ADHD and addiction in treatment plans to ensure optimal outcomes. Specialised treatment programmes offered by the team at CATCH Recovery can effectively address these challenges.

The Combined Stigma of ADHD and Addiction

The stigma surrounding ADHD and addiction is a significant barrier to seeking and receiving proper treatment. Misconceptions and stereotypes often lead to the belief that people with ADHD are simply undisciplined or seeking attention rather than recognising the complex neurological factors at play. This label is often given to those with addiction issues, with some believing that addiction results from poor decision making and choice. In reality, both conditions are illnesses that affect the chemistry in the brain.

Symptoms and Signs of ADHD and Substance Abuse

The symptoms and signs of co-occurring ADHD and addiction can be complex and varied, as both conditions can exacerbate each other. If you are diagnosed with ADHD, you may find yourself struggling with impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity, making them more susceptible to substance abuse. Additionally, you may experience heightened anxiety, depression, and social isolation as a result of drug abuse or alcohol abuse.

Substance abuse can aggravate such symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening symptoms and increased substance use. Some people go as far as abusing their medication to handle the consequential aggravated symptoms.

Early Detection

Early detection and diagnosis facilitate better long-term outcomes by addressing the underlying factors contributing to the development of addiction. By targeting these factors, treatment can help develop healthier coping strategies and improve overall quality of life. In addition, early intervention can prevent the exacerbation of mental health issues and reduce the risk of relapse, ultimately leading to a more successful recovery journey.

By addressing ADHD and addiction concurrently, we strive to improve treatment outcomes and promote overall mental health, empowering people to lead fulfilling, substance-free lives.

Untreated ADHD Symptoms

Untreated symptoms of ADHD can worsen over time, further complicating your ability to manage compulsive behaviour. Adults with untreated ADHD experienced higher unemployment rates, relationship difficulties, and lower overall quality of life. Additionally, when you are diagnosed with ADHD, you are more likely to become dependent on prescribed stimulant medications.

How We Treat ADHD and Substance Use Disorders

If you abuse drugs or alcohol or struggle with behavioural addictions such as gambling, and you have an ADHD diagnosis, CATCH Recovery’s holistic approach to dual diagnosis treatment ensures you receive the comprehensive treatment you need.

By incorporating evidence-based therapies, and mindfulness practices, our integrated treatment programmes empower you to overcome the challenges associated with both conditions, leading to improved mental health, personal growth, and long-term success in addiction recovery.

Behavioural therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), have been proven effective in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse problems.

Please note that while our therapists work with patients who have ADHD, our psychiatrists are not able to offer specific ADHD assessments or diagnoses as part of a consultation. If you would like to be assessed for ADHD, this is something we would refer to an external psychiatrist.

What Are the Goals of Treatment?

Addressing impulsivity is a key component for treating ADHD and addiction. Impulsivity and compulsivity are core symptoms of both conditions, and therefore therapy can help you develop skills to manage impulsivity, improve decision-making, and enhance self-control.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2016) found that interventions targeting impulsivity led to a 40% reduction in substance use and a 50% improvement in ADHD symptoms. Furthermore, addressing the need to self-medicate is vital if you want to benefit from the therapeutic care provided by our team of healthcare professionals.

In summary, treatment strategies will cover a wide range of therapies that help you:

  • Manage your ADHD medication responsibly

  • Understand the triggers and stressors that lead to drug or alcohol abuse, increasing your risk of a substance use disorder.

  • Recognise how addictive behaviours contribute to worsened ADHD symptoms

  • Understand the need to avoid alcohol or illicit drugs altogether

  • Learn healthier habits instead of substance use

  • Reduce impulsive behaviour that can help you avoid trouble and relapse in the future

  • Develop a deeper love and understanding of yourself

How Is Treatment Provided?

We understand time management and new settings can be difficult for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, so CATCH Recovery offers flexible treatment arrangements that can work around you as an individual. Treatment can be provided in person at our London clinic or online via Zoom if that is more convenient. We believe in treating everyone with the highest standard of care, discretion and compassion.

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The treatment process includes the following:


An initial assessment of your substance abuse history, mental health and other pre-existing health conditions


A consultation with our in-house Psychiatrist


Assignment of a dedicated therapist to work with you on your treatment plan


1-to-1 and group therapy sessions to treat both ADHD and substance abuse issues

How Long Does the Process Take?

Depending on the outcome of your assessment, we will always aim to begin treatment within a week. If you have a complex alcohol and substance abuse issue, we may refer you to one of our residential treatment service partners to complete detox first before therapy can be provided. This will depend on what substances you are taking alongside ADHD medication and alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, many substances can put you at a heightened risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, and we do not recommend outpatient management for these.

There is no recommended time for treatment. You are unique, and your health has also developed uniquely, but we must stress that outcomes are better in those who commit to longer-term care.

The Role of Family & Friends

Family and friends play a crucial role in supporting by providing a nonjudgmental environment. By offering a safe and understanding space, family and friends can help you feel more comfortable discussing their challenges and seeking help. We have several family therapists readily available to organise shared group sessions between you and your relatives in order to guarantee a safer and more nurturing environment once your therapy programme is complete.

Family therapy is an essential component of treatment for people with ADHD and dual diagnosis, as it addresses the impact of these conditions on the entire family unit. This therapy aims to improve communication, problem-solving, and coping skills among family members, fostering a supportive environment for the individual’s recovery. Research has shown that family therapy can lead to better treatment outcomes and reduced relapse rates for individuals with ADHD and co-occurring substance use disorders.

As part of the treatment offering at CATCH Recovery, we provide optional couples therapy and family counselling for anyone over 18.

Get Help with CATCH Recovery Today

Our team of highly skilled healthcare professionals would like to talk to you about the difficulties you are facing right now. We understand you may be worried about the prospect of recovery, but you’re in safe hands with us. Become a healthier version of yourself by contacting us by phone or Livechat today.

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