Is There a Link Between ADHD and Addiction?

HHRC-Student kid with ADHD is feeling confused and angry

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may continue a third to half of the time into adulthood. Some research suggests that children with ADHD are more prone than the usual community to develop alcohol and substance misuse issues as they become older.

Many individuals with ADHD have addictive habits, such as food, drug, or Internet addiction. To break cravings, learn how to recognize the indications of addiction early on, distinguish between the many forms of addiction, and discover if there is a connection between ADHD and addiction.

Is Drug Abuse and Alcoholism More Common Among ADHD Patients? 

Several research studies have discovered a substantial relationship between ADHD and addiction to drugs and alcohol. ADHD affects around a quarter of persons in treatment for alcohol and drug misuse. Adult drinkers have a five to ten times higher prevalence of ADHD than non-alcoholics.

Children with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol in their teens than others. One study found that 14% of children aged 15-17 had and developed ADHD and addiction as adults. This was higher than the percentage of ADHD peers. Another study showed that 40% of ADHD children began to drink alcohol at the age of 14.9, compared with 22% of those without ADHD. This is a strong indicator of adult alcohol abuse. On the other hand, young adults (mean age 25) were equally likely to drink alcohol regardless of their ADHD diagnosis. However, those with ADHD were more likely to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

Researchers have discovered correlations between ADHD and the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs, especially in persons who also suffer from other mental illnesses (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder). Additionally, individuals with ADHD are more likely than others to develop issues with drugs and alcohol at a younger age.

ADHD and Addictive Behavior 

Researchers have discovered that ADHD and addiction share genes. According to studies, people with ADHD are more impulsive and more prone to have behavioral issues, both of which can contribute to drug and alcohol dependence. Additionally, both ADHD and alcoholism run in families. A youngster with ADHD who has an alcoholic parent is more likely to have an alcohol misuse issue themselves.

Are ADHD Stimulant Drugs Addictive? 

Parents are frequently concerned about whether the stimulant medicines used to treat ADHD (such as Ritalin and Adderall) are addictive. Stimulant drugs work by increasing amounts of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine, which helps enhance concentration and attention, which are frequently difficult for people with ADHD to master.

There has been concern that ADHD stimulants could be addictive, as cocaine and other street drugs can also increase dopamine levels. Dopamine can also alter emotion and pleasure, resulting in a “high” that causes people to want more. Ritalin’s ability to increase energy and focus has led to Ritalin being called the “poor man’s cocaine.”

Research shows that Ritalin abuse can lead to dependency. People have reported using ADHD stimulants that were not prescribed to them. People have taken Ritalin intravenously or crushed Ritalin tablets and snorted them. Ritalin can be less addictive if taken exactly as directed.

Ritalin can have similar effects to cocaine when taken in large doses, which is usually prescribed for ADHD. Researchers have discovered marked differences between these drugs. Dopamine levels are a critical factor in drug addiction and abuse. There is a greater chance of abuse if dopamine levels rise quickly. According to one researcher, Ritalin takes around an hour to increase dopamine levels in mind. This is in contrast to just seconds for inhaled cocaine.

Higher doses of Ritalin, and other stimulants, are more effective in treating ADHD than shorter-acting stimulants. This reduces the likelihood of addiction. Tolerance is a condition whereby stimulants are used in higher doses than necessary to produce the same effects as controlled substances. A doctor might consider non-stimulant medications to treat ADHD if and when it occurs.

Does Using ADHD Stimulants Cause Substance Abuse Issues? 

Many parents are afraid that administering stimulants to their children to treat ADHD would lead to them experimenting with other substances. Several research has looked at the probable link between prescription ADHD stimulant medicine and drug misuse issues, but no substantial link has been found.

One of the longest-running studies, which tracked 100 boys with ADHD for ten years, found no difference in the likelihood of substance usage between those who used stimulant medicines and those who didn’t. According to previous research by the same authors, stimulant usage may even protect children with ADHD against eventual drug misuse and alcoholism by alleviating the ADHD symptoms that commonly lead to substance abuse issues. The earlier stimulants are introduced, the lesser the risk of drug dependency later on.

ADHD and Addiction Treatment 

Not every case provides a direct correlation between ADHD and addiction to alcohol or drugs. Non-stimulant medication options include atomoxetine, clonidine, or guanfacine. Sometimes, certain antidepressants like bupropion (Wellbutrin), desipramine, and Norpramine are recommended for adults with ADHD. 

Whether Ritalin or other stimulants are effective treatments for treating ADHD patients with substance abuse problems is not clear. They may be effective when given in a controlled manner and long-acting forms. People with ADHD may also benefit from 12-step support groups and individual or group therapy. This will reduce the chance of becoming dependent or misusing these drugs.

What If I Self-Medicate for ADHD? 

When you self-medicate, you may use prescription or illicit medicines, coffee, exercise, or alcohol.

Marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs can increase dopamine levels, such as ADHD medications. That is why specific individuals are drawn to them.


People with ADHD use alcohol for a variety of reasons:

  • To alleviate the anguish caused by the disease.

  • Assist them with social and academic issues.

  • Many people are unaware that drinking alcohol exacerbates their symptoms.

Heavy drinking and impulsive conduct, which is frequent in ADHD, have a significant association. If you have more than 14 drinks per week as a male or more than seven drinks per week as a woman, you may be self-medicating.

Illegal Drugs 

Some people feel that marijuana might assist in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. However, research has shown little evidence of this. Cannabis can make your concentration, behavioral inhibition, attention, and organization worse, so more states are legalizing it for medical and recreational use. Even as the last option, doctors advise against taking marijuana to treat ADHD symptoms. Stay away from cocaine, heroin, and other illegal substances.


According to research, caffeine may increase focus, but it may not function as effectively as an ADHD medicine. Furthermore, too much coffee might impair your memory. If you’re a healthy adult, a couple of cups of coffee a day may help you think more clearly.

Consult your doctor if you drink more than that or can’t manage to cut back. Children and teenagers should avoid caffeine since it might impact their rest and development.


While you may believe that smoking would help you relax, research suggests that it might make you hyper and make your ADHD symptoms more difficult to control.

In addition to the significant health hazards, smoking can cause:

  • Boost your anxiety levels.

  • After only 12 hours without a smoke, brain function declines.

  • If you do quit, you’ll increase your chances of relapsing.

  • Thin the frontal cortex of your brain, which aids learning, memory, concentration, and motivation.

Consult your doctor if you’re having problems stopping smoking.

Prescription medications 

Misuse of any medicine may be dangerous, even fatal. Seizures, heart attacks, and strokes are all possible outcomes. Take drugs just as directed and at the recommended dose.

Get the Help You Need From Haven House   

There appears to be a tangible link between ADHD and addiction. While specialists are divided on the actual cause of the relationship, there are various ideas. Genetics, some personality features, and drugs to self-treat persistent ADHD symptoms are among them.

If you or someone you care about has a problem, seek assistance as soon as possible. The sooner a person seeks treatment, the better. Males 18 to 45 years of age are accepted at Haven House Rehabilitation Center in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Our programs that aid in addiction recovery in Clarksville provide the treatment that they need.

We’ll be certain to accompany them on their road to recovery. Contact us right away for a program perfect for ADHD and addiction recovery!