ADHD And Alcoholism
Studies have determined that those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are likelier to develop an alcohol use disorder than those without. ADHD can be challenging to manage, with high levels of depression and anxiety. Those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also experience conduct and behavior disorders, which can be distressing. Alcohol is a common coping mechanism, so there is no doubt that ADHD and alcoholism have a connection because of the stressful symptoms of the disorder.
Unfortunately, alcohol can make the symptoms of ADHD worse instead of relieving them. It is a misconception that alcohol will calm the hyperactivity involved with ADHD. Alcohol has the opposite effect on those with ADHD and can affect cognitive functions that involve decision-making and control. Those taking medications for ADHD are taking great risks in combining their drug with alcohol when life is challenging.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, six million children were diagnosed with ADHD from 2016-2019, ages three to seventeen. Three-quarters of these children continue to experience symptoms in adulthood. In addition, roughly half of those children also have a conduct or a behavior disorder. Three out of ten children suffer from anxiety. Approximately ten million adults have ADHD. As a result, both academic and occupational dysfunctions occur in all demographics due to this disorder.
Adults with ADHD are associated with depression, mood or conduct disorders, and substance use disorders. Adults with this disorder have chronic guilt, blame, and frustration. Many adults who cannot cope with dysfunctional behavior and thinking turn to alcohol or other substances to manage. For these reasons, ADHD and alcoholism have a negative connection.
ADHD and Alcoholism Facts
A strong relationship exists between alcohol as a coping mechanism for those experiencing menacing symptoms from ADHD. ADHD in no way causes alcohol misuse and abuse, but it is a certain risk factor for developing an alcohol use disorder. In early adulthood, alcohol exposure may be frequent, but for those with severe ADHD in childhood, it increases the risk of binge drinking or heavy alcohol use. The following statistics are proof of the existing link between ADHD and alcoholism.
- Those with severe childhood ADHD have a proven association with earlier alcohol use, frequent or heavy alcohol use, and binge drinking.
- Those with ADHD were more easily impaired by alcohol use.
- Heavy alcohol use with ADHD can aggravate and escalate the intensity of ADHD symptoms, such as impulsiveness, trouble focusing, decision-making ability, and memory problems.
- There is an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder if ADHD is severe in childhood.
ADHD and Alcoholism: The Connection
Although the connection between ADHD and alcoholism is well-known, understanding how ADHD develops has not increased. Surprisingly, almost one million children inappropriately received a diagnosis of ADHD in 2010. ADHD is a complex disorder and so much more than the blame for behavior or conduct problems in children. The inability to focus is more pointed to by teachers in the classroom, but truly ADHD proves a constant need for stimuli resulting in high anxiety levels.
In children, the connection with alcohol is not as likely, but with adults feeling a need for consistent excitement to stay focused, alcohol is a quick source of relief. One-quarter of adults diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed and treated for an alcohol use disorder. Consequently, teenagers have more access to alcohol, and young adults with a low level of confidence attempt to self-medicate with alcohol and lose control. Unfortunately, the earlier alcohol is a resource for relief from ADHD, the higher the chance of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Adults find high anxiety levels, causing critical and defensive voices to amplify in their minds, and can find relief with a few drinks of alcohol. The ease of finding relief begins the unfortunate cycle of addressing the anxiety, thus silencing the voices and increasing the need for alcohol. As tolerance builds with increased alcohol use, misuse, abuse, and addiction are cravings for comfort and peace of mind. Unintentionally, an alcohol use disorder has developed, helping in the short run but negatively affecting the brain in the long run.
The Effects of ADHD and Alcohol Abuse
Studies report that substance use disorders are increasingly found with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, forming high numbers of dual diagnoses. Undoubtedly, there is twice the normal risk of developing a substance use disorder, mostly alcohol use, for those with ADHD. More evidence continues to build a strong link between ADHD and alcoholism. Those taking medications for ADHD are at great risk once alcohol enters the picture.
For those taking stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall, alcohol can cancel out the effect of stimulants. Stimulants increase the central nervous system’s activity, while alcohol decreases it. Ultimately, alcohol use changes how the body processes the stimulant and increases the side effects. Using both stimulants and alcohol increases the risk of alcohol poisoning and overdose.
The following side effects can occur with alcohol use while taking stimulants:
- Racing heartbeat
- Higher blood pressure
- Difficulty sleeping
- Over time, the risk of heart attack or stroke
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorders
For those using alcohol to relieve the complex symptoms of ADHD, it is wise to seek help if an alcohol use disorder develops. Healthcare providers can advise those who may have an SUD on how to get treatment to eliminate alcohol use. ADHD and alcoholism can unintentionally develop when alcohol is in use to self-medicate. The following signs and symptoms could indicate a substance use disorder is present.
It is important to reach out to a healthcare professional if the following are present:
- Strong cravings for alcohol
- Using alcohol daily or several times a day
- Developing a tolerance for alcohol
- Developing the habit of always having alcohol on hand
- Avoidance of responsibility because of alcohol use
- Spending more than normal time and money on alcohol
- Continuing to use alcohol although creating problems from it
- Developing behaviors that are not normal
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when dosage lessens or stops
The treatment of ADHD and alcoholism begins with an assessment from a qualified healthcare professional. Once an AUD or other SUD is diagnosed, a plan can be implemented for a medically monitored detox program. An increase in risk is always a consideration with a dual diagnosis. Once the detox is complete, the healthcare provider can re-evaluate the treatment for ADHD, and individual therapy can begin to treat the AUD.
Find Answers for ADHD and Alcoholism in Georgia Today
For those with a diagnosis of ADHD who may have an alcohol use disorder as well, we can help you receive answers to your questions. The Retreat of Atlanta in Georgia can begin an assessment to diagnose the situation. We can then provide a medically monitored detox program to eliminate alcohol in the body. Now is the time to end the cycle of using alcohol to address the complex symptoms of ADHD. Contact our center today for more information.