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Half of adults with ADHD have had problems with alcohol or drugs

By Denise Mann
Health Day reporter

MONDAY, August 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Half of all young adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may also struggle with alcohol or drug abuse.

And people with ADHD who have a history of depression or anxiety are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse problems, a new study has shown.

“People with ADHD can self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to keep their depression under control, and of course that’s a recipe for disaster,” said study author Esme Fuller. -Thomson. She is Professor of Social Work, Medicine and Nursing at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto and Director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging in Toronto.

The findings “underscore the need for effective interventions to treat substance use disorders in people with ADHD,” she added.

The new study looked at nearly 6,900 Canadians aged 20 to 39 with and without ADHD, a disorder characterized by difficulty concentrating, sitting and / or controlling impulsive behaviors.

People with ADHD were significantly more likely to have an addiction disorder than their counterparts without ADHD. Alcohol use disorders were the most common in the new study, followed by marijuana. And more than one in six young adults with ADHD had a problem with street drugs such as cocaine, LSD or heroin, according to the study.

The study did not examine how ADHD treatment affects the risk of substance abuse. But cognitive therapy “has been shown to have a very positive effect on ADHD symptoms, substance abuse problems, depression, and anxiety,” Fuller-Thomson said.

Therapy often includes sessions focused on developing coping skills and preventing addiction relapse while cultivating planning and problem-solving skills to help manage ADHD symptoms.

The study is published in the August issue of Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Addiction treatment programs can be more difficult for people with ADHD, said psychologist Ari Tuckman, of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).

“When ADHD is untreated, it can be more difficult for people with ADHD to show up on time for meetings, commit to going to bed earlier, eat healthier and ask for help. ‘help in advance, not during a crisis,’ said Tuckman, who was not involved in the new research.

It can also be more difficult for people with ADHD to stay the course. “Given the lack of impulse control, people with ADHD may be more likely to break sobriety in the moment,” he said.

That is why better drug addiction control begins with effective treatment for ADHD. “This is the first domino,” Tuckman said. Treatment for ADHD usually involves medication, counseling, and behavior therapy.

Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, NY, also reviewed the study and agreed. “Treating ADHD and any underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety will likely help with addiction as well,” he said.

More information

Children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) offer more information about substance abuse and ADHD.

SOURCES: Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, professor, social work, medicine and nursing, University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, and Director, Institute for Life Course and Aging, Toronto; Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, clinical psychologist, West Chester, Pennsylvania; and CHADD expert; Scott Krakower, DO, attending psychiatrist, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, NY; Alcohol and alcoholism, August 3, 2021