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Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It typically presents in childhood, but lasts into adulthood. ADHD causes problems with focus, behavior, and movement.
Three key behaviors of ADHD include:
Not everyone experiences all three components of ADHD symptoms.
Because of this, there are three different types of ADHD:
ADHD does not cause alcohol use disorder (AUD). There is no guarantee that people with ADHD will develop alcoholism.
However, the disorder is linked to AUD and increases the risk for someone to develop it.
Links between ADHD and AUD include:
The effects of alcohol in someone without ADHD are similar to those with the disorder.
But the issue is that these symptoms are already a challenge for people with ADHD and substance use makes them worse.
In other words, people with ADHD face challenges that become more challenging when they consume alcohol.
For instance, people with ADHD struggle with focus and attention. Alcohol makes focusing on things more difficult.
People with ADHD may “self-medicate” with alcohol to alleviate ADHD symptoms.
For many, this leads to binge drinking, increasing the risk of long-term misuse and addiction.
Drinking alcohol to ease ADHD symptoms creates a self-destructive cycle that can be avoided with proper treatment. It is a dangerous combination that makes recovery tougher and symptoms more intense.
Yes. The effects vary based on the type of medication a person uses. For example:
This category includes Adderall and Ritalin, both of which are commonly prescribed to people with ADHD. They increase central nervous system (CNS) activity. Alcohol decreases CNS activity.
The effects of alcohol don’t cancel or neutralize the intended effects of Adderall or Ritalin.
Instead, it increases the negative side effects of these medications, including:
Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a non-stimulant medication used to treat ADHD.
The risks of mixing this drug with alcohol are lower than stimulant drugs. However, nausea is common among people who drink heavily while using Strattera.
It’s important to note that a person’s reaction to mixing alcohol with ADHD medications varies greatly.
For example, the amount of alcohol consumed and the dosage of the mediation play a significant role in a person’s reaction.
Many adults with ADHD who take medications are fine having an occasional alcoholic drink. But they should speak to their doctor before combining substances.
It’s important that people with ADHD and alcohol addiction seek treatment that addresses both issues.
People with co-occurring disorders have a better chance of successful recovery if their mental health condition(s) are treated in combination with the substance use disorder(s). ADHD is no exception.
Left untreated, the effects of ADHD and abusive alcohol use can worsen over time.
The first stage of AUD treatment is detox and withdrawal.
For many adults with ADHD and AUD, this is the most difficult phase because their bodies are purging the substance. The risk of relapse is great and symptoms can be fatal. It’s important to seek medical supervision for moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal.
Once the detox and withdrawal phase is complete, comprehensive treatment can begin.
There are various levels of care, all of which provide effective treatment.
Determining whether an inpatient, outpatient, or long-term care treatment program is the best option is based on a variety of factors, including:
Comprehensive or integrated treatment plans address both ADHD and AUD. Treatments that are helpful for adults with ADHD and AUD include:
Additionally, medications are effective for treating ADHD symptoms and AUD. Common medications prescribed to treat these co-occurring disorders include:
All of these treatments are best used in combination with one another to treat ADHD and alcohol misuse.
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