Those affected by ADHD have a higher likelihood of addiction than those not affected by ADHD. Addictions could include alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling, internet, food, sex and shopping to name a few of the most obvious ones.
A reason why some people affected by ADHD start addictive behaviors is that it is self-medication, something that at some level soothes them and their symptoms or so they think.
Many of my clients struggle with alcohol issues. Some are alcoholics and others simply are drinking to an extent that it is having a negative impact on their life and the lives around them.
“The Continuum of Substance Abuse” from Wendy Richardson’s book “When Too Much Isn’t Enough” breaks usage into five groups;
Abstinence – Abstains from any use, which is a choice.
Experimentation – Trying out alcohol or drugs once or twice to see how they affect you.
Social and Recreational – Using drinks or drugs at social occasions with other people; the purpose is not to get drunk or high but rather to be social or celebrate.
Overindulging and Abuse – Not just social use but attempting to alter feelings, forget pain, or feel better. People with untreated ADHD are at higher risk than those who are under treatment.
Addiction – Loss of control and cannot stop using despite the negative consequences to one’s life.
Adapted from pages 36-38 of “When Too Much Isn’t Enough”
The problem with being affected by ADHD is that we tend to have poor impulse control that can cause us to act before thinking about the implications of our actions. We have trouble regulating ourselves.
If you are worried about your alcohol consumption and/or others are saying you should worry, don’t make it easy to obtain the alcohol. In other words don’t just automatically keep your home stocked with alcohol. Make it so that you have to go out and get it if you feel like it. It increases the likelihood that you can ride through the impulse until it leaves you. Some of us start drinking simply out of boredom. Make it harder to allow that to happen.
If you do find that your drinking is having negative consequences in your life, get help immediately. The longer you wait, the more entrenched the behavior will become. Drinking can be a sort of self-medicating of ADHD symptoms. Unfortunately it is not a sustainable or productive way to manage ADHD symptoms and has too many downsides.
If you are concerned about addiction, whether it be alcohol or other damaging behavior you might want to check out Wendy Richardson’s book, “When Too Much Isn’t Enough: Ending the Destructive Cycle of AD/HD and Addictive Behavior.”