ADHD and Substance Abuse

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may continue from childhood into adulthood about 1/3 to 1/2 of the time. Some studies have shown that children with ADHD may be more likely than the general population to develop alcohol and drug use problems when they get older. Unfortunately, there is often a strong connection between ADHD and substance abuse.

In fact, ADHD is 5 to 10 times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people who don’t have it. Among adults who are in treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD), the rate of ADHD is about 25%. When there are two co-occurring conditions, it is called a dual diagnosis. Here at Coastal Detox, we understand the seriousness of dual diagnosis cases. We work to help those who enter our facility, seeking help for addiction and mental health disorders.

What is ADHD?

It is estimated that nearly 17 million Americans have ADHD. In comparison, the population of the state of New York is 19 million. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. This means that it is an impairment in the growth and development of the brain and/or central nervous system. This disorder of brain function affects emotion, learning ability, self-control, and memory. 

Types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

There are a few different types of ADHD. They include the following:

Since symptoms may change over time, the presentation can change over time as well.

ADHD in Adults

Anybody can have moments of being inattentive, impulsive, or hyperactive. However, adults with ADHD experience these symptoms constantly and in a way that is severe enough to affect their work life, home life, and social life. Although it’s called Adult ADHD, symptoms start in early childhood and continue to adulthood. Sometimes it’s not recognized or diagnosed until the person is an adult.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults may not be as clear as the symptoms in children. For adults, hyperactivity may decrease but the struggle with impulsiveness, restlessness, inattentiveness may continue. Symptoms range from mild to severe.

Adult symptoms may include:

  • Hot temper
  • Poor planning
  • Impulsiveness
  • Easily frustrated
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty with multitasking
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Problems coping with stress
  • Trouble managing use of time
  • Restlessness or excessive activity
  • Problems staying focused on a task
  • Problems with prioritizing and organizing

ADHD and Substance Abuse: The Connection

It is common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years. In one study, 14% of children ages 15-17 with ADHD had problems with alcohol abuse or dependence compared to other teens the same age without ADHD. 

Another study found that at an average age of 14.9 years, 40% of children with ADHD began using alcohol. This is compared to 22% of children without the diagnosis. This disorder appears to be a strong indicator of who will abuse alcohol and illegal substances during adulthood.

Also, researchers have found connections between ADHD and the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs. This is especially true in people who have other mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with ADHD typically begin having problems with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age than people without the condition.

Why is There a Connection?

Because, as mentioned, people with ADHD tend to be more impulsive and likely to have behavior problems. The core symptoms of ADHD, inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity have been known to predict substance use in adolescents who have not been diagnosed with ADHD. These symptoms may increase the risk for several reasons through the variety of problems they cause in school, at home, and with friends.  

A lot of these problems are known risk factors for the development of substance use disorder. Behavior problems such as lying, stealing, and skipping school are more common to children with ADHD and also add to the development of SUDs. Poor performance in school increases the risk of teen substance abuse. 

Drug-seeking behavior may be used as a way to self-medicate to make up for the lack of balance and to avoid unpleasant feelings. It is especially challenging for adults with untreated or undiagnosed ADHD.

Family Connection

Interestingly, ADHD and SUDs tend to run in families. Each of these problems has strong family ties and they co-occur at a greater rate than just by chance. A child with ADHD whose parent has alcohol use disorder is more likely to also develop an AUD. Research points to common genes shared between ADHD and AUD.

Treatment For ADHD and Substance Abuse

The best treatments for people with ADHD and addiction will treat both at the same time. However, in the case of substance abuse issues, patients need to be sober at the time they begin treatment for ADHD. In many cases, detox is necessary. 


Drug detoxification is meant to help with removing drugs from the body and managing the withdrawal symptoms. Detox can last from a few days to several weeks. During this time, the individual may be prescribed medications to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Drug and alcohol withdrawal can very painful and a medication-assisted detox can relieve the distress.

Of course, a person going through withdrawal symptoms will be safer and more comfortable in a detox facility, with 24-hour medical monitoring in case of an emergency. The person’s blood pressure may rise or become unstable, or he may sweat severely, or develop tremors. Severe nausea and pain are also common. Even mild physical withdrawal symptoms can be accompanied by psychosis which poses a risk of suicide. 

Heroin and Opioids Detox

These drugs cause physical dependence. This means that the person depends on the drugs to prevent withdrawal symptoms. After a period of use, more of the drug is needed for the same effect. This is called tolerance. When the person stops using the drug, the body needs to recover and it causes withdrawal symptoms.

Early symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating

Late symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping

These symptoms are extremely uncomfortable but generally not life-threatening. But they are enough to make a person relapse.


Methadone is an option for heroin addiction. It relieves symptoms during the detox process. This is basically switching an illegal drug for a legal one. However, methadone treatment has been proven as a long-term treatment to help keep heroin addicts away from criminal behavior and become more productive members of society. Other medications used are:

Most people will need long-term treatment after detox. People going through treatments should be checked for co-occurring disorders.

Alcohol Detox

If you have been a heavy drinker for weeks, months, or years, you will have mental and physical issues when you stop or cut back severely. This is alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol slows down your brain function and changes the way your nerves send messages.

Eventually, your central nervous system gets used to having alcohol around all the time and your body has to work hard to keep your brain in an awake state and to keep your nerves from talking to each other. When the alcohol level suddenly drops, your brain stays in this fired-up state. This is what causes withdrawal.

Symptoms can range from mild to serious and include early symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Shaky hands
  • Nausea and vomiting

Later, more serious problems include:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • Hallucinations
  • Heavy sweating
  • High blood pressure

Common medications for alcohol withdrawal include:

Detox from Cocaine and Other Stimulants

Withdrawal from stimulants (cocaine and amphetamines) does not typically cause life-threatening symptoms, seizure, or delirium. Withdrawal symptoms include:

Withdrawal and treatment medications include:

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms add to patients’ difficulties quitting the drug. Studies have indicated that people who have severe withdrawal symptoms are twice as likely to drop out of treatment and less likely to achieve abstinence. They may keep taking the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Medication Risks

Addiction medications such as methadone and Suboxone have some risks of their own. Their use must be supervised by medical professionals. Guidelines are necessary for these medications to be paired with counseling or behavioral therapy to be effective.

After Detox: Treatment for ADHD and Substance Abuse 

After detoxification, treatment for the co-occurring disorders of ADHD and substance use can begin. In the case of some substances, and the severity of the abuse, treatment may begin while the person is still detoxing at a mild level. It is necessary for the two conditions to receive treatment at the same time. 


There are studies that show specific types of family therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy are effective in the treatment of substance use disorder in with teenagers. However, they are not effective for the treatment of ADHD for teens. There is actually little treatment information for adolescents with ADHD but there is some support for therapy for teens as well.

Adults with SUD and ADHD benefit from a complete evaluation that looks at their history of symptoms and treatment, and a full evaluation of ADHD after the addiction is stabilized. Beneficial methods that consider motivation, use cognitive-behavioral therapy, and encourage a 12-step involvement are all effective for adults with substance use disorders. Medication management of SUDs has not been shown to make existing substance abuse problems worse among those people getting treatment for addictions.

ADHD Treatment

Treating ADHD typically requires medical, educational, behavioral, and psychological methods. Sometimes, professionals refer to a comprehensive approach to treatment such as “multimodal”.

Depending on the age of the patient with ADHD, it might include:

  • Medication
  • Parent training
  • Skills training
  • Counseling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • A combination of treatments
  • Education or training about ADHD

About Recovery

Although there isn’t a cure for ADHD, people with the problem can experience mental health recovery. In this case, recovery can be defined as the ongoing management of ADHD symptoms. Through detox, treatment, and therapy, individuals can develop the tools they need to overcome addiction.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), the two indications of mental health recovery are “living a meaningful life” and growing to one’s “full potential.”

Suffering from ADHD and Substance Abuse? Find Hope Today!

Do you know someone battling these two disorders? Maybe it’s you. You or your loved one can get help and live a meaningful life at last. At Coastal Detox, we can help you rid your body of the toxic substances you’re using to cope with the symptoms of ADHD or any other disorder. And we will help you through the withdrawal process.

Our medical professionals will supervise you through detox and on into treatment. Waiting won’t make it better. Make the move and contact us. You deserve the opportunity to grow to your full potential.

Connor Barton
Connor Barton
The staff here is amazing. Caring and attentive. I finally kicked the sticks and couldn’t be happier.
Jacob Rashid
Jacob Rashid
So nice to have Grandma back to her old self. She has struggled with xannies for as long as I can remember. The staff were so attentive and met her where she was, not where they wanted her to be. Thank you Coastal Detox!
Tara Payne
Tara Payne
I struggled with alcohol addiction for most of my life. After many tries nothing worked.It was my 43rd birthday and I wasn't gonna see 44 if I didn't get help. I called around and found Coastal. So glad I did. I am so grateful for EVERYONE there. This beautiful facility is not just a detox. They actually have programs to help you learn to live a sober life and enjoy being yourself again! Entire staff is awesome! (Ms Diana ❤️ and Mrs Karen ❤️)They really understand how your feeling as most are in recovery also. If your looking for some help please give them a call. I give them 10+stars. Five months sober now!!! Thank you Coastal!!!
Bob Hawkins
Bob Hawkins
The entire staff of Coastal is great, the therapists, the nurses, the techs, everyone. It’s a great environment to begin your recovery in. As an added perk, the food is some of the best you’ll ever have thanks to the chefs.
Tony Givens
Tony Givens
My experience at coastal detox was very good, the staff there is terrific. They helped me get through the process of detox in a safe and professional manor.
Jodi Silverman Goldberg
Jodi Silverman Goldberg
It been almost a year!! Thank y’all
Matthew Mcnulty
Matthew Mcnulty
This is the top tier Rehab/Detox center in Southeast FL. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. Their attention to detail is impressive. They specialize in treating alcohol abuse among several other conditions. If you or a loved one are looking for a blueprint on how to sober up…Coastal Detox will lead you there.
Mary Katz
Mary Katz
My experience with Coastal has been one of empathy, kindness and family. From Admissions to Nurses to techs I have never felt so cared for. Food and drink 24/7. Coastal is a place I went twice. First time 14 days next 6days later for another 11. At 59 and umpteen detoxes Coastal by far is Heaven Sent! As a Nutritionist and Trainer, I'm so happy to be back....the Mary ,who was lost:)
vicky ehr
vicky ehr
Great place . Helped me so much I am a 64 year old woman and this place got me sober with dignity and kindness. I highly recommend it plus the food is incredible. Rooms are really well laid out. 2 guys to a room . Each bed has its own t.v with head sets so you dont bother your roomate. Take an extra pillow and comfort blanket from home. At least 3 pairs of pj’ s sock and shoes and comfortable clothing fit. You do your own laundry there. I will send you the link to look at. After thinking all morning this is hands down the place for you. Lots of young people and fantastic therapists. For my wonderful son who suffers. From addiction the way I do.

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