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Does ADHD Lead to Substance Abuse?

Does ADHD Lead to Substance Abuse?

Author: Shernide Delva

According to research, 25 percent of adults treated for alcohol and substance abuse have ADHD.

The two often go hand in hand, according to WebMD.

Common hallmarks of ADHD such as low attention span and impulsiveness make a person diagnosed with ADHD more vulnerable to patterns of addiction. Furthermore, the stress of undiagnosed ADHD make drugs and alcohol more tempting, the study notes.

“I see a lot of young women who will tell me that they’ve been able to gut it out and get through, but it’s been because what typically takes someone an hour or two to do at work takes them four hours. They’ve been getting to work early and staying late,” says Dr. Timothy Wilens, Chief of Child Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A 2010 study titled “A Sobering Fact: ADHD Leads to Substance Abuse” explained the connection between substance abuse and ADHD. It turns out, the risk of substance abuse among those with ADHD is “two to three times higher” than for people without the disorder.

Of course, what comes first?  In a chicken-or-egg fashion, we must look into whether ADHD leads to substance abuse, or whether the treatment of ADHD (with drugs like Adderall and Ritalin) plays a role.

In a Vice article, Niall Greene explained how he was not aware of his ADHD for most of his life. He just knew he constantly needed stimulation throughout the day. Soon, that stimulation emerged in the form of drinking and drugs. From the time he was 15, he blacked out every time he drank. By his 20s, he was doing cocaine compulsively and would sometimes take five ecstasy tablets at a time.

He says he was not doing this for fun. He was doing it out of desperation.

By 18, Greene moved to New York where he “spent every penny on drinking.” After bouncing from city to city, Greene realized he could not maintain a job. Nothing in his life was stable. He was spending all his money on gambling and alcohol.

Finally, he entered rehab where he met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with ADHD. It was the first time anyone had mentioned the disorder to him.  Greene looked everywhere for information on how to deal with adult ADHD, but there was little to be found.

Does Adult ADHD Even Exist?

That’s because until recently, Adult ADHD was not “thought to exist,” according to Dr. Howard Schubiner, an expert, and researcher on the disorder.

“It was thought to be a disorder of children that dissolved when they hit puberty,” he notes.

The CDC estimates that 6.4 million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. But then those kids grow up.

Now, doctors are realizing that ADHD is not something that simply goes away with age. Some 4.4 percent of adults in America struggle with ADHD, which in 2000, cost the United States $31.6 billion in health care costs and lost work hours.

The complex part of the epidemic is that ADHD manifests in a variety of ways in adulthood. While hyperactivity is commonly associated with ADHD, this does seem to lessen into adulthood. However, inattentiveness does not.

“It’s still there, but kind of internalized,” Schubiner says.

One way it internalizes is through addiction. In a 2005 study, 20-40 percent of adult children with ADHD had a history of substance abuse.

Studies show that people with ADHD typically turn to drugs as a way of making up for the deficit of dopamine in their brains. Still, Schubiner and other researchers question whether common treatments for ADHD—stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin—may also lead to the addiction spiral.

For now, there is no evidence to confirm this.

“There’s very little evidence that treating ADHD increases the risk for cigarette or substance abuse—it reduces the risk,” says Wilens.

A study of 25,000 ADHD patients noticed a downward trend in criminal behavior (including drug-related offenses) after those with ADHD took medication to treat the disorder.

“The signals seem to say if you continue on your medicine, there probably is a continued reduction in the risk [of substance abuse],” Wilens says. “At the very least, it doesn’t worsen the risk.”

“I think everybody in the field agrees, if you can get a toehold on the addiction, you should think about treating the ADHD relatively quickly,” he says. “If you treat ADHD aggressively and you monitor for substance abuse, you’re going to reduce [delinquency].”

After Greene was diagnosed with ADHD and completed treatment, he says he finally found stability. However, he struggles to spread awareness because Adult ADHD comes with a stigma.

“It’s like the black sheep of mental health conditions,” he says.

Last year, Jerome Kagan, Psychologist, and Professor at Harvard University debunked the existence of ADHD altogether:

“(ADHD) is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million (ADHD-diagnosed) kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.”

Kagan believes ADHD is over diagnosed, and says most people simply need guidance.

However, for Greene, this was far from the case. Treating his ADHD helped him to feel in control for the first time in his life. Three years ago, Greene started Adult ADHD NI, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding other adults across Northern Ireland with the disorder. His mission is to help others struggling like he once was, regardless of those who think ADHD does not exist.

“I embrace the challenge,” he says.

There clearly is a relationship between ADHD and substance use disorder. The question is, how did we address it? If you had either conditions and are struggling, please reach out for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135


Harvard Psychologist Believes ADHD Doesn’t Really Exist

Harvard Psychologist Believes ADHD Doesn’t Really Exist

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Jerome Kagan is not only a professor at Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities; he also is considered one of the world’s best psychologists. He was named the 22nd most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.

Yet, Kagan does not believe one of the most diagnosed mental health conditions in existence is a real condition. Kagan does not think ADHD exists. What?

That’s right; Kagan put out a statement saying that his position on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is that it is a complete hoax. Kagan’s proclamation has stirred controversy in the mental health community. Psychologist and other medical professionals have gone on the offensive, attempting to argue and discredit Kagan’s statements.

Still, Kagan is stern in his thoughts:

“…(ADHD) is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million (ADHD-diagnosed) kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.” – Jerome Kagan, Psychologist, and Professor at Harvard University

Kagan’s criticism is that the pharmaceutical industry is acquiring excessive amounts of profit from the sale of prescription drugs and this is creating a whole host of problems.

First, he says physicians financially benefit from promoting and prescribing certain medications. This incentive encourages them to prescribe more of these medications rather than recommend natural alternatives. Conditions begin to become over diagnosed because physicians want to earn supplementary income. Some doctors receive hundreds of thousands of dollars just for working with the pharmaceutical industry. In Kagan’s view, he believes this is both an immoral and corruptive practice.

Second, pharmaceutical companies have a significant influence on the political process. “Big Pharma” spends upwards of billions of dollars lobbying politicians to get what they want. Kagan believes this is contributing to the corruption within Washington D.C and elsewhere.

Finally, Kagan says more money flows to the psychologist, psychiatrists, and others who conduct research on conditions such as ADHD which results in more diagnosis and prescriptions. Kagan does not exempt these professions from criticism.

The Problem of Misdiagnosis and Over-diagnosis

According to Kagan, “If you do interviews with children and adolescents aged 12 to 19, then 40 percent can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But if you take a close look and ask how many of them are seriously impaired by this, the number shrinks to 8 percent.”

Kagan continues to elaborate using depression as an example. He believes that not everyone who exhibits symptoms of a condition has a mental health problem. Some children are a “bit” prone to unpredictability.

According to the Center for Disease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.” Kagan makes the argument that children diagnosed with the condition are children not doing well in school.

“Who’s being diagnosed with ADHD? Children who aren’t doing well in school. It never happens to children who are doing well in school. So what about tutoring instead of teaching?”

Kagan’s Answer

Kagan believes mental health professions must shift their approach for diagnosing ADHD, depression, anxiety and other disorders. His solution is that mental health professionals should make diagnose the same way doctors do: by looking at the causes, and not just the symptoms. When it comes to children, Kagan thinks, even more, attention should be taken since they lack the ability to explain themselves fully.

Kagan makes no illusion that it will be an easy task. When confronted with criticism that mental illnesses are an invention of Big Pharma and others. Kagan goes on the offensive.

“There are mentally ill people who need help. A person who buys two cars in a single day and the next day is unable to get out of bed has a bipolar disorder…There are people who, either for prenatal or inherited reasons, have serious vulnerabilities in their central nervous system that predispose them to schizophrenia, bipolar disease, social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. We should distinguish these people…”

In other words, Kagan believes that those who administer brain-altering drugs need to search a bit deeper.

Should the mental health industry reflect on Kagan’s thoughts? What are your thoughts? Mental illnesses continue to be stigmatized. However, it is important we look at all sides involved to determine the best approach to treating these conditions.   If you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness, substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

How Exercise Helps With Adult ADHD

How Exercise Helps With Adult ADHD

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Hate Exercising?

Well, you might want to ignore this article, especially if you struggle with ADHD. We are basically going to tell you another awesome benefit of exercise and try to convince you to do it on a regular basis again.  Maybe today is the day you reconsider…

Exercising regularly can be overwhelming at first, but it does not have to be. Turns out, exercise, even a small amount, can alleviate symptoms of ADHD in adults. According to a new study conducted at the University of Georgia, exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of ADHD in adults.

Close to 6 percent of Americans report symptoms consistent with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Over time, untreated symptoms of ADHD can lead to anxiety, depression, low energy, motivation and poor performance at work or school.

The good news is even a small amount of physical activity can help with these symptoms of ADHD.  The study was released this month in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. The study found that even a single bout of exercise has psychological benefits for adults with ADHD symptoms.

“Exercise is already known as a stress reducer and mood booster, so it really has the potential to help those suffering with ADHD symptoms,” said the study’s senior author Patrick O’Connor, professor in the UGA College of Education’s kinesiology department. “And while prescription drugs can be used to treat these symptoms, there’s an increased risk of abuse or dependence and negative side effects. Those risks don’t exist with exercise.”

The study conducted at the University of Georgia tested 32 young men with elevated ADHD symptoms.  The men would cycle at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes on one day, and on another day sat and rested for 20 minutes as a control condition. The men were asked to perform a task that required focus before and after the different conditions and researchers noted leg movement, mood, attention and motivation to complete the task.

The results revealed that exercise helped participants feel more motivated to complete tasks. Participants felt significantly less confused and fatigued and instead felt more energetic. Although exercise did not change the task, it helped the young men feel better about doing the task.

These findings are consistent with research done in the past which stated exercise helps people feel more energetic. The new results in this study confirm that symptoms of ADHD can benefit psychologically from short workouts.

“The reduced feelings of confusion and increased motivation to perform a cognitive task suggest that other types of acute exercise also may benefit cognitive performance,” added study co-author Kathryn Fritz, a UGA doctoral student who completed the study as part of her master’s thesis. “We speculate that a different mode or duration or intensity of exercise, other than a boring cycle ride in a sterile lab, may show larger cognitive effects for those suffering from ADHD symptoms.”

All of us are probably aware of the benefits of exercise; however most of us do not get enough. This study is promising because it shows that even the smallest amount of exercise, just 20 minutes, is sufficient to produce benefits in our cognitive function

Just 20 minutes of exercise added to your day can make the difference in how you perform on a physical and cognitive level. If you suffer from ADHD, try adding an exercise routine into your lifestyle. It can be as simple as ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night. Quick jogs around the neighborhood would be enough, or try something like cycling. Workout videos are great ways to fit in workouts when you are limited on time and do not feel like leaving your house.

Addiction and ADHD are often correlated and changing your lifestyle can be the answer you need to make the early stages of recovery a much smoother process. ADHD affects all areas of life, so it is important to get those symptoms under control.  If you are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, give us a call. We can help.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

The Rise in American Youth Abusing ADHD Medication

The Rise in American Youth Abusing ADHD Medication

Author: Shernide Delva

ADHD meds continues to be the most prevalent drugs among young people in college and high school. The stress of exams and all-nighters makes drugs like adderall all too tempting for those looking to get ahead of the pack. ADHD continues to be one of the most diagnosed disorders among youth and abuse continues to be a growing problem.

In the last fifteen years, there has been a remarkable transformation in the drug community. In the past, drugs were obtained illegally; now drugs are obtained by legal drug companies. Prescription drugs continue to be abused and most are obtained through prescriptions given by doctors. The most dangerous legal drugs are prescription opioids which are responsible for twice as many deaths as street drugs and accounts for the current epidemic of heroin addiction.

A new article digs deep into the ADHD epidemic spanning across college campus and clinical psychologist and public researcher Dr. Gretchen LeFever Watson described in detail the growing problem. He believes that college students are now abusing Adderall in record number to the point that it has become part of the fabric of life on modern American college campuses.

“Adderall and other stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD are now so prevalent on college campuses that students misperceive them as relatively benign substances. They are selling, swapping, sharing, and stealing Adderall for a host of nonmedical reasons, including “pulling all-nighters,” weight loss, and partying. “

Dr. Watson continues in the article to state how the number of deaths associated with non-medical use of ADHD medications has recently doubled.

Since the 70s, the amount of children diagnosed with ADHD and medicated has continued to rise. Recent numbers reveal close to 14 percent of American children are diagnosed with ADHD before the end of childhood. Children diagnosed with ADHD are showing up on college campuses with Adderall in hand.

The diagnosis of ADHD can be broken down demographically.  White males are more likely to be diagnosed compared to other demographics. There are ADHD “hot spots” such as Virginia Beach where one-third of residents are diagnosed with ADHD before they enter college. These kids that are diagnosed at a young age show up to college campuses, pills in tow, and it does not take long before their peers become curious on how the drug could affect them also.

By the time the majority of students graduate from college, more students will have been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication. Even if a student is not intending to use the drug, getting access to medication can put money in their pockets. The sale of a bottle of Adderall pills can climb up to $300 a bottle.

To combat the issue, some college campuses have been hosting talks by professionals affiliated with CHADD. CHADD stands for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is funded by the pharmaceutical industry for $1 million a year to raise awareness of ADHD. However, often the organization focuses on those who have the disorder rather than raising awareness of the potential for abuse, the article notes.

“During the post-movie discussion facilitated by psychologist Jeffrey Katz, Psy.D., Katz told the audience that there wasn’t much reason to be concerned about people using ADHD medications who do not actually have the disorder. ”

Overall, it is clear we need to raise awareness about the over-diagnosis of ADHD. Though it is impossible to know who will become addicted to “legal speed,” over time abuse of the drug becomes a serious problem.

Students can experience symptoms such as:

  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoid
  • Hallucination
  • Delusions

Withdrawal can occur with symptoms such as:

  • Depressed Mood
  • Fatigue
  • Short-term Memory Loss
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Agitation or lethargy

The epidemic of ADHD has turned normal immaturity into a mental disorder. We need to stop over diagnosing and over medicating “ADHD” to reduce the increase in substance abuse. If you feel you are developing an addiction to ADHD medication, seek help immediately. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Sleep Saves Lives: Naps Not Drugs

Sleep without Downers and Stimulants

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Enough sleep? Really, is there even such a thing? I swear I could take nap right now, but I guess I’m here to work and stuff…

Some say a well spent day brings happy sleep, others say there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Well it seems to be a fact of our society today that nobody gets ‘enough’ sleep… nobody. The search for enough sleep is now a collective obsession, something that we talk about throughout the day and beg for first thing every morning. Snooze button is the new life-support.

But while some of us try to get home earlier and lay down quicker, others are relying on downers and stimulants to regulate their rest, and that is so much more dangerous than it is effective.

Health Risks of Insomnia

Sleep deficiency has all types of negative impacts on the world. It causes various problems such as:

  • Fatal road accidents
  • Costly drain on the workforce
  • Struggling students at school
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse

The list goes on and on, and while other issues like ADHD, obesity, and bad skin used to be attributed to diet, new studies suggest they might be due to insomnia. A recent study determined that weight gain might have less to do with what we eat, and more with the time of the day we eat it, which can be controlled by our sleep patterns.

We have almost taught ourselves into a tired existence sustained with coffee, energy drinks and prescription medication, and the insanity of insomnia is changing our world.

Under-Over of Average American Sleep

According to some experts the average full sleep-cycle these days 
ranges from 70 to 120 minutes, 
not eight hours, while we train our kids to sleep for long period of time. When considering the fact we are taught as children to sleep on a specific schedule, it becomes apparent that sleep as we know it is actually a learned, social habit more so than an innate biological function.

Sleep averages and habits are different around the world depending on the culture.

  • In many Asian countries, co-sleeping among family members is the norm.
  • In New Guinea, it’s common for men to sleep in male sleeping quarters; women and children are on their own.
  • Mediterranean countries have workdays, meals and bedtimes that start later than the average American.

The household has another influence on our sleep. There are various aspects of our family and home lives that contribute to the struggle today, such as:

  • Larger number of people live alone.
  • Multi-generational families sharing a home have become a norm.
  • Separately sleeping couples are increasingly common.

Naps Not Drugs

As mentioned before, it has become too common these days that we rely on medications, prescription or otherwise, to help us get the sleep we so desperately need. As a society we are openly accepting a life-style where we pump ourselves full of uppers in the morning (how much do we love our coffee… yes, yes we do) and a lot of us winding down with downers at night to help us get to sleep.

But this isn’t making the problem any better. Just like we trained ourselves to sleep 8 hours instead of 2 separate sleep periods, and just like we have trained ourselves to sleep different times for different shifts or different cultures, we are training ourselves to be exhausted and artificially energized, which is doing some serious damage to our bodies. That is especially true for the drug user who takes a stimulant in the morning and an opiate in the evening with the excuse that sleep is only obtainable that way.

How do we change this in the search for enough sleep? Well one thing we should definitely take into consideration is something most of us have known about since we were infants… nap time! Some experts say that we had it right with the ancient way of dispersing our sleep throughout the day, giving ourselves time between tasks and activities to recharge. Some suggest that instead of relying on a chemical conditioning to inappropriate sleep patterns, maybe we should try and find a way to rest over selves throughout the course of a day. I’ll advocate for that.

So maybe next time you want to pop a pill or buy a jumbo-amplified can of liquid poison energy, maybe just take a nap. As a matter of fact, as I yawn while writing this, just put your head on the keyboard at work and drift awayyydfhghgdkjghd.

All jokes aside, getting a healthy sleep regiment for yourself is important to your mental and physical health, and while it is relevant to note that our culture and our careers take a toll, it is still possible to give yourself some breathing room and rest. In active addiction this can be next to impossible, and if you get any sleep it’s definitely not quality sleep, but cut yourself a break and get the rest time you need to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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