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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.

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Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle, MA

Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle, MA

Substance Abuse is a Medical Condition

Substance abuse treatment in Carlisle, MA helps people who are abusing drugs and alcohol and cannot stop because they are physically dependent and/or addicted. These programs combine the use of certain medication and therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other talk therapies.

Substance abuse is a pattern of use of a substance – where the person uses the drug, or drugs, in doses and/or in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. It is also commonly called drug abuse. Substance abuse is also described simply as harmful or problematic use of drugs.

Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle MA

Physical dependence and addiction often overlap in when it comes to a diagnosis of substance abuse. Although they are two separate medical conditions, that are treated simultaneously by professionally-trained staff of the substance abuse treatment in Carlisle, MA.

Detox: Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle

Substance abuse treatment in Carlisle begins with medical detox. First, you will be evaluated to find out your substance abuse history and what you have been using currently. This is done by way of drug screen (urine test) and meeting with an admissions counselor to talk about your substance abuse. This is done in order to plan your course of treatment. Substance abuse treatment in Carlisle is just like receiving any other type of medical treatment in that it is strictly confidential and your rights will be protected.

Withdrawal syndrome is a very real and quite serious condition that involves unbearable and sometimes quite frightening symptoms that could lead to coma and death if not treated properly. Depending on what substance or substances you are detoxing from, you will be given specific medication to manage your withdrawal symptoms and keep you as comfortable as possible in the detoxification process.

Rehab: Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle

The next phase of substance abuse treatment in Carlisle is rehab and lasts up to 30 days. During this phase, you are in a safe place while you heal and recover from your substance abuse. During rehab, you will have all your needs provided for including comfortable housing and well-balanced meals while you receive important information about substance abuse and addiction. You will go to individual and group therapy sessions where you will learn the necessary tools and coping methods to live a healthy lifestyle once you complete substance abuse treatment in Carlisle.

Outpatient Treatment: Substance Abuse Treatment in Carlisle

Substance abuse treatment in Carlisle can also include something called intensive outpatient treatment. IOP for short, it offers group therapy sessions and some individual sessions with a therapist during the day. Some people live at home while they attend IOP but it is highly recommended to live in a halfway house or other sober living community while taking part in IOP in order to support you in your recovery and efforts at sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, addiction or is seeking substance abuse treatment in Carlisle, MA please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

5 Things No One Tells You About the Psych Ward

5 Things No One Tells You About the Psych Ward

You’ve seen movies like Girl, Interrupted, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shutter Island, and 12 Monkey. So, you’ve probably formed some ideas about what psych wards are like. And, these ideas are probably not-so-accurate. After attempting suicide, I landed in the psych ward and learned a few things. Here are 5 things no one tells you about the psych ward.

#1. It’s somewhat “normal” for addicts to have gone to the psych ward

Hollywood has probably done the public a disservice as far as how psych wards are depicted in movies. Don’t get me wrong, these places generally are not somewhere you want to be, although, the people who end up here do generally realize that they need the help. There are seriously ill people in the psych ward as well as people “like us.”

When I was in the mental ward of my town’s hospital, I was *lucky* enough to have a roommate who was like me – a normal type of crazy, not, soil-yourself-and-the-common-area-furniture type of crazy. She was a young lawyer who had checked herself into the psych ward because she thought she was going crazy (turns out, she’s alcoholic). It’s quite common for alcoholics and addicts to have spent time in the psych ward before they get clean and sober. That’s why it’s said: “We are people in the grip of a continuing and progressive illness whose ends are always the same: jails, institutions, and death” – where “institutions” includes psych wards and mental hospitals.

#2. You might be there for more than three days

Regardless of whether you sign yourself in voluntarily or you are ordered to go to the psych ward, most hospitals can hold you for 72 hours for psych-related reasons without your permission. Even if you’re truly OK, the hospital needs to ensure that you aren’t going to leave and immediately have some kind of “episode.”

After three days in a psych ward, you can leave … if the doctors say you can leave. That is, it’s at the doctors’ discretion after evaluating you, whether you can leave.

#3. It’s not long-term  

Despite the movie depictions, and also because healthcare and especially mental healthcare has changed so much, psych wards are not the long-term institutions they used to be. The mental hospitals of the cinema are filled with people who are clearly just “eccentric” – being held against their will, either planning their escape or manipulating the system as best they can in order to get “released.” All this is good news because, upon entering, all of your personal belongings are confiscated.

#4. It’s not a detox

As mentioned in #1, we alcoholics and addicts often end up in a psych ward at some point in our active addiction. Sometimes, it is our only recourse for getting some relief and help, especially when it comes to dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Although the psych ward is not the same thing as a detox, oftentimes a hospital’s chemical dependency ward is part of the same program as the mental ward.

#5. You’re diagnosis might change

There are two main things to consider here. One is that navigating the brain – how it works and how it “malfunctions” – is not an exact science.One of the most frustrating things about a serious mental illness is that you (and the doctor) almost can’t know exactly what’s going on. Your brain changes as you age, so it’s possible for your disorders to evolve. Since the doctors can’t be 100% sure what’s wrong, they can’t be sure that the treatment is going to work.

The second thing to keep in mind is this: if you are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in the midst of your active addiction or even within 6 months of last drug use, your diagnosis might be wrong.

This is because drugs affect the brain in such a profound way that we can start displaying behaviors and thought patterns that mimic a mental illness. It isn’t until we get clean and sober and stay sober for a period of time that we can be sure whether a diagnosis is accurate. Many times, people in recovery who, at one time were diagnosed with a mood disorder, realize that it simply isn’t the case.

While I was in the psych ward, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And no doubt, I was certainly acting like someone with the disorder. I was obviously depressed and, now, as the cocktail of drugs I had taken with the purpose of overdosing was clearing my system, I was becoming more and more manic; I was displaying racing thoughts and speech and experiencing a racing heartbeat. So, for years, I thought I had bipolar disorder when it was really chronic depression. It wasn’t until I went to treatment and got some clean time under my belt that I realized this.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.





What came first, the depression or the addiction?

What came first, the depression or the addiction?

Professionals in the addiction and recovery field have a saying: Alcohol and drug addiction can cause mental illness but mental illness does not cause addiction. There is definitely a strong relationship between mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. When gone undiagnosed and untreated, a mental health disorder can trigger the use of alcohol and drugs, known as self-medicating.

A lot of times, people being treated for substance abuse and addiction and who have been diagnosed with depression or some other mental health disorder will ask, “did my drinking or drugging cause the depression?” And the answer to this is always a resounding… “maybe.” There are ways to determine which came first: the depression or the addiction.

First of all, did you know that any mental health diagnosis made within 6 months of the person’s last use is not necessarily accurate?

I have personal experience with this one. I was in the midst of my active addiction when I landed in the hospital psych ward for a suicide attempt. I am clear that have had experienced depression from an early age – about 11 years old, and therefore before I ever started using alcohol or other drugs. I was medication compliant – meaning that I was good about taking my anti-depressants on a regular basis even while actively using illicit drugs. And this could have been a precipitating factor in my suicide attempt. When using other drugs on top of your prescribed medications, this can yield your medications ineffective or cause them to have a stronger and unwanted effect, such as wanting to kill yourself. Back to the hospital psych ward…so, as the drugs are leaving my system, I start to display the behaviors and characteristics of someone with bipolar disorder. Now that I’m clean and sober, I am positive that I do not, in fact have bipolar disorder although I do still have depression for which I take an anti-depressant.

So, in my case, the depression came before the addiction but, the other mental illness I was diagnosed with, bipolar disorder, was a symptom of my addiction.

A well-trained professional in the field of psychotherapy can locate the source of the depression in order to distinguish whether it existed before the person developed their addiction or is a result of their alcoholism or drug addiction.

Why is it important to know what came first, the depression or the addiction?

Someone who had depression before they began abusing substances will more than likely need treatment, including ongoing medication, as compared to someone whose depression was caused by the abuse of chemicals while in active addiction. Basically, someone whose depression was caused by substance abuse generally will not need the same treatment as someone whose depression started before their substance abuse. In either case, dual diagnosis treatment is ideal for treating both the depression and addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, or are seeking dual-diagnosis treatment, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.


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