ADHD and Substance Use Disorder: What Parents Need to Know

Children and teenagers who have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to experiment with smoke, drugs, and drinks than kids who don’t have the condition. Also, they are at a greater risk for developing a substance abuse disorder. But, their ADHD does not automatically make them dependent on substances as teenagers. Parents must know the link between ADHD and substance abuse, identify warning signs of ADHD drug abuse, set up efforts to prevent the abuse at home, and seek professional help when their children with ADHD have a drug issue.

ADHD and Substance Abuse

A lot of theories exist as to the reason ADHD increases the risk for substance abuse. These include the following:

  • Behavioral reasons. Children or teenagers with ADHD can be impulsive, have poor judgment, and can face troubles at school. All of these can increase their risk of using and abusing certain substances like alcohol or drugs.
  • Genetic link. Some experts say that there could be a genetic link with ADHD and the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
  • Self-medication. People with ADHD are likely to use psychoactive medications to self-medicate.

Importance of Early Treatment

In terms of substance abuse treatment for people with ADHD, timing matters. Kids treated at a younger age for ADHD may be less likely to use substances compared to those who start treatment later. It is possible for treatment to delay the onset of a substance abuse disorder. Also, it is essential to treat mental health issues that co-exist with ADHD such as depression and anxiety.

Stimulant Drugs for ADHD

Treatment for ADHD includes prescribing stimulant drugs. While no study has found these drugs can increase the risk of a substance abuse disorder, they can be misused, abused, or offered to other people. It is important to closely monitor children or teens with ADHD who are taking these drugs to prevent misuse. Doctors will question parents if their child loses pills or runs out early because these can be signs of misuse.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Children and Teens with ADHD

Drug and alcohol use can cause symptoms similar to ADHD. These include attention issues, disorganization, trouble completing tasks, poor appetite, loss of interest in school, trouble sleeping, and isolation. Parents must discuss any new symptoms or changes in ADHD symptoms with their children’s doctor. It is important to understand that ADHD begins in early elementary school while the majority of substance use disorders start in middle school.