Author: James Anderson

ADHD and Alcohol: How They’re Linked Plus Interactions & Risk Factors

adhd and alcohol

For example, one of the most commonly used approaches in the prevention of AODD is cognitive therapy designed to improve self-control and appropriate problem solving. Unfortunately, these cognitive techniques do not work with children with ADHD (Pelham et al. 1998), their efficacy with adolescents with ADHD has barely been studied (Smith et al. 2000), and there is no data on this treatment in adults with ADHD. Hence, most programs to prevent AODDs have components that are ineffective with children and of unknown efficacy with adolescents or adults with ADHD. Consequently, in preventive interventions based on cognitive therapy, people with ADHD may require supplemental intervention that is specifically adapted to their unique needs to effectively prevent AODDs. Several promising psychosocial interventions have empirical support in children and adolescents with ADHD (Pelham et al. 1998; Smith et al. 2000). Therefore, researchers have investigated the rates of alcohol use disorders in people with and without ADHD.

Clinical researchers and AODD service providers need to be prepared for co-occurring ADHD and AODD. The rate of ADHD is at least 25 percent among patients receiving treatment for AODDs, and 20 to 50 percent of adults diagnosed with ADHD meet criteria for an AODD. Furthermore, the rate of ADHD may be as high as 50 percent in high-risk populations4 targeted for prevention. The extent to which ADHD causes AOD problems is currently a matter of debate. AODD treatment programs that offer standard clinical care for dually diagnosed adolescents and young adults also should provide appropriate evaluation and treatment of ADHD and related comorbid disorders, especially CD and ASPD.

The Negative Consequences of Substance Abuse On Behavior

However, other factors (such as alcoholism in parents) also play a role, and it’s not clear how ADHD affects binge drinking into adulthood. People with ADHD may have an increased risk of alcohol use and developing alcohol addiction. This may be due to increased impulsivity and behaviors linked to ADHD, as well as certain negative life events that people with ADHD may be more likely to experience. The use of stimulants with alcohol may lead to more high risk behavior, though, which may increase the risk of the harmful effects of heavy drinking. These characteristics may increase the risk of heavy alcohol use and alcohol use disorders. A 2021 review suggests that alcohol use disorders have a lifetime prevalence of up to 43% in adults with ADHD.

adhd and alcohol

For adults in clinical settings, the rate of ADHD is currently unknown but appears to be substantially elevated compared with the general population. Among adult patients receiving treatment for alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse, the rate of ADHD has been estimated to be approximately 25 percent (Wilens 1998). A similar rate of ADHD, about 30 percent, has been found among adolescents in treatment for AOD use disorders (AODD) (Molina et al. 2002).

Later, your doctor might prescribe ADHD medications to reduce your risk of addiction, including long-acting stimulants or nonstimulants. In general, you should avoid drinking alcohol — and especially heavy drinking — while taking medication for ADHD. Using both substances also puts you at an increased risk of alcohol poisoning and overdose.

Alcohol Use at an Early Age

Several studies have set out to investigate the possible link between prescribed ADHD stimulant medication and substance abuse problems, and there doesn’t appear to be a strong connection. Substance use, including alcohol and drug abuse problems, poses a heightened risk of worsening ADHD symptoms. This often adversely affects health, relationships, finances, and mental wellbeing.

Reach out for support from others if you’re struggling with ADHD and alcohol use disorder. When an individual has ADHD, it is important to understand the effects of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase the symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity and impaired decision-making.

The reasons for why are still unclear but some researchers believe that alcohol and substance use are linked with an effort to self-medicate. A 2017 review also suggests that ADHD in childhood increases the risk of developing substance-related disorders. There are many factors that determine how your body reacts to both ADHD medication and alcohol, including pre-existing medical conditions and whether your medication is short-acting or long-acting. If you’re wondering what treatment will be like, many rehabs/treatment facilities offer treatments for dual diagnoses such as alcohol use disorder and ADHD.

While you may think that lighting up may calm you down, research shows that it can backfire and make you more hyper and your ADHD symptoms harder to manage. Remember that everybody’s ADHD can appear differently, but knowing you are not alone will help with feelings of isolation. In addition, some people who have ADHD also have sleep apnea (breathing stops and starts throughout the night) or restless legs syndrome (a condition causing an extreme urge to move your legs).

An earlier study by the same authors even suggested that stimulant use might protect against later drug abuse and alcoholism in children with ADHD by relieving the ADHD symptoms that often lead to substance abuse problems. The earlier the stimulants are started, the lower the potential for substance abuse down the road. It is also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years. In one study, 14% of children ages with ADHD had problems with alcohol abuse or dependence as adults, compared to peers without ADHD. Another study found that at a mean age of 14.9 years, 40% of children with ADHD began using alcohol, compared to 22% of children without an ADHD diagnosis — a strong predictor of alcohol and substance abuse in adulthood.

  1. About one in five people with a substance use disorder also have an ADHD diagnosis, with some studies finding 58% of kids with ADHD are drinking alcohol by age 14.
  2. Heavy drinking can quickly become a vicious cycle for people with ADHD or depression.
  3. But achieving this state of calmness typically requires excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking.
  4. According to a 2017 review, ADHD is also a risk factor for substance use, misuse, and dependence.

ADHD can cause symptoms such as impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and a maladaptive reward system. Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk, or causes problems in your personal and professional life. Meanwhile, the negative effects of drinking also become more difficult to cope with. Heavy drinking can quickly become a vicious cycle for people with ADHD or depression.

Drugs & Supplements

People with early onset and persistent symptoms of CD often meet diagnostic criteria for ASPD, which is characterized by a callous disregard for the rights and needs of others. People with ASPD have the worst prognosis— that is, the greatest likelihood and greatest severity of AOD-related problems (Frick 1998; Moffitt et al. 2002). Therefore, determining the comorbidity of CD or ASPD with ADHD as well as the age of onset of CD symptoms may be important in preventing and treating alcohol-related problems. Research shows that there may be a connection between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and alcohol use disorder. Studies have linked ADHD, with its traits of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty paying attention, with an increased risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and drinking at an earlier age. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health disorder that can increase your risk of alcohol use disorder.

Prioritizing ADHD treatment and practicing moderation in alcohol use, the risk of these complications can be minimized or prevented. It is important to remember that while alcohol may temporarily alleviate ADHD symptoms, it can create more significant problems in the long run. But with self-compassion, impulse control, practice, and determination, you can create a better life for yourself and those around you. If you’re taking ADHD medication, discuss with your healthcare provider whether alcohol consumption is safe to avoid potential complications. Alcohol use is known to increase the intensity of some ADHD traits, including impulsivity, proper decision-making, and lack of attention. Since alcohol is a depressant, some may use this substance to decrease symptoms, but alcohol is known to have an adverse effect and enhance the symptoms of ADHD.