Addiction professionals have long been concerned about the possible relationship between substance misuse and ADHD. ADHD had long been considered a risk factor for potential drug misuse due to the impulsivity associated with the condition, and ADHD drugs are sometimes misused by both those with ADHD and others who do not have the condition.
New Research Contradicts Traditional Thinking
New studies have found, however, that the connection between addiction and ADHD may actually be lower when medication is given for the condition, even after those with ADHD may have stopped taking the medication. One study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that the risk of substance-related medical events like emergency room visits was 35 percent lower for men with ADHD who were taking medication for the condition and 31 percent lower for women.
In addition, the study showed that instances of substance-related events were 19 percent lower for men and 14 percent lower for women even two years after they stopped taking ADHD medication, suggesting that the protective effect of medication may be long-term. The study was a meta-analysis that involved more than 146 million people, looking at data collected for other studies in a new way.
A smaller previous study done on adolescents in Sweden showed a 31 percent lower rate of substance misuse three years after taking ADHD medication; the study looked at death, emergency room care, or crimes committed because of substance use disorder to determine the rate.
These studies, taken together, seem to show that ADHD medication may keep users from substance misuse in some cases, although it could also just moderate the misuse so that it does not cause a need for emergency room care, cause overdoses, or cause users to commit crimes.
Why a Lower Risk?
While a study can show a trend in behavior or actions, it does not show the reasons behind why the trend occurs. Knowing that most ADHD medications reduce the symptoms of the condition, it is possible to speculate that medication might make users less impulsive, which may prevent some from participating in substance misuse.
Another possibility is that some who have ADHD may engage in substance use as a way to self-medicate their condition. The problem with self-medicating is that it usually does not work and leads to a spiral of more misuse until a crisis point is reached, such as those measured by the studies above.
Finally, having unmedicated ADHD could lead to psychological effects on those with the condition as they encounter negative responses to their impulsive behaviors and poor school performance from the inability to concentrate. Those with poor self-esteem or personality disorders are more likely to engage in substance misuse, which can account for the higher levels of substance use in those with unmedicated ADHD.
If you or any of your loved ones struggle with substance use disorder, you can find Colorado addiction treatment at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Co-occurring disorder treatment can help you deal with ADHD as you detox and journey toward recovery. Contact us today to start your recovery journey.