ADHD and Drug Abuse


ADHD medication abuse is a growing issue in America. Researchers report rates of prescription medication for ADHD have risen while the rates of ADHD in children remain the same. The problem does not stop there as a growing number of students are abusing ADHD medication even without a prescription. Unfortunately, most of these drugs are amphetamines which are highly addictive and dangerous.


What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s an evolving mental health disorder that began to gain more diagnoses in the late 1960s. Brain function and structure play a prominent role in the symptoms and development of ADHD. 

ADHD studies in children have shown differences in the brain’s physical aspects compared to children who do not have ADHD. That said, the brain acts and looks different in those with the disorder. For example, studies show children with severe ADHD have a smaller frontal lobe – which is involved in impulse control, motor activity, concentration, and inhibition. Other similar studies have found that people with ADHD have neural pathways that make it more difficult to control behavior and impulses.  

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD commonly include fidgeting, poor concentration, behavioral issues, and overactivity. Other signs of impulsiveness and hyperactivity include:

  • Inability to sit still in calm environments
  • Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
  • Excessive movement or talking
  • Acting without thinking
  • Constantly interrupting conversations
  • Lack of a sense of danger 

ADHD Medication

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The three most common medications prescribed for ADHD are Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin. Adderall and Vyvanse are both amphetamines, and Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant. Research shows that for individuals with ADHD, these medications improve concentration and exam performance in students.

Concerning people with ADHD, studies show that these medications do not increase their risk of addiction to these drugs. People with diagnosed ADHD do, though, have an increased risk of addiction in general. Therefore, substance abuse in people with ADHD relates more to the disorder itself, not the medication.

ADHD Medication Abuse

For people without ADHD, these medications may lead to addiction when abused. In 2019, research shows misuse rates of Adderall were almost 9% among college women and about 15% among college men. Long-term use of ADHD medication often causes people to develop a tolerance, which requires them to take higher or more frequent doses. In this situation, an individual with a prescription can develop a substance use disorder (SUD).

When abusing a stimulant like the drugs mentioned above, recovery treatment is often necessary.

ADHD and Addiction

An individual with an ADHD diagnosis and a substance use disorder is considered to have a co-occurring disorder. Research shows a relationship between addiction and ADHD. It is not uncommon that ADHD and drug use are related. Studies show individuals with ADHD are more likely to become dependent on substances compared to the general population. The following bullet points are statistics and facts that support the linkage between ADHD and drug abuse:

  • ADHD is five to ten times more common in adults with an alcohol use disorder.
  • About 25% of adults in substance or alcohol treatment have ADHD.
  • Children diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to use alcohol in their teens than children without the disorder.
  • Young adults with ADHD are more likely to use alcohol excessively compared to their counterparts.
  • In general, individuals with ADHD are more likely to start abusing substances at an earlier age.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are sometimes called dual diagnoses or comorbidities. This condition is when an individual faces two mental disorders concurrently. Dual diagnosis often includes a disorder like ADHD and addiction. Other disorders may occur with ADHD, including depression, anxiety disorder, and Tourette’s.

Many people who suffer from a mental health disorder may look to substances to cope with their mental instabilities. Studies show that almost half of people in recovery centers have a co-occurring disorder. Researchers believe this is primarily because of underlying mental illnesses which may lead people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

ADHD medication abuse, unfortunately, leads many to addiction. Common signs and physical symptoms of someone experiencing ADHD and drug abuse may include:

Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders

  • Inability to quit alcohol or drugs
  • Extreme development of tolerance to substances
  • Frequent lying about illegal behaviors or substance use
  • Inorderary, compulsive behaviors

Physical Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

  • Extreme mood swings, sometimes affecting their job, relationships, and friendships
  • Inordinary fluctuations in mood and energy
  • Less time spent with friends and family
  • Lack of motivation for hobbies or activities
  • Long periods of feeling worthless or hopeless
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Treatment Options for ADHD

Treatment for ADHD alone typically involves frontline medication treatment, such as Ritalin and Adderall. People with ADHD may also benefit from other forms of treatment, including:

  • Therapy
  • Parenting advice
  • Diet management
  • Lifestyle coaching
  • Exercise programs
  • ADHD education
  • Skill-building workshops
  • Stress management strategies
  • Nutritional guidance

Treatment Options for ADHD and Drug Abuse

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Whether an individual is addicted to ADHD medication or has ADHD and is addicted to substances, we can help at Intrepid Detox. We use a multi-phased method that caters to each client every step of the way. We have proven programs starting with a medical detox through aftercare and relapse prevention.

Medical Detox

A proper medical detox is essential in recovery. When committing to recovery, it is imperative to rid all substances from your system. Even though this is the beginning stage of recovery, it is one of the most important. This is mainly because the detoxification process sets the foundation for recovery.

What is a Detox?

The detoxification process in treatment involves removing toxins from the system. The toxins are from substances like alcohol or drugs. At Intrepid Detox, our first step is physical stabilization. Followed by that, we do a clinical and medical assessment. At this point, we assess each individual’s needs and focus on keeping them motivated for their addiction recovery journey.

Our detox program is safe, comfortable, and supervised, so the process can make each client as comfortable as possible. Many factors play a role, but we strive to keep this process safe and beneficial. After the patient is healthy and physically fit to continue care, we begin to build a personalized recovery plan.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is filled with a variety of therapies and amenities. Our residential treatment facility is staffed with compassionate and caring individuals that want you to heal and recover. In residential treatment, residents will learn about the 12-step process while building a connection with themself and their peers.

Individual Therapy

Individuals dealing with ADHD and drug abuse tend to find individual therapy especially useful. This form of talk therapy allows patients to work one-on-one with an experienced therapist. The therapist will guide their patient through their emotions, behaviors, and challenges that feed into their addiction.

Our therapists at Intrepid Recovery are experienced in dealing with dual diagnosis patients. It is essential to treat each co-occurring disorder together. Individual therapy at our facility works to:

  • Guide and support patients during and after treatment
  • Help patients to make improvements on their thought processes and behavior
  • Motivate patients to bring positive changes in their lives 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy proven useful when dealing with ADHD and drug abuse concurrently, or just ADHD medication abuse. CBT aims to stop bad cognitive and behavioral habits. In CBT, therapists help guide patients through their thought and behavior patterns to eventually bring about healthy changes. Some of the strategies used to improve our patient’s mental health include:

  • Reframe patient’s thinking to a better sense of reality
  • Learn coping and problem-solving skills to deal with uncomfortable situations
  • Build self-confidence in patients
  • Develop a better understanding of how their emotions and behaviors affect other people

Group Therapy

Group therapy is another form of psychotherapy used in treatment. It usually involves a therapist and a group of two or more individuals. At Intrepid Recovery, we use group therapy as a tool to help our clients develop interpersonal growth. Group therapy allows our clients to participate in open or closed sessions. These therapist-led sessions allow patients to open up on their emotions, struggles, experiences, and goals in a real-world, group situation.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is an alternative to residential treatment for less severe substance use or co-occurring disorders. In our outpatient setting, clients live in off-campus sober living homes while participating in treatment. Treatment is still daily, and clients may engage in any available forms of support.

Aftercare

During treatment, our clients work with specialists to plan a future of sustained recovery. Even once your program has ended, we strive to continue our support which may involve the following: helping with living arrangements, volunteer opportunities, employment, and school. Our aftercare program is dedicated to helping prevent relapse and keep you on the road to recovery.

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Get Help Today at Intrepid Detox

Intrepid Detox is here to help you, whether you are struggling with ADHD medication abuse or abuse of other substances. We offer a vast range of programs designed to help individuals in many situations. If you or a loved one are struggling with ADHD and drug abuse, please contact us today.