Attention Deficit Disorder (or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a chronic disorder that involves a difficulty maintaining attention and often arises in childhood. It is more common in boys than girls and can make it difficult for children to focus in school. When it persists into adulthood, it can make it difficult for a person to hold a job and to participate in typical social situations.


There are three different types of ADHD. The first, commonly called ADD, involves inattentiveness – causing a person to be easily distracted. The second involves symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity, but without the difficulty in paying attention. The third, where the two are combined, is what most people are talking about when they refer to ADHD.

Typically, the disease is diagnosed in childhood. However, since it has only become widely known in recent years, adult diagnosis is also possible. Adult diagnosis is difficult because adults with ADHD will have shown the symptoms when they were children. It is also not unusual for kids to outgrow their ADHD as they mature.

Symptoms of this disease may range from mild to severe and could be an inconvenience or debilitating. Often, kids with depression or a learning disorder also have ADHD, and the conditions can adversely affect each other.

Substance Abuse and ADD/ADHD

ADHD is quite common among people who suffer from addiction – about 25 percent of adults in treatment have ADHD. Additionally, teenagers with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers, and tend to begin drinking at a younger age.

The same statistics are true for drug use – people with ADHD are more likely to use recreational drugs and more likely to use them at younger ages. Teenagers with ADHD were almost twice as likely to be daily smokers at 17 as their peers.

These statistics are likely because ADHD leads to impulsivity, and difficulty controlling one’s behavior. That makes it easier for a child with ADHD to be drawn in by peer pressure, or to drink just because it “sounds fun” without considering potential consequences.

It is important to note that scientist found no link between prescribed ADHD stimulant medication (which can be dangerous when used recreationally by someone without ADHD) and increased substance abuse. In fact, taking prescribed medication might lessen the likelihood of developing an addiction by curbing the behaviors that can lead to it in the first place.

Approaching Treatment

Since ADHD behaviors can lead to abuse of alcohol or drugs, it is important to treat both the addiction and the underlying ADHD at the same time. Often, this requires therapy. However, treatment with some non-stimulant medications, such as guanfacine, or antidepressants such as Wellbutrin are used. Of course, these medications should only be considered under the supervision of a doctor.

We recognize the triggers that can cause a person with ADHD to also have a substance abuse problem and are trained in working with these two issues concurrently.