ADHD and Drug Abuse

An increased risk of substance dependence is one of the long-term repercussions of ADHD, as is well known. Kids with ADHD are really two to three times more prone to take drugs than kids in the general population, according to a study. All about ADHD and drug abuse just below.

This association is not surprising, according to Jeannette Friedman, LCSW, a therapist who works with families dealing with substance use difficulties, considering that the symptoms of ADHD include difficulty focusing, controlling impulsivity, and sitting still. 

Therefore, she explains, “When kids are exposed to a substance that calms them down, it feels good to them.” “Because a substance offers such a quick cure, trying to participate in more beneficial behaviors to manage their ADHD, such as meditating or taking a walk, becomes much more difficult.”

Additionally, Sarper Taskiran, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute, says that ADHD can make teenagers more susceptible to addiction. Children with ADHD often feel the effects of all drugs more strongly. Their wiring makes their minds more ravenous for these encounters, he claims. Due to their propensity for impulsivity, they may develop addictions more quickly than neurotypical teenagers.

The majority of specialists concur that marijuana, followed by alcohol and nicotine, is the most often consumed substance among adolescents and young people with ADHD.

Dr. Taskiran observes that children with ADHD are more likely to self-medicate than to become high.

“These kids are more hyperactive, more impulsive, and their minds move at a faster pace, which is sometimes tiring for them,” he claims. “They frequently seek out substances that slow down their thinking. While marijuana can result in mild drowsiness and euphoria, nicotine and, in some situations, cocaine are tempting because they improve attention in the short term.”

Alcohol misuse among children with ADHD is also more common, according to research.

ADHD and Drug Abuse

Additional danger signs

Teenagers with ADHD have additional risk factors for excessive substance use in addition to being prone to it due of the disorder’s symptoms, including:


  •         Increased chance of co-occurring disorders. Anxiety, depression, and oppositional defiant disorder are typical co-occurring mental health conditions in children with ADHD. According to Dr. Taskiran, having another condition raises the likelihood of substance usage much more.
  •         External variables. Kids with ADHD frequently suffer academically or socially, and they may be drawn to other kids (with or without ADHD) who have similar difficulties. They frequently end up among the school’s risk-taking crowd where there are more chemicals available for experimentation, according to Friedman.

Medication for ADHD does not raise the risk

The statistics do not support the widespread belief that stimulant prescriptions used to treat ADHD are “gateway drugs” and can raise the risk of substance use; in fact, the opposite may be true.

A 2013 review of 15 long-term studies that tracked more than 2,500 ADHD kids from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood discovered no evidence linking medication to either an increased risk of substance misuse or a decreased risk of it.

The primary researcher of the study stated, “We found no association between the use of medication such as Ritalin and future abuse of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine.”

However, a more recent study from 2016 that examined Medicaid data for 150,000 young individuals with ADHD discovered that those who used medication had a 7.3% lower risk of developing a substance use disorder than their peers who didn’t take medication. In other words, successful ADHD treatment may serve as a deterrent to drug misuse.

ADHD and drug abuse : Steps parents can take

The most crucial thing for parents to do if their child exhibits odd signs of restlessness, distraction, and forgetfulness is to have them assessed — and treated — as soon as possible. In addition, parents need to make sure:

Early on, talk to your kids about drug usage.

Friedman suggests that you explain to your child that having ADHD makes them more prone to addiction than their peers who do not have it and that the best way to stay out of trouble is to abstain from all illicit drugs.

Dr. Taskiran says that as children with ADHD have trouble organizing themselves and planning, they are more likely to leave drug-related paraphernalia lying around.

“They can’t hide it, so their parents find out actually faster than peers who don’t have ADHD,” the author claims. This frequently presents parents with the chance to talk with their child about the subject.

However, he cautions parents against becoming overbearing. They must have a nonjudgmental attitude since maintaining a good relationship is more crucial than trying to stop it in its tracks.

Limit your accommodations.

According to Friedman, parents of children with ADHD who are having difficulties may try to reduce their child’s irritation by creating accommodations for them. “They’ll say, ‘What can we do for that poor kid? How might we reorganize the space to make it more comfortable? As a result of preventing children from learning how to deal with difficulties, this can backfire.

And if a teen can’t handle their difficulties, they can use drugs to ease their anxiousness. Friedman cites several specialists who advise against moving the furniture around. Give them techniques for navigating the furnishings.

Maintain cordial dialogue

According to Friedman, parents of children with ADHD who are having academic difficulties may place an excessive amount of emphasis on academic achievement, which leads to ongoing tension between the parent and the child. And because the child may not have the necessary tools to deal with unwanted feelings, the dispute becomes distressing for them.

According to Friedman, “They can’t do conflict monitoring as effectively as their peers, so they react to distress with less effective coping skills.” Because they are unable to self-regulate, they turn to narcotics and self-medication.

Friedman exhorts families to strive to maintain a strong relationship, which can be challenging, in addition to seeking treatment for a child’s ADHD. “They also need to seek measures to resolve that conflict, whether through family therapy or behavioral treatment strategies,” she advises if the parent and child are constantly at odds. They must pay close attention to their interaction with their youngster. Now you know all about ADHD and drug abuse.