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Old 11-23-07, 07:54 PM
Matt S. Matt S. is offline
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Article: ADD and Addiction

It is common for people with ADD to turn to addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, prescription tranquilizers, pain medication, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, cocaine and street amphetamines in attempts to soothe their restless brains and bodies. Using substances to improve our abilities, help us feel better, or decrease and numb our feelings is called self-medicating.


Putting Out Fires With Gasoline
The problem is that self-medicating works at first. It provides the person with ADD relief from their restless bodies and brains. For some, drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and "speed" enable them to focus, think clearly and follow through with ideas and tasks. Others chose
to soothe their ADD symptoms with alcohol and marijuana.

People who abuse substances, or have a history of substance abuse are not "bad" people. They are people who desperately attempt to self-medicate their failings, and ADD symptoms. Self-medicating can feel comforting. The problem is that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction-related problems that over time make our lives much more difficult. What starts out as a "solution" can cause problems in-cluding impulsive crimes, domestic violence, addictions, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relation-ships, families, and death. Too many people with untreated ADD, learning and perceptual disabilities are incarcerated, or dying from co-related addiction.

Self-medicating ADD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline. You have pain and problems that are burning out of control, and what you use to put out the fire is gasoline. Your life may explode as you attempt to douse the flames of ADD.

An article in American Scientists tells us that, "In the United States alone there are 18 million alcoholics, 28 million children of alcoholics, 6 million cocaine addicts, 14.9 million who abuse other substances, 25 million addicted to nicotine."(1) That adds up to at least 63.5 million Americans addicted to substances.


Who Will Become Addicted?
Everyone is vulnerable to abusing any mind-altering substance to diminish the gut wrenching feelings that accompany ADD. There are a variety of reasons why one person becomes addicted and another does not. No single cause for addictions exists; rather, a combination of factors is usually involved. Genetic predisposition, neuro-chemistry, family history, trauma, life stress, and other physical and emotional problems contribute. Part of what determines who becomes addicted and who does not is the combination and timing of these factors. You may have a genetic predisposition for alcohol, but if you choose not to drink you will not become an alcoholic. The same is true for drug addictions. If you never smoke pot, snort cocaine, shoot or smoke heroin, you will never become a pot, coke or heroin addict.

The bottom line is that people with ADD as a whole are more likely to medicate themselves with substances than those who do not have ADD. Drs. Hallowell and Ratey estimate that 8 to 15 million Americans suffer from ADD; other researchers estimate that as many as 30-50% of them use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their ADD symptoms.(2)

This does not include those who use food and compulsive behaviors to self-medicate their ADDbrains and the many painful feelings associated with ADD. When we see ADD, it is import to lookfor substance abuse and addictions. And when we see substance abuse and addictions, it is equally important to look for ADD.


Prevention and Early Intervention
"‘Just Say No!' may sound simple, but if it was simple, we would not have millions of children, adoles-cents and adults using drugs every day. For some, their biological and emotional attraction to drugs is so powerful that they cannot conceptualize the risks of self-medication. This is especially true for the person with ADD who may have an affinity for risky, stimulating experiences." (3)

This also applies to the person with ADD who is physically and emotionally suffering from un-treated ADD restlessness, impulsiveness, low energy, shame, attention and organization problems, and a wide range of social pain." It is very difficult to say no to drugs when you have difficulties controlling your impulses and concentrating and are tormented by a restless brain or body. The sooner we treat children, adolescents and adults with ADD, the more likely we are to help them to minimize or eliminate self-medicating.

Many well-meaning parents, therapists and medical doctors are fearful that treating ADD with medication will lead to addiction. Not all people with ADD need to take medication. For those who do, however, prescribed medication that is closely monitored can actually prevent and minimize the need to self-medicate. When medication helps people to concen-trate, control their impulses, and regulate their energy level, they are less like to self-medicate.


Untreated ADD and Addiction Relapse
Untreated ADD contributes to addictive relapse, and, at best, can be a huge factor in recovering people feeling miserable, depressed, unfulfilled, and suicidal. Many individuals in recovery have spent countless hours in therapy, working through childhood issues, getting to know their inner child, and analy-zing their behaviors and why they abuse substances.

Much of this soul searching, insight and release of feelings is absolutely necessary to maintain recovery. But what if after years of group and individual therapy, and contin-ued involvement in addiction programs, you still impulsively quit jobs and relationships, cannot follow through with your goals and dreams, and have a fast, chaotic or slow energy level? What if, along with you addictions, you also have ADD?


Treating Both ADD and Addictions
It is not enough to treat addictions and not treat ADD, nor is it enough to treat ADD and not treat co-related addictions. Both need to be diagnosed and treated for the individual to have a chance at ongoing recovery. Now is the time to share information so that addiction specialists and those treating ADD can work together. It is critical that chemical dependency practitioners understand that ADD is based in one's biology and responds well to a comprehensive treatment program that sometimes includes medications. It is also important for practitioners to support the recovering person's involvement in Twelve-Step programs and help them to work with their fear about taking medication.


A Comprehensive Treatment Program includes:

A professional evaluation for ADD and co-related addictions.
Continued involvement in addiction recovery groups or Twelve Step programs.
Education on how ADD impacts each individual's life and the people who love them.
Building social, organizational, communication, and work or school skills.
ADD coaching and support groups
Closely monitored medication when medication is indicated.
Supporting a personas decision to take medication or not. (In time they may realize that medication is an essential part of their recovery.)
Stages of Recovery
It is important to treat people with ADD and addictions according to their stage of recovery.
Recovery is a process that can be divided into four stages:

pre-recovery,
early recovery,
middle recovery and
long-term recovery.
Pre-recovery: This is the period before a person enters treatment for their addictions. It can be difficult to sort out ADD symptoms from addictive behavior and intoxication. The focus at this point is to get the person into treatment for their addictions or eating disorders. This is not the time to treat ADD with psycho-stimulant medication.
Early Recovery During this period it is also difficult, but not impossible, to sort out ADD from the symptoms of abstinence which include, distractibility, restlessness, mood swings, confusions, and impulsivity. Much of what looks like ADD can disappear with time in recovery. The key is having a life long history of ADD symptoms dating back to childhood. In most cases early recovery is not the time to use psycho-stimulant medication, unless the individual's ADD is hindering their ability to attain sobriety.

Middle Recovery: By now addicts, alcoholics, and people with eating disorders are settling into recovery. This is usually the time when they seek therapy for problems that did not disappear with recovery. It is much easier to diagnose ADD, and medication can be very effective.

Term Recovery: This is an excellent time to treat ADD with medications when warranted. By now most people in recovery have a life that has expanded beyond trying to stay clean and sober. Their recovery is an important part of their life, and they now have the flexibility to deal with other problems, such as ADD.


Medication and Addiction
Psychostimulant medication, when properly prescribed and monitored, is effective for approximately 75-80% of people with ADD. These medications include Ritalin, Dexe-drine, Adderall, and Desoxyn.

It is important to note that, when these medications are used to treat ADD, the dosage is much less than what addicts use to get high. When people are properly medication, they will not feel high or "speedy," instead they will report an increase in their abilities to concentrate, and control their impulses and activity level. The route of delivery is also quite different. Medication to treat ADD is taken orally, while street amphetamines are frequently injected or smoked.

Non-stimulant medications, such as Cylert, Effexor, Nortriptyline, Prozac, Wellbutin, and Zoloft,canalso be effective in relieving ADD symptoms for some people. These medications are frequently usedin combination with a small dose of a psychostimulant.

Recovering alcoholics and addicts are not flocking to doctors to get stimulant medication to treattheir ADD. The problem is that many are hesitant, for good reasons, to use medication, especially psycho- stimulants. It has been my experience that once a recovering person becomes willing to try medication, the chance of abuse is very rare. Again, the key is a comprehensive treatment program that involves close monitoring of medication, behavioral interven-tions, ADD coaching and support groups, and continued participation in addiction recovery programs.


There is Hope
In the last few years I have witnessed the transformation of lives that were once ravaged by untreated ADD and addictions. I have worked with people who had relapsed in and out of treatment programs for ten to twenty years attain ongoing and fulfilling sobriety once their ADD was treated. I have seen people with ADD achieve recovery once their addictions were treated.

"Each day I understand more about how pervasive ADD is in my life. My clients, friends, family and colleagues are my teachers. I wouldn't wish ADD and addictions on anyone, but if these are the genetic cards that you have been dealt, your life can still be fascinating and fulfilling." (3)
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Old 12-07-07, 01:38 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

I have used portions of this article several times as a reference source in my post

ADHD and Addiction



Good stuff.
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Old 12-07-07, 12:13 PM
Matt S. Matt S. is offline
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

The article I found only had what I posted or else I would've posted the whole thing. People make mistakes (i.e. my occasional forgetting to post the link),

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Old 12-12-07, 02:50 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

I posted the hyperlink because that is HOW OFTEN I use this is a source for documentation in post - I have it in my favorites The article in it's entirety was kind of hard to find - there are many partials is other people's work.
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Old 01-09-08, 06:27 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

any way of getting a summary..?
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Old 01-27-08, 11:43 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

Heheh LumberjackJive, that was my first thought too ^_^
(I read though as its either this or homework; its a no-brainer decision)

Interesting article thanks for sharing
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Old 08-17-10, 08:49 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

You appear to have a real grasp on the addiction vs abuse/self medicating. I read your post three times. Well said. It was my pleasure to read something as informative as I found this.

Many thanks.

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Old 02-13-11, 10:29 PM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

I only reAd the first couple paragraphs but it is true I started getting vyvanse from my girlfriends prescription take one and be set for the day inschool my mechanics class and football then I started taking 2-3-4-5 at a time 50 mgs then I started sniffing them then started doing cocain and now I'm 16 and weigh 160 I'm 5-11 tall skinny kid when in september I was 5-10 230 offensive linemen...s**t f***s with ur body and your mind if your reAding this for advice and looking into it for help don't start..get a tutor or just hit the books harder
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Old 02-26-11, 01:36 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

Now I hate ADD even more.
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Old 02-26-11, 07:52 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

Thank you for posting this. Very interesting read. I have had issues with depression since I was a teen. I am also a recovering alcoholic (will have 6 months sobriety on March 1st). Interestingly, about the time that my ADD-like issues started to cause me real problems is when the depression-like issues started happening which was also when I got more into booze (sort of a which came first, the chicken or the egg situation!!)

"Untreated ADD contributes to addictive relapse, and, at best, can be a huge factor in recovering people feeling miserable, depressed, unfulfilled, and suicidal." pretty much sums up my first few months in recovery which led to a psych assessment. They diagnosed me with severe depression and a high likelihood of ADD/ADHD.

"Early Recovery: During this period it is also difficult, but not impossible, to sort out ADD from the symptoms of abstinence which include, distractibility, restlessness, mood swings, confusions, and impulsivity. Much of what looks like ADD can disappear with time in recovery. The key is having a life long history of ADD symptoms dating back to childhood." This is kind of where I am at now. Those symptoms have not disappeared but trying to figure out what is alcohol related, depression related or what could be ADD related is not easy, especially since I have such a long history with depression. I am trying to talk to family/friends etc. to determine what issues were there when I was a kid. Some I know, some I am not really sure (memory is not my strong suit! LOL.)

I am now on Wellbutrin to help with the depression and hopefully the ADD as well. I am pretty new to all of this and have found this forum really helpful (finally feel like there are people I can relate to, and have a lot in common with). Would appreciate feedback etc. from anyone else going through similar experience!

Sorry for the novel!
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Old 02-26-11, 09:35 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

Thank-you for such an informative article.I really enjoyed reading it.I too self-medicated with different substances when I was younger.At age of 40yrs. I started seeing a psychiatrist, who saved my life.Then at the age of 49yrs. I was finally diagnosed with ADD & that explained what I had been dealing with my entire life.

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Old 02-27-11, 12:51 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

Anyone else had their substance abuse problems massively improved by Adderall/related drugs? As soon as I started taking adderall, my desire to smoke marijuana/drink excessively has completely gone out the window. I don't really know how to explain it very well, I've tried explaining it briefly to my friends and they don't really seem to understand. Some of them are even disappointed they're missing a drinking buddy and try to peer pressure me into it a fair amount. It's like I'm content with everything else I've got going on in my life to not care to use substances. I don't feel any animosity towards drinking or smoking, I just recognize the effects a bit clearer(maybe?) and don't care to do it.
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Old 03-01-11, 12:56 PM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

I use both marijuana and vyvanse to medicate my ADHD. Vyvanse helps me focus while I'm in school or studying, and marijuana aids my appetite and helps me regulate my sleep schedule. Both a healthy diet and quality sleep are important for people diagnosed with ADHD like me. I will admit I may have a slight psychological addiction to both substances, but this is only because they are key to my routine.

As much as I'd like to deny it. I am an addict. A functional addict, but still an addict. I don't plan to be like this forever. I've recently quit smoking cigs thanks replacing them with marijuana. My next task is to replace marijuana with more xbox and excersize lol.
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Old 03-07-11, 09:56 PM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

I will have five months clean tomorrow. Yay! It is hard to sort the ADHD symptoms from those of post acute withdrawal but I actually view my Vyvanse as part of my recovery plan. I feel like I've always wanted to feel on it, even though any euphoric effects have long ago subsided. Recovery rocks!
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Old 03-08-11, 12:13 AM
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Re: Article: ADD and Addiction

The OP has some very good and useful information. I'm glad that this thread got revived.

I had both a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism and undiagnosed ADD. In high school and college especially, I felt so inadequate and frustrated because of my difficulties with memorization and concentration. My roommate in college was always up for a party, but I would turn down invitations and sit grimly at my desk reading the same page in my textbook over and over again.

When I transferred to the University of Colorado, I discovered speed and alcohol. Amphetamines allowed me to catch up with my classmates and make A's where before I made C's and D's. Did I self-medicate? You bet! But back then, ADHD was considered to be a problem confined to elementary school aged boys who couldn't sit still in class. As a 20 year old female, no doctor at the time was going to diagnose me with ADD.

I considered my school difficulties my own fault for not studying more and being unable to buckle down and stop daydreaming thru lectures. This self talk of mine only contributed to low self esteem and a feeling of being forever on the outside looking in. I felt that everyone else but me had been given a "map" for life. I discovered that alcohol made those feelings of inadequacy and frustration go away. So, I started using more and more booze and by age 30, I was a full blown alcoholic.

It wasn't until my 40's and got into recovery that my p-doc diagnosed me with ADD. Wow! That diagnosis explained so much! It was a relief to finally know what had been going on for so long.

Today I am on adderall and I try to be very cautious about it. I talked it over with my AA sponsor before I started taking stims, and I'm very aware of my tendency to take extras. I do sometimes take an extra dose, but so far, I've been able to stay out of trouble.

Addiction combined with ADHD makes for a very difficult road thru life. I am so glad that the medical profession has come to such a better understanding and young people today are spared going thru what I did.
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