ADHD and Addiction

ADHD and Addiction

In the Utah addictions rehab center, where I work as a therapist, we treat co-morbid disorders, meaning mental health disorders that individuals suffer from in addition to their addictions. ADHD, or Attention Hyperactivity Disorder is a common disorder that we see.

One of the reasons why ADHD is common in addiction treatment is that clients with ADHD are more impulsive and motivated by the moment. Being less goal-directed and more reactive, people with ADHD are naturally more vulnerable to developing addiction.

In ADHD, the frontal cortex has less activity than the normal population. The frontal cortex is the moderator that helps us to control impulses and act instead on values, goals, and wisdom.

The midbrain is the part of the brain that causes impulses, the seeking of instant gratification, and reactivity. In addiction, the midbrain is hyper-activated. With an active addict, the midbrain, rather than the frontal cortex, is basically calling the shots.

So, if you take the impulsive tendency of someone with ADHD, and add to that the increased impulsivity caused by addiction, you will end up with someone who has a very difficult time controlling impulses. Such an individual will struggle, in early recovery, and will have to make a concerted effort to not only control the ADHD through appropriate medication, but to pause and consider before any action.

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