About Adult ADHD/ADD and Addiction

Adult ADHD/ADD and Addiction

It is becoming more and more common for people to suffer from adult ADHD/ADD and addiction. It's no secret that being an adult is difficult. There are so many different responsibilities involved. However, when adults also suffer from ADD or ADHD, life can become that much harder. Attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can affect adults as well as children. We tend to think of this condition as something that only afflicts children, but that's not the case at all.

Adult ADHD/ADD Information

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • 4.1% of adults are currently suffering with either ADHD or ADD.
  • Of these cases, 41.3% of them are considered to be severe.
  • The average age of onset is seven years old.
  • It's not uncommon for ADHD or ADD to persist into adulthood.
  • 8.1% of adults will suffer with the symptoms of ADD or ADHD for their entire lives.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America further states that:

  • 60% of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with this disorder.
  • That means there are 8 million adults with the condition currently.
  • About 50% of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
  • Proper medication and treatment has been shown to greatly improve symptoms of ADHD.
  • Many of the adults who have ADHD fail to get the treatment they need.

Many adults may not know they have ADHD or ADD. This could be one reason they don't obtain proper treatment. They might not have ever been diagnosed as children. It's also possible that they assumed the condition was something they would eventually grow out of. The fact is that sometimes, ADD and ADHD persist into adulthood. When this occurs, obtaining the proper treatment is crucial.

You may be facing a similar situation in your own life. You may or may not have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as a child. You're experiencing these symptoms as an adult, and you're not sure how to cope with them. In cases like yours, turning to substances seems as though it offers you a coping method. It's not a coping method that will work long-term.

At Northpoint Washington, we've been able to work with many people who suffered from ADHD/ADD and addictions. We understand how difficult it is, and we also know the best way to treat them. If you're interested in learning more, it all starts by getting educated on your condition.

Understanding Adult ADHD and ADD

Many adults who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as children carry some symptoms into adulthood. However, even those who were never diagnosed can still have the condition.

ADHD commonly goes unrecognized in children. If it is unrecognized, it is not treated. Children are often labeled as class clowns or troublemakers, and this is dangerous. It fails to pinpoint the real issues these children are dealing with.

As adults, the pressure that is placed upon these individuals is great. It's often much more than they can handle. Adults with ADD/ADHD have the responsibilities than any adult has. However, as they're trying to reach their goals in life, it becomes very hard for them to focus. They lack the ability to stay organized and concentrate on what they need to do and accomplish. For adults with ADD/ADHD, managing their lives can seem impossible at times. It's really not surprising that so many of these individuals turn to addictions. They don't see any other way to cope.

Even though it's hard to have ADD/ADHD as an adult, that doesn't mean it's not manageable. Getting the proper treatment, education and support can help so much.

Types of Adult ADD/ADHD

There are actually three different types of adult ADHD/ADD. Everyone is different, and it's important to figure out which type you have.

The three different types of adult ADHD/ADD are:

Inattentive Type

This type of ADHD is what used to be referred to as ADD. It usually begins during the childhood years. It's characterized by having difficulty paying attention. This can continue during the adult years as well.

People with inattentive type ADHD have a hard time finishing tasks. They may daydream all the time and become easily distracted. Their distractions can lead to them missing important details, which causes mistakes. They tend to get bored quickly, and they have a hard time getting and staying organized.

Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

Just as the name suggests, this type of ADD/ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity. Doctors who are treating children with this condition always look for medical causes first. They may conduct a number of tests to see if it's being caused by anything else. Sometimes emotional issues or stress can lead to hyperactivity in both children and adults.

Adults with this type of ADD/ADHD will have a very hard time sitting still. They don't always listen when they're spoken to, and they tend to talk a lot. Sometimes they will talk out of turn. Doing quiet tasks such as reading are very difficult.

For many children, hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. This is because children are often high-energy. However, if their symptoms are interfering with their everyday lives, it is cause for concern. If symptoms persist for longer than six months, hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD is very likely.

Combined Type

Combined type ADD/ADHD is actually the most common type of this condition. When adults or children have symptoms of both of the other types, it is considered combined.

What are the Symptoms of Adult ADD and ADHD?

There are several different symptoms of adult ADHD and ADD that you can look for in your own life. They include:

  • Having trouble finishing your work on time
  • Finding it a challenge to stay organized
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulties with remembering information
  • Problems with following directions

In addition, there are a number of different challenges that adults with ADHD/ADD can face. These include:

  • Feeling anxious frequently
  • Often feeling bored
  • Being chronically late
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Chronic forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating when reading
  • Problems with anger control
  • Being impulsive
  • Suffering from mood swings
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Frequent procrastination
  • Having relationship problems
  • Not handling frustration well

Many adult ADD/ADHD sufferers also often have problems related to substance abuse and addiction.

Adults with ADHD/ADD frequently lack the coping skills necessary to manage their conditions. Perhaps this is something you're dealing with too. You may have turned to substances in order to help yourself feel better. You know that this is only a short-term fix, but you don't know what else to do.

If you've never been formally diagnosed with adult ADD/ADHD, it's important to know if you may have it.

How Do You Know if You Have Adult ADHD/ADD?

Do you have adult ADD or ADHD? This is something that only a professional can answer for certain. However, taking a few minutes and answering some questions about your condition can help.

Below, you'll see several questions that might pertain to you. Keep track of which questions you answer with a yes.

  • Do you have problems getting and staying organized?
  • Do you have problems with procrastination when you're given a task to accomplish?
  • Do you often work on several projects at once without finishing them?
  • Do you often make impulsive decisions?
  • Are any of your impulsive decisions dangerous for you?
  • Do you ever try hard to reach your goals, but find that you always fall short?
  • Do you ever overdo things that aren't good for you? (Examples: drinking or working too much)
  • Do you get frustrated easily?
  • Do you find that you are often impatient?
  • Is your self-esteem lower than other people's?
  • Do you do or say things without thinking?
  • Do you fidget frequently as a way to work off nervous tension?
  • When you're separated from people you like being with, do you ever feel depressed?

How many of these questions did you answer yes to? If it was more than just a few, then you may have adult ADHD/ADD. Talking with a professional will help you understand your condition with more clarity. This is especially true and necessary if you are also suffering with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Treating Adult ADHD and ADD Professionally Can Help

If you do have adult ADHD/ADD, getting professional treatment is so important for you. There are many different methods that are common used to treat this condition in adults. These include:


There are a number of different medications that have been approved to treat ADD and ADHD in adults. Finding the right one for you can take some time. However, once you do, you'll see that it helps your symptoms tremendously.


There are a number of different types of therapy that are commonly used to treat adult ADHD/ADD. Cognitive and behavioral therapy can help to give your self-esteem a boost. You can also participate in relaxation training, which will help you manage your stress levels. Life coaching is a great option to help you reach your goals. It can also help you with your organization challenges.

It also helps to just talk about the issues you're facing in your daily life. So many times, ADD/ADHD sufferers tend to hold these feelings inside. They think that what they're going through is somehow different from what other people are going through. Once you talk about it, you learn that you're not alone. More than that, you are understood and supported.


The idea of adult ADD/ADHD may be very new to you. It might be something you really don't know anything about. Learning as much as you can will ease a lot of your anxiety. It will also give you a great deal of insight into what your condition is.

Family Therapy and Support

Your family is your biggest support system. They may not understand your condition either. Family therapy can help with this. It will educate you and your family and help to improve your relationships with them.

Medications Used to Treat Adult ADD and ADHD

There are several different medications that are commonly used to treat adult ADD/ADHD. These include:

  • Focalin
  • Adderall
  • Vyvanse
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Daytrana

The above medications are all stimulants. Two out of three adults with ADD/ADHD take one of these medications. As a result, they experience relief with many of their symptoms. However, they are not right for everyone. They can be addictive for some people. This is particularly true if there is already a history of addiction present. It can also be hard to remember to take them for someone who is forgetful.

There are some non-stimulant medications that have worked well for many people. Strattera and Intuniv are just two examples.

Regardless of what medication is recommended for you, the key is to find something that works well.

Drugs or Alcohol Commonly Chosen by Those with Adult ADD/ADHD

Adults who suffer from ADD or ADHD will frequently choose substances that counteract their symptoms. They may be spending their days with racing thoughts and fidgety actions. They want something that will help to calm them down.

For this reason, it's not uncommon for them to choose marijuana or alcohol as their drugs or choice. However, it's also important to note that there are other options too. Not all adults with ADD/ADHD feel the need to quiet their symptoms with substances. They may enjoy the feelings they experience because of their conditions. In these cases, they may be drawn to abuse their ADHD medications. This is usually done by taking more of the drug than they should. They may also crush the pills to increase their effects.

Addiction and Adult ADD/ADHD: What's the Connection?

Many adults with ADHD or ADD will gravitate toward substance abuse. In fact, according to ADDitude, 15% of adults with this disorder have abused substances during a 12-month period. This is almost three times the amount of people who use without ADD or ADHD.

The question is, why?

The answer is self-medication. Many of these individuals aren't using to get high, necessarily. They have other motives for abusing drugs or alcohol. They may want to improve their sleep, improve their moods or just quiet their symptoms.

When individuals with ADD or ADHD get older, the exterior hyperactive component tends to diminish. However, on the inside, they may still be suffering. Their thoughts are racing, and they need something to help them. Substances offer them an easy way out.

When an addiction is present alongside ADD or ADHD in adults, these are known as co-occurring disorders.

Treating The Co-Occurring Disorders of Adult ADHD/ADD and Addiction with Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment (or integrative addiction treatment) can help. In the past, patients with co-occurring disorders were treated for their conditions separately. They may be treated for the addiction first, without concern for the causes behind it. Once their detox period was over, and they were stable, they received treatment for any mental health issues.

This was problematic for a few reasons. First and foremost, this method failed to address the reasons for the addiction. Without addressing the root cause, people often relapsed back into substance abuse. Relapses are very dangerous. After a period of sobriety, people who relapse are at a very high risk for overdosing.

Integrative addiction treatment changed this immensely. By combining psychotherapy and addiction treatment, patients were able to recognize why they chose to use substances. Adult ADD/ADHD sufferers learned how to cope with their symptoms in healthy ways. Their symptoms received the treatment they needed, and their need to rely on substances decreased.

Dual diagnosis treatment is the best way to treat a co-occurring disorder. It has changed the lives of so many adult ADD/ADHD sufferers for the better.

How to Find an Integrative Addiction Treatment Facility for Adult ADD/ADHD

As you've read through the above information, it's likely that you've realized that you need help. You meet many of the criteria for ADD/ADHD, and you also have an addiction. Please know that you're not alone. The good news is that there are many new approaches to treating addiction that are helping many people. Among these approaches is dual diagnosis treatment.

It's important to find an addiction treatment facility that can offer you the help you need. Your goal is recovery, and so, you should look for programs that offer:

  • Drug or alcohol detox if it is recommended for you
  • Professionals who specialize in treating co-occurring disorders
  • Referrals for outpatient treatment
  • Tailored treatment plans that are specific to your needs
  • Small patient populations to maximize your time with staff members

You'll find all of the above at Northpoint Washington.

Our goal is to address the source of your addiction. In doing so, we've been able to increase our success rates substantially. Your recovery is very important to us, and that fact is reflected in everything we do.

Are you struggling with adult ADD/ADHD and addiction? If you are, you need the right kind of treatment. Contact us today to learn more.