Teenage ADHD and Substance Abuse: Is There a Connection?

It is well documented that our teenage years are a period in our lives where many of us struggle with emotional and physical changes during the transition to adulthood. Risk-taking behaviour can be part of that journey, leading to the potential for substance abuse.

There is a further complication when ADHD impacts a teenager’s ability to regulate their behavioural choices. Is there an obvious connection between teenage ADHD and substance abuse?

Help with substance abuse disorder is available through detox programs in Utah, for instance, but it also helps to understand the heightened risk facing teenagers with ADHD so that they can get the right level of support at every point.

Why are teenagers with ADHD more vulnerable?

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Medical research tends to conclude that teenagers with ADHD have a greater propensity to experiment with drugs than other young adults. The fundamental reason for this is that they can be attracted to a substance that makes them feel calmer and more in control of their emotions.

It is thought that young people with ADHD have brains that are wired in a way that makes them more sensitive to the impact of the drugs they are taking. This increases the intensity of their impact and can have the effect of driving them towards substance abuse at a faster rate.

An underlying reason for a teenager with ADHD experimenting with drugs such as marijuana and alcohol is often due to seeking relief from their symptoms rather than specifically looking to get high.

A classic trait of ADHD is hyperactivity and the feeling that your brain is racing through various thoughts at an uncontrollable speed. Taking substances becomes attractive when it calms things down for them.

What are the other risks teenagers with ADHD are exposed to?

There is a school of thought that the medication taken for ADHD increases their vulnerability to experimenting with substances when presented with the opportunity. There is no medical evidence to suggest that there is a proven connection between ADHD medication and increased substance abuse.

One potential issue to consider is that when a young person has another mental health disorder to contend with alongside their ADHD, such as depression or anxiety, this can make it difficult to form relationships. This sense of isolation can drive them to hang out with kids who are more open to the idea of breaking the rules and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Helping teenagers with ADHD to face the dangers of substance abuse

Parents with teenagers who have ADHD have to be extra vigilant as well as provide the usual level of parental support and guidance.

Talking to them early about the inherent dangers and increased risk because of their ADHD is always a good idea. Telling them that they are more at risk of substance abuse as a result of their ADHD can help them to develop coping skills and be more open to seeking help if and when they need it.

With the help of parental support and family therapy, combined with behavioural treatment, a teenager with ADHD can find the right way to address their inner turmoil, without resorting to substance abuse.

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