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Blog-the truth about add_adhd and substance abuse

The Truth About ADD/ADHD And Substance Abuse

Children and teens with ADD/ADHD are 2.5 times more likely to develop an addiction or substance use disorder (SUD), according to a research paper published in Pediatrics.

Did you know that that children with ADD/ADHD are:
• Twice as likely to use nicotine
• Almost twice as likely to develop a dependence on alcohol
• Approximately 1.5 times more likely to use marijuana recreationally
• Twice as likely to develop cocaine dependence

The fact that 11% of school-age children have received a medical diagnosis of ADD/ADHD—a 16% increase since 2007 and a 41% increase in the past decade—raises the red flag on the issue.

Drugs & ADD/ADHD

Even more alarming is that drugs such as:
1. Marijuana
2. Inhalants
3. Pain medications
4. Alcohol abuse
…interfere with the action of first-line medications or supplements used to treat ADD/ADHD.

Does Substance Abuse Affect Brain Function?

Not only does substance abuse disturb brain function, but it also disrupts brain development. Almost everyone knows this is true for babies exposed to substances during development, but most people don’t realize that teenagers and young adults are still vulnerable because the brain continues to develop until around the age of 25.

Why Can’t I Just Say No? The Brain’s Self-Control Circuit

The brain systems that drive you to seek out things that bring you pleasure are the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which puts on the brakes when you are about to engage in risky behavior, work in concert to create your self-control circuit. In a healthy self-control circuit, an effective PFC provides impulse control and good judgment while the deep limbic system offers an adequate dose of motivation so you can plan and follow through on your goals. You can say no to alcohol, hot fudge sundaes, cigarettes, gambling, sex fetishes, and many other bad behaviors.

The PFC is diminished and the drive circuits take control. When the PFC is underactive, it can create an imbalance in the reward system and cause you to lose control over your behavior. When this is the case you are more likely to fall victim to your cravings. Having low activity often results in a tendency for impulse-control problems and poor internal supervision.

In this video, Dr. Elizabeth Stuller talks about the brain areas involved in addiction, including the prefrontal cortex—the area responsible for ADD/ADHD symptoms.

We Can Help

At the Amen Clinics, we can help you and your loved ones overcome the stigma and suffering associated with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, brain injury, weight loss, addictions, memory issues, brain fog, and other emotional and cognitive issues. If you are ready to regain control over your life or help a loved one do the same, give us a call at 888-288-9834 or click here to ask a question.

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  1. Tanju Surmeli says:

    The hippocampus and the amygdala store information about environmental cues associated with the desired substance, so that it can be located again. These memories help create a conditioned response — intense craving — whenever the person encounters those environmental cues.

    Cravings contribute not only to addiction but to relapse after a hard-won sobriety.

    • Rotem Pedahzur says:

      I was hoping to see a comment like this. Addiction is a learned behavior that is reinforced to varying levels of brain development, route of administration, number of uses, self-awareness, arbitrary social rules on what drugs or ligands are okay and which aren’t, dosage, duration of use, duration or time abstinent, genetics and so forth. It’s best to think of addiction as learning because the same process (LTP) occurs in both situations. Addiction being much stronger of a synoptic connection and less likely for interference via (LTD) the opposite process, which contributes to the “use it or lose it,” characteristic of human brains. The prefrontal cortex is just a single site of the reward or motivation pathway that is strengthened with drug use or any sort of dopamnergic releasing activity’s like sex, eating, and in general feelings of adequacy and accomplishment. The article here massively over simplified the topic. But best to put it like this, PTSD is resistant to almost all forms of treatment. PTSD is a strong memory that shares many properties with drug addiction. They are strong memories that often are resilient to treatment via memory extinction, and reinstate months after recovery with no context what so ever. Either as relapse in addicts or episodes in those traumatized. Hope people read this and get a cleaner understanding of what makes drugs be addictive and why it’s so hard to break that addiction.

      • Kim says:

        I read ur comment n liked ur review….So ….. a child taking a Med to help their brain is not really helping? It’s adding to their possible future addiction because the Med supplements the brain n it will need it to make it fire correctly?
        I’ve read so much about .. food being a culprit, example .. too much sugar, carbs ….
        He’s 6 and I feel guilty giving him a drug… with the possibility of adding fuel to the fire.
        Is there a new “idea” on helping kids without drugs?
        Especially with one parent diagnosised with PTSD? And one parent with ADHD?.

  2. karin woodson says:

    Hi, wondering what kind of treatment you do for a young people with drug addictions and possible head trauma?
    We live in Melbourne Fl. Is there a treatment center near me?
    Karin Woodson

  3. Nancy says:

    Any treatment centers near Chicago

  4. Elaine Newton says:

    Any centers near Santa Clarita CA?

  5. Debra Filla says:

    How do prescribed drugs, e.g. Ritalin, factor into these statistics? Increase, decrease, or no change?

  6. Jenna Davis says:

    HI , are there any offices in Dallas TX?

  7. Karen ARMSTRONG says:

    I purchased yr PBS series and read all your articles. Have been battling severe depression, chronic pain and insomnia for over 10 years. I fell 14ft and landed on my head but have had ADD since 10. I am 57. I can’t come to CA for an appointment and hoping so.edgy you will open clinics in Texas. My question is what is your option of brain stimulator like the Fisher-Wallace stimulator or the MyoCalme. I just got one and it seems to help my ability to sleep. Nothing I have tried has helped me sleep before. But I don’t want to damage my brain. Can you comment on their use? After 4 surgeries I am no longer on oxycodone and this stimulator seems to reduce my pain. I don’t take any painkillers any more at all

    • Toni says:

      There is a new clinic in Dallas that does stem cell treatment; however, they also do a wide variety of other natural treatments. The lead doctor is both an MD and a functional medicine doctor, so he can cover all aspects, and some of it is covered by insurance since he’s a MD.

      Blessings to you!!

      • Kandy Wyrick says:

        What is the name of this place in Dallas that does stem cell ? I’m 4 hrs from there… thank you for your input & help.

  8. Deborah Rhodes says:

    Karen, check out NaturalHealth365.com for information on how Niacin helps with depression and the ability to sleep. With sufficient sleep, your body may heal and reduce the chronic pain. They mention 3000 mg of niacin daily in divided doses.

    Want to share with you that in 2008 I went through an emotionally stressful time and came down with shingles in my brain and my left eye.. Because of my study of nutrition and natural health, I knew that the brain REQUIRES SLEEP. I triangulated between my couch, kitchen and bathroom for 3 months as I slept for 14-16 hours a day. No TV, no reading, no lawncare, etc. My opthalmologist told me that I was lucky not to have committed suicide as people with shingles in the brain often do because of the pain. The extra sleep and super nutrition saved me.

    Good luck! Deborah

  9. Cory says:

    Is this risky behaviour caused by the brain seeking out hits of dopamine?
    Do you have any centres in Canada?

  10. Betty Murphy says:

    My daughter has been an alcoholic for 35 years. She has been unable to maintain sobriety for more than a few months. She has been in many treatment facilities, had DUI ‘s, been homeless etc. We refuse to give up trying to find her some appropriate help. We live in the western Massachusetts area. Where is your closest treatment to the greater Springfield area.
    Betty Murphy

  11. Alyson Fitsimmons says:

    I live in Dayton Tennessee which is north of Chattanooga. I am interested in biofeedback how do I find a local office doing this. Thanks

    • Amen Clinics says:

      Hello Alyson, thank you for reaching out. Our Care Coordinators are available to assist you with referrals in your area for services and SPECT scans. Please call us at 888-288-9834.

  12. CJVP says:

    First of all, the people writing comments probably don’t appreciate their full names posted.

    I would like to know if there has been any experience of treating someone with addiction to adderall that also has skin picking disorder? There is now a side effect listed for Adderall called Dermatillomania, which is skin picking. There are psychiatrist prescribing refills of Adderall with over-the-phone check-ups that are completely missing this side effect. Doctors should NEVER be able to write or renew a prescription without the person in their office in front of them.

  13. Kelly says:

    3 yrs ago, I was in a very bad car accident and suffered from a tbi. My adhd is worse, how?

  14. Lin says:

    How much does this treatment/program/center cost? I’m sure it varies but no mention of cost anywhere…esp. if no or poor coverage insurance.

  15. Tim Anderson says:

    Very well explained. Thanks so much!


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