ADHD and Alcohol Addiction: A Connection?

ADHD and Alcohol Addiction: A Connection?

Half of adults who have reported experiencing symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, have also reported to have experienced a misuse of substances. This finding has begged the question of whether these conditions are linked in some way. Does an ADHD diagnosis put you at a greater risk of abusing substances? Is that due to a genetic condition or merely circumstantial? Over the years there has been increasing question regarding the overlap of these conditions and whether or not they are genetically linked. There is some evidence that there are some unique and overlapping characteristics of those with ADHD and alcohol addiction.

The Regensburg Study

A study at the University of Regensburg was composed of 314 adult alcoholics, 262 male participants and 52 females, and 220 control subjects who were otherwise in good health and not related to anyone in the group of alcoholics. All of the 534 adults who participated in the study were of German descent. The study began with an assessment of each participants’ mental and psychiatric health, noting ADHD, alcoholism, nicotine addiction and APD (antisocial personality disorder). Those with a history of drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia as well as other psychiatric disorders were not included in the study.

Monika Johann is a medical doctor, research associate and the primary author on the study. She notes “our results indicate that individuals with persisting ADHD symptoms in adulthood seem to be at high risk of developing an alcohol-use disorder.” The study continues to find that the participants experiencing ADHD had typically experienced a more intense and severe dependency on alcohol.

Role of Genetics

From the group of participants, both the control group and group in question, their genes were examined for differences that might note a link between ADHD and alcoholism, this process is known as genotyping. At the conclusion of the initial genotyping, it was clear that neither genes had contributed to the probability of experiencing both ADHD and alcoholism simultaneously. It is important to mention that there is still the possibility of genetic predisposition as only two genes were studied and there still could be others that have commonality. 

Though no genetic links were discovered in this particular study, there were several noticeable characteristics of participants in the group who experienced both ADHD and alcoholism. Ema Loncarek, medical doctor and clinician at University of Regensburg’s psychiatric program, believes that the data collected from the recent study supports the theory that those with ADHD may be at a greater risk for struggling with alcoholism. 

The study observed several overlapping characteristics of those with ADHD and alcoholism. Participants who experienced ADHD developed a dependency on alcohol at a much younger age and on average consumed far greater quantities of alcohol on a monthly basis, compared to those who did not experience ADHD. 

Uniqueness of ADHD and Addiction

The study continued to mention that ADHD and alcoholism is consistent to what has been seen in those with ADHD and drug addiction. From both the Regensburg study and past studies, it is clear that treating individuals with both ADHD and a form of addiction requires a different approach. As previously mentioned, people with ADHD typically begin abusing drugs or alcohol at a younger age and their addictions present more intensely, making the road to recovery often more difficult and longer. 

For example, from the cohort in the Regensburg study, the participants who experienced both ADHD and alcoholism began suffering from alcoholism 5 year younger, drank 50 grams more per day and were two times as likely to have other family members suffer from alcoholism as well.  Because of these findings, the treatment protocols must be highly specialized to address the unique needs.

Alcohol Rehab in Colorado

At Continuum of Colorado, we understand how complex it can be to have both a mental health condition like ADHD occurring alongside alcoholism. We know that getting help is something that is likely a challenge for you, whether due to denial, excuses, or simply believing that nothing will help. Allow our team to show you that treatment is available and can produce lasting, effective results.

Call us right now to learn more about ADHD and alcohol addiction, as well as how we can help you stop your alcohol addiction, get in control of your ADHD, and begin living the life you want.