How to Prevent Your ADHD Child from Becoming an Addict
Author: Shernide Delva
There have been several studies that confirm a strong connection between ADHD, drug abuse, and alcoholism. ADHD is five to 10 times more common in adult alcoholics than it is in people without the condition. Close to 25 % of adults treated for substance abuse have some form of ADHD.
Children are notorious for being easily distracted and high energy; however children with ADHD have serious symptoms that if left untreated, can result in a host of problems. Children with ADHD tend to start abusing alcohol in their teenage years. One study found that in their early teenage years, 40% of children with ADHD began using alcohol, compared to 22% of children without an ADHD diagnosis.
Children with ADHD often feel like they have to go to extreme lengths to feel ordinary pleasure. Therefore, it is reasonable for parents of children with ADHD to worry about the potential of that child having an addiction.
“Addiction and use problems are eight times more common in the ADD population,” said Edward Hallowell, MD, child and adult psychiatrist and author of Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child.
Children with ADHD have a variety of symptoms. Children with ADHD show signs of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity.
- Squirm and fidget
- Do not seem to listen
- Have trouble playing quietly
- Often talk excessively
- Interrupt or intrude on others
- Are easily distracted
- Do not finish tasks
Hallowell continues to explain that children with ADHD grow up to be vulnerable to addiction and compulsive. They often fall into gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction and/or substance abuse.
If you have ADHD, there is a higher chance that your child also has ADHD. Monitor your child to ensure they are not exhibiting similar issues. Often, these children struggle with self-esteem problems and do poorly academically. These feelings of insecurity at such an early age are detrimental because later own; they may feel compelled to self-medicate to change their inner-state.
Fortunately, symptoms of ADHD appear far before substance abuse begins. That is why understanding ADHD symptoms and getting your child the help they need is critical. Try alternatives to medications first such as a routine exercise program and counseling. If symptoms continue, it may be a good idea to discuss your options with a psychiatrist.
If your child does fall into substance abuse, you should automatically consider the possibility of ADHD. It is possible that treatment could reduce the chance of your child falling into destructive behaviors in the long run. In some cases, the use of stimulants can be more helpful than harmful.
“It’s a common misunderstanding that if you’re prone to addiction, you can’t be put on stimulants, but that’s so self-defeating because it’s what [people with ADHD] need so they won’t self-medicate with the wrong things,” says Hallowell. “By being put on stimulant medication, those with ADHD dramatically reduce the risk of abusing alcohol or cocaine or gambling or whatever they lean toward. Some doctors won’t prescribe stimulants to those with ADHD who have a history of addiction, which is sort of saying ‘we’re going to punish you for using the wrong medication by refusing to give you the right medication.’ Then these patients are left with sub-standard intervention.”
Furthermore, it is critical that those who suffer from ADHD symptoms are adequately diagnosed and given the right medications if needed. Still, it is possible that your child may abuse their ADHD medication if prescribed. Watch out for signs like:
- Looking wired, nervous, or anxious
- Losing weight
- Finishing their prescriptions earlier
Parents need to understand how ADHD relates to substance abuse. If there is an issue of drug abuse, take it seriously. By understanding how ADHD and substance abuse are correlated, you may be able to help your child overcome the addiction and the ADHD.
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