ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurological disorder that is mostly associated with difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and difficulty coping with boredom and tedious tasks. When you’re young, ADHD can affect your ability to focus in school and get you in trouble due to impulsive behavior. As an adult, ADHD can affect your performance at work and affect your personal relationships.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of addiction or anyone who knows an addict/alcoholic (which, if you’re looking at this website and reading this blog, you likely have) can see some overlap between those symptoms and the symptoms of addiction, so it’s not surprising that ADHD and addiction often go together. According to the Addiction Center, around 21% of men with ADHD and 13% of women with ADHD abuse drugs or alcohol. Around 25% of adults who enter treatment centers for substance abuse live with ADHD.
You might be wondering, “is there a way to handle ADHD in recovery?” Since this article is on the website for a rehabilitation clinic and is titled “How to Manage ADHD in Recovery”, you can probably see that others have thought of how to grapple with this.
Treating ADHD with Medication in Recovery
The medications commonly used to treat ADHD are where we run into some of the major hurdles for recovery.
Two of the most prescribed medications for ADHD are Adderall and Ritalin, both of which are stimulants, which complicate things. Adderall, in particular, contains amphetamine, a name that probably sounds familiar in regards to drugs that can be abused. The most common side effects of these drugs are sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Both Adderall and Ritalin are effective at combatting symptoms of ADHD, but both are also potentially addictive. This means that if someone in recovery is taking either drug, their usage should be monitored very closely.
The non-stimulant medicines (at this point) have been shown to be slightly less effective than stimulant treatments, but far less addictive. Strattera works on norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter (a chemical in the brain that transmits nerve impulses). The most common side effects of Strattera are nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Other non-stimulant drugs include Kapav (extended-release clonidine) and Intuniv (extended-release granfacine), both of which have FDA approval for use in the treatment of ADHD. These drugs are usually used on people who experience negative side effects from stimulants or Strattera.
Antidepressants are another possible drug type that can be used to treat ADHD. Most antidepressants work by increasing the levels of brain messenger chemicals like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, similar to the way other ADHD medications work. Put in simple, non-doctor terms with words I don’t need to look up the meaning of, they work on the chemistry of your brain in a similar fashion to other ADHD medications.
While antidepressants are generally not as effective as other methods, they are non-habit forming which makes them a good option for those in recovery. Antidepressants commonly used are:
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as Pamelor (nortiptyline), Togranil (imipramine) and Norpramin (desapramine).
- Welbutrin (bupropion)
- Effexor (venlafaxine) and Effexor XR (venlafaxine extended-release)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), though these are rarely used due to the possibility of serious side effects, and generally are the last resort.
Medication is not the only method to treat Adult ADHD. Counseling and group therapy are other methods for treating ADHD and learning how to cope with the symptoms. The most common type of therapy used is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), a form of treatment that focuses on changing thinking patterns. Broadly speaking, strategies used in CBT involve:
- Learning to recognize misconceptions that cause problems and reevaluating them
- Understanding people’s behaviors and motivations
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with challenging situations
- Developing more confidence in your own abilities.
- Facing fears
- Roleplay to prepare for challenging social interactions
- Learning how to calm yourself down in stressful situations
Marital counseling, family therapy, and group therapy can also help counter the effects ADHD has on your personal relationships.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
On top of therapy, there are things you can do daily to handle ADHD without picking up. One of them is using a daily planner, whether digital or written. This can help combat the disorganization, and help you keep track of work assignments. It might also combat the tendency for people with ADHD to procrastinate. Breaking down responsibilities into step-by-step tasks is another good way to stay focused on responsibilities. On top of this, exercise is a great way to handle the excess energy, increase focus, and provide a healthy, non-drug related dopamine hit.
This is a blog about ADHD in recovery, so you probably guessed going to meetings and working through the steps was going to be one of the recommendations. Meetings are a great place to listen to the experience, strength, and hope of other alcoholics, look at your own behavior and make changes, find opportunities to be of service to others, and build a community around yourself. Those things are important for any addict/alcoholic and can provide a massive amount of help for those who are also dealing with ADHD.
OTR Can Help
Oregon Trail Recovery can help you establish a solid foundation in recovery and help build healthy coping mechanisms. Intensive Outpatient is a great resource for any newly sober addict/alcoholic, whether dual-diagnosis or not. Contact us to learn more.