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Though I like to focus on the strengths that come with ADHD, the reality is I wouldn’t be blogging if it was always smooth sailing, now would I? I promised to be real on here and the reality is that anyone living with ADHD knows that the condition comes with a fair number of challenges.

One of them is substance abuse and the statistics are staggering. It is said that between 30-50% of those living with ADHD will try drugs or alcohol in the hopes of improving their abilities, numbing their fears, decreasing their anxiety, and coping with painful issues and past traumas. Self-medicating may seem like a good idea in the short-term, but in the long-term it will result in a host of other addiction-related problems.

Wendy Richardson MA, MFCC, CAS, author of the best-selling book The Link Between ADD and Addiction explains, “The problem is that self-medicating works at first. It provides the person with ADHD relief from their restless bodies and brains. For some, drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and “speed” enable them to focus, think clearly, and follow through with ideas and tasks. Others chose to soothe their ADHD symptoms with alcohol and marijuana.

People who abuse substances, or have a history of substance abuse are not “bad” people. They are people who desperately attempt to self-medicate their feelings, and ADHD symptoms. Self-medicating can feel comforting. The problem is, that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction related problem which over time make people’s lives much more difficult.

What starts out as a “solution”, can cause problems including addiction, impulsive crimes, domestic violence, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relationships, families, and death. Self-medicating ADD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline.”

That last part has been stuck with me since the first time I read it in her book. It makes so much sense to those of us on the outside, looking in. It is so easy to see clearly when you aren’t the one affected. It isn’t that simple for the addict though.

They can’t see what we see. Addiction is a disease that fools even the addict. It sits on their shoulder and tells them whatever they want to hear. It blocks out the ugliness they can’t deal with by covering everything with darkness, until they feel nothing. Their families and friends struggle to reach them and pull them back into the light but it’s never easy for either side. The brightness can be too harsh and the pain too much to fight with only good intentions. And so the struggle continues.

It doesn’t have to be a losing battle though. So many have overcome addictions using treatment plans that include medical interventions, therapy, 12-step programs and the support of the friends and families. There are so many inspiring stories out there and so much support to be found in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, from people who’ve been there and survived to tell about it.

So, where do you start if you or someone you love suffers from this disease?

The first step to dealing with a substance abuse problem is recognizing that there is a problem. To do that it helps to understand the disease better.

  • What signs should be looking for?
  • What might be causing it?
  • What part do genetics have to play?
  • What changes can be made to improve your situation?
  • What treatment options are right for you or someone you love?
  • How do you take care of yourself, if you love someone suffering with an addiction?
  • Etc.

I’ll be posting some helpful links over the next few weeks to help address this challenge. If you’re reading this and have any links to share, please feel free to comment below or send me a message.

Substance abuse is something I hope to teach both my sons to avoid. Given our genetic pre-disposition for it and the fact that Donovan has ADHD, it won’t be easy.

I can use all the help I can get.

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6 Responses to ADHD and Substance Abuse

  1. Onetiredmumandwife says:

    thank you for shedding light on this. i like the way you write – with compassion and respect for those who struggle.

  2. JazzyJ says:

    Yes A disease that fools even the addict and everyone they love. I will be watching for the next posts about this. I like this blogs realness.

  3. Thanks Onetiredmumandwife and JazzyJ. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me to know that someone is reading the blog and finding a few helpful tidbits. Thanks!

  4. Lucy Loo's Mommy says:

    Very respectful take on something I would guess you’ve dealth with (you mentioned genetics at the end?) I would be much less kind if I were in your shoes. Being a parent is ENOUGH to deal with. ADHD is just Arrrrrr! some days. And then there’s this to think about? I’m sending you happiness and love, from one Mom to another. Keep writing.

  5. Patrick says:

    I have both and it is *%^$# HARD to get through the day. Noone understands. Everyone wants to judge but noone wants to help. If I could just quit I would have by now. Plenty of people eat too much but noone trying to get them into a program to fix them. I’m tired of all of it. Some days I don’t even know why I get out of bed that day. Your kid’s lucky you want to help him avoid it all.

  6. Hi Patrick, please check your email. I have sent you a message with some links to ADHD-friendly resources you may find helpful on this subject. Check it out and let me know if you like any of them.

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