ADD and Addiction Have a Direct Relationship

This website is strongly focused on awareness regarding ADD and addiction. Because addiction is one of the most formidable symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder and because sobriety rarely boasts long term success rates of over ten percent, (1) it certainly deserves serious attention.

Below are some passages that I’ve chosen from various books that describes the correlation between ADD and addiction. The prefrontal lobe, which is the rational, judging, organized, conscience part of your brain is operated by the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Dopamine, and its receptors, play a key role in the brain with the perceptions of pain and pleasure. The dysfunction of this Dopamine system is symptomatic of both ADD and Addiction. Is it a coincidence that the brain profile of an individual with ADD matches the profile of an alcoholic or addict? Is it possible many addicts and alcoholics have undiagnosed ADD?

  • Addiction may be an attempt to self-medicate. Scientists believe that self-medicating, with a substance such as cocaine or alcohol, is based on biological processes. The substance interacts with various neurotransmitter systems and, consequently, reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, or even distractibility. The brain then craves the substance to maintain its preferred balance. (4)
  • Teenagers with ADD and ADHD, particularly if left untreated, are at risk for drug and alcohol abuse. Impulsivity, high energy, frustrations, risk-taking behavior and low self esteem all add to the likelihood that the ADD-er can end up in a trouble situation. (9)
  • Those who have ADD and ADHD are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem. (3) The underlying cause for developing ADD & the underlying cause for developing addiction may be related. Several perfusion abnormalities in brain areas related to behavior (frontal lobes) have been found in people with substance abuse problems. (4)
  • Abuse is directly related to dysfunction (damage to the dopamine system) in areas of the brain involved in higher thought and decision-making, where there are a high concentration of dopamine receptors. In addition to medical treatment, behavioral interventions can be effective. (6)
  • With the use of fMRI and PET scans you can see blood-flow to those areas that motivate behavior as the dopamine system fires up. You can see the lack of blood flow in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for clear thinking. Anyone who's known an addict has seen what it looks like when something goes terribly wrong with those systems. (8)

As Mental Health issues including depression and addictions are now affecting one third of our local households, (2) I hope to offer some great resources for mitigating the resulting negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as, offer hope to those who struggle with substance abuse.

These are a few statistics that may interest you:

  1. 40% of ADD/ADHD patients are alcoholics. (3)
  2. 20% of ADD/ADHD patients are drug addicts (3)
  3. 25% of ADD/ADHD patients have a mood disorder (depression) (3)
  4. 50-80% of prisoners have ADD as a component of their psychiatric picture. 80% of chronic repeat offenders in the justice system had learning disabilities and histories consistent with ADD (4)
  5. 30-50% of children with Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD are held back at least one year and 25%-36% never complete High School (5)
  6. An ADD brain is unable to inhibit or to put the brakes on certain thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or cravings and, therefore, is prone to addiction. (4)
  7. ADD is highly identified as a manic disorder. Drugs, such as stimulants, make sufferers feel like they can manage their lives. ADDers may feel that it handles their anxiety and problems, or just numbs them so that they go away. The major problem with self-medicating is that both the substances and the act of self-medicating are addictive. There are treatment programs that treat both ADD and addiction together. (7)
  8. Taking drugs produces a blast of dopamine in the brain that no other activity can match. In addition, some drugs act far more powerfully and rapidly to produce addiction than others. Crack cocaine and injected heroin are the worse in that regard. (8)

I'd like to take a moment to say that I've learned alot about ADD from Daniel G. Amen, MD. He began studying the brain with brain scans and now seems to be a leading expert in his field. I believe he has three ADD children of his own which has lead him to become an expert on that subject. In his recent newsletter topic, The PFC-Depression-Addiction Connection, he stated, "I came across an interesting study that links low activity in the prefrontal cortex with depression and a greater risk for relapse among substance abusers." (10)

Researchers found that there was a connection between reduced activity in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) and depression, which indicated a higher chance for relapse. He finished by adding "What I find so fascinating about this study is that it reinforces my belief that addictions aren't simply a lack of willpower or a sign of weakness; they can be symptoms of a troubled brain. And when you fix the brain, you often fix the addiction." (10) You may wish to sign up for his Newsletters, Brain in the News, at

You will also have an opportunity to order natural brain supplements and books at his online store. I enjoyed his books Healing ADD and Making a Good Brain Great. I believe there are also online tests that will help determine whether or not you have ADD and there are similar tests in his book Making a Good Brain Great that will help you determine and balance your own brain chemistry. (10)

I was familiar with very little of the information available on this page before Chad became addicted to alcohol. Of course, I never thought my sweet son would become addicted to alcohol, let alone Crack, especially, since he had successfully taken a stand against hard drugs all through High School. Do not underestimate the influence of gateway drugs such as alcohol, marijuana and pain medications! Do not underestimate the brain's need to find balance. The brain doesn't care if it has been introduced to an illegal drug or a prescribed medication, it just knows that finally help has arrived.

I had an excellent rapport and communication with Chad. I was naïve as to the undermining affect that shame and denial have upon a teenager struggling with substance abuse. They want to be grown up and Chad desperately wanted to handle his own problems. As parents, we can’t afford to be naïve and complacent.

You may read more about how our lives changed forever in four short months.

Learn how ADD lead to a crack addiction, a drug problem in Vail.

For insight into what it's like to live with an Attention Deficit Disorder, you may read how ADD lead to Addiction, My Life's Story and also An Unfinished Life

Crack Cocaine in Vail and Crack Cocaine Addiction-Chad's Story by News Reporter

As Einstein said."You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."

A loved one who suffers from ADD or ADHD, and its common symptoms of depression and addiction , is rarely capable of seeing clearly enough to fix their own problem. THEY NEED YOUR HELP!

Never Give Up!


(1)The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A.

(2)Eagle County Health Department

(3) a network of specialized behavorial health care services

(4)Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. &John J. Ratey, M.D. Book "Answers to Distraction"

(5)Language Disorders Across the Lifespan by Betsy Partin Vinson, M.M.Sc.,CCC/SLP

(6)National Institute on Drug Abuse

(7)Add/Adhd Alcohol Drug Treatment

(8)Men's Health Magazine, October,2005 issue "The Addicted Man"

(9)Case Study and Research Paper, University of Colorado
(10) Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D.