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ADHD, Alcoholism and Other Addictions
by Wendy Richardson, M.A., LMFCC
It is common for people with ADHD to turn to addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, prescription tranquilizers, pain medication, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, cocaine and street amphetamines in attempts to soothe their restless brains and bodies. Using substances to improve our abilities, help us feel better, or decrease and numb our feelings is called self-medicating.

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 failings, and ADHD symptoms. Self-medicating can feel comforting. The problem is that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction-related problems that over time make our lives much more difficult. What starts out as a “solution” can cause problems in-cluding impulsive crimes, domestic violence, addictions, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relation-ships, families, and death. Too many people with untreated ADHD, learning and perceptual disabilities are incarcerated, or dying from co-related addiction.

Self-medicating ADHD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline. You have pain and problems that are burning out of control, and what you use to put out the fire is gasoline. Your life may explode as you attempt to douse the flames of ADHD.

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