Autism, ADHD and Addictions

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that hinders the behavioural and communicative aspect of an individual. Though it is being diagnosed at any age, its symptoms show most in the first two years. The disorder is under a spectrum because every child is different and every child’s reaction to this disorder varying through ages and genders.

  • Genetic – Genetic factors can be two ways; either by chromosomal makeup or family inheritance

  • Neurological – The research focus upon the neurological causes of ASD has been correlated to the exposure of the baby to a neuroleptic medication which may impair cognitive structure as well as the brain parts.

  • Environmental – Studies show that being born to older parents can be a cause for ASD. Many pollutant exposures can cause ASD in fetuses or children. Maternal obesity, diabetes or any other chronic illness can hinder proper development.

It can be treated through ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis uses a one-to-one teaching approach in making positive changes in their behaviour and eliminating the negative or rejecting behaviour patterns. Speech therapy – It is made for those ASD patients who have major issues in speech areas like language delays or repetitive speaking one word. Also, occupational therapy and dietary recommendations can target specific problems.

ADHD has many comorbidities due to excessive neural activity, abusive or pathological family environment, co-occurring mental illnesses and many other social factors. Through a study of 1919 subjects with ADHD, around 60% had comorbid learning disorders, 20% of them had an oppositional defiant disorder and 12% had alcohol addiction or drug addiction. In some cases, they had conduct disorder and antisocial personality signs in later adolescence.

Substance Use Disorder affects about 30% of the adults in the developed countries like the UK, USA, Australia etc. Most of them lie in the adolescent population, which implies that the disorder becomes severe at such an early stage. Because it gradually becomes a disorder, alcohol abuse is detected at a later age. This results in academic or intellectual failure, truancy, suicidal behaviours and drug abuse.

In a more specified twin study with ADHD clients, it was observed from their childhood to adolescence, that the hyperactive or impulsivity symptoms of ADHD had a higher risk for early-onset tobacco and alcohol use in adolescents. It is studied through many perspectives how the patients of ADHD have addictive symptoms or Substance Use disorder.

  • Neurological perspective talks of the link between ADHD and SUD through the deficits in brain structures. The abnormalities in persons with ADHD have smaller volumes in the cerebellum, frontal cortical and subcortical regions. This related to the delayed dopaminergic system functioning. Moreover, this leads to higher risk and co-occurrence of Substance abuse.

  • In children and adolescents with ADHD, psychologists and mental health professionals report that peer exposure to alcohol, cigarette smoking, drug use is the most powerful antecedent to developing the disorder in these kids. It was seen in an examination of adolescents with ADHD, that they were at risk for tobacco and alcohol abuse due to the affordability and availability of the substances.

  • Risk due to the stimulative medications is also another factor for patients with ADHD. Their medications have addictive constituents which can play a role in developing SUD. It is recommended that psychotherapeutic interventions can be integrated with pharmacotherapy.

Addcounsel – one stop for all the addictive problems

Whether it is just alcohol/drug addiction alone, or with co-occurring disorders such as ADHD; Addcounsel Rehab can assure you that it will provide world-class treatment with a diversified team of psychiatrists, nutritionists, psychologists and physiotherapists. Addcounsel has access to various evidence-based techniques and tools which are effective for each addictive symptom. Alcohol abuse and tobacco abuse usually has an early onset in adolescents with ADHD, and at Addcounsel, we provide personalized treatment services with expertise for the 16+ population.

ADHD and addiction have been linked to neurobiological and social factors in the recent literature. ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and emotional reactivity get triggered by alcohol abuse and drug abuse (benzodiazepines, opiates, Valium).


  1. Reale, L., Bartoli, B., Cartabia, M. et al. Comorbidity prevalence and treatment outcome in children and adolescents with ADHD. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 26, 1443–1457 (2017).

  2. Weissenberger, S., Ptacek, R., Klicperova-Baker, M., Erman, A., Schonova, K., Raboch, J., & Goetz, M. (2017). ADHD, lifestyles and comorbidities: A call for a holistic perspective–From medical to societal intervening factors. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 454.

  3. Zulauf, C. A., Sprich, S. E., Safren, S. A., & Wilens, T. E. (2014). The complicated relationship between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance use disorders. Current psychiatry reports, 16(3), 436.


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