People with ADHD are far more likely than the general population to develop addictions to drugs and alcohol. As children, they tend to be impulsive. ADHD makes it difficult to succeed in school and kids with ADHD often become socially alienated. These are early risk factors for addiction. Adults with ADHD usually learn to control their behaviour, but they often struggle with racing thoughts. They may drink heavily or use drugs to try to calm their mind.
Getting ADHD under control is a crucial part of addiction recovery. Unfortunately, the most common medications for ADHD, Ritalin and Adderall, are stimulants that are prone to misuse. People with a history of addiction are often reluctant to take a medication that might become addictive. Sometimes that is a risk worth taking, but there are some other interventions that may be worth trying first.
Brains are complex and a lot can go wrong without proper nutrition. First, try eliminating sugary foods and drinks. These cause your insulin to spike, causing brain fog, fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration. A good first step is replacing soda with water or tea.
Next, try adding an omega-3 supplement. Or eat plenty of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or tuna. People with ADHD often have too little omega-3 in their blood. You can’t make it yourself, but you need it to think properly. Omega-3s form the insulation in your brain so signals travel efficiently. Look for a supplement that has a ratio of EPA to DHA of at least two to one.
Finally, people with ADHD often have low levels of zinc, iron, and B6. Supplementing these might improve your focus. You may want to get your levels of zinc and iron checked and consult with a doctor or dietician about how much to take because too much is bad for you. Take as much B6 as you want.
Exercise has been shown to improve the brain’s executive function, or the ability to direct attention and anticipate problems. Aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for 20 to 30 minutes seems to be the most effective for this, but the most important thing is to do something you enjoy and will do regularly. It might help to do a sport or activity that demands concentration. Martial arts, dance, yoga, and tai chi all require concentration and awareness.
Part of managing ADHD is just learning to use your brain more effectively. Everyone is prone to distraction sometimes and everyone can learn to focus better. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helps you develop new skills and ways of thinking to help manage your racing mind.
Castle Craig Hospital is a landmark of addiction and mental health treatment in Scotland, serving the UK, the EU, and patients from all over the world. Our commitment to long term abstinence has created a successful programme of clinical and complementary therapies for mind, body, and spirit. Serving over 10,000 patients for more than 25 years, the Castle Craig model is proven in changing lives. Call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line for information: 0808 231 7723. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 23, 2020