ADHD Alcohol

How Alcohol Affects the Brain of Someone with ADHD

There are a few theories as to why people with ADHD may be more likely to abuse alcohol. Some people with ADHD self-medicate to cope with the symptoms of their disorder. Aside from the fact that alcohol is a depressant, it can also help to lower impulsiveness and hyperactivity, both of which are symptoms of ADHD.

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Reviewed by

Dr. Guia Canonizado - Custorio

Mental Health Professional
In this Article
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Understanding the Complex Relationship between ADHD and Alcohol Use Disorder

Some early studies suggest that ADHDis associated with an early onset of alcohol use.

The most typical symptoms of ADHD are restlessness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. People who have these symptoms may find it difficult to concentrate and focus on particular activities at times. They tend to have trouble with behavioral self-control and logical thinking.

ADHD can manifest itself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has always been linked to some comorbid disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. When adults with ADHD experience some of these comorbidities, it can affect their lives in several ways.

If a person with ADHD is not surrounded by functioning emotional support, they might turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of handling their mental health problems. This can be considered as a form of unhealthy coping mechanism because it is an attempt to ease or eliminate some symptoms associated with ADHD through alcohol misuse or drug addiction. The intention for ADHD treatment might be there, but it may impose additional risk factors that may hamper a person's chance of having a more stable lifestyle.

people with ADHD can have a complicated relationship with alcohol

Exploring the Risks of Using Alcohol to Manage ADHD Symptoms

When we are clouded by our emotions, many of us turn to alcohol to wash away our worries and anxiety. There are times that we use alcohol to avoid social awkwardness and blend in with others, or we binge drink until we pass out if we have restless and hyperactive thoughts.

ADHD Alcohol: Social Anxiety

Some people with ADHD manage their symptoms through alcohol consumption and think that there won't be potentially dangerous pharmacological effects on them, especially when they are on ADHD medication. But, the truth is, combining ADHD medications and alcohol misuse produces adverse effects not only on our system but the way we think and behave.

ADHD Alcohol: Negative Consequences of too much alcohol

There's an increased risk that substance use such as alcohol might make it far worse than actually treating adults with ADHD. Substance abuse may be defined as a 'pattern of excessive use of a substance wherein there is an impaired control over behavior and the continued use to pathological levels despite adverse consequences.' This condition may result in a drug abuse problem that can impair our emotional functioning and may cause side effects that are dangerous to one's health.

ADHD Alcohol: Low self-esteem and depression
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The Link Between ADHD, Impulsivity, and Alcohol Use

During early adulthood, some individuals with ADHD may have misused substances or had problems with alcohol. In their opinion, drinking has a beneficial influence on them for a short time without recognizing the consequences or dangers it may bring.

Impulsive behaviors brought by peer pressure might be hard to resist especially if the person has ADHD. Because of this, young adults with ADHD might be forced to have earlier alcohol use because they are in an environment where drinking is rampant. Furthermore, alcohol use is a convenient maladaptive response to anxiety during this period of erratic teenage behavior. Adolescent alcohol drinking may be associated with ADHD because their impulsivity and novelty-seeking behavior can trigger such conditions. To support this theory, studies show that impulsivity, one of the most typical symptoms of ADHD, mediate the relationship between ADHD and alcohol use.

On occasion, alcohol affects the functioning of an ADHD brain. It can cause significant behavioral and emotional changes. The majority of people use alcohol as a means of breaking down their inhibitions, which makes them less nervous about social situations such as going to parties or meeting new individuals. Impulsive behaviors from alcohol use and ADHD may lead to poor judgment, violent behavior, and other negative consequences.

The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: "Many people with ADHD use alcohol to manage hyperactivity symptoms. However, due to their potential for abuse and negative effects on the body, medical professionals never recommend relying on substances such as drugs and alcohol to alleviate symptoms of a mental health problem."
ADHD Alcohol: Dopamine Boost

Managing ADHD Symptoms and Alcohol Consumption: Preventing Future Complications

If you are struggling with a variety of alcohol use disorders, such as early-adult binge drinking, then you must be concerned and on the lookout for substance abuse. Alcohol consumption might only be the start of something far worse.

Substance abuse is not only bound by alcoholic beverages, there are other drugs out there that produce similar effects. With this, alcohol use might just be the gateway for other more serious drug dependence. Binge drinking produces alcohol dependence and tolerance that may lead to drug addiction to satisfy your body's cravings or mask ADHD symptoms. Marijuana involvement and illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy are just some of the other substances that may cause drug dependence.

ADHD Alcohol: Try to undersrtand why ou drink

These are only possibilities that can happen if we fail to manage ADHD symptoms and alcohol consumption. Subsequent substance abuse may occur and if we fail to have ways to effectively treat these conditions, we may have further complications not only on our lifestyle and health but also in socializing with other people. Earlier alcohol prevention strategies can be applied to adults with ADHD not only for the sake of their health but also to prevent future substance use that may lead to other unnecessary risks.

ADHD Alcohol: Do not be ashamed on how or what is your reason on using Alcohol

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

A higher proportion of individuals with ADHD develop alcohol use disorders and substance abuse. Having both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Substance Use Disorder can be a challenging diagnosis, but with prompt professional help, you may be able to live a normal life.

If you're an adult seeking information on ADHD and alcohol use disorder treatment centers, it's important to consult reputable sources online and seek advice from individuals who have faced similar challenges. Learning from the experiences of others can help you develop effective coping skills for managing this mental health condition. Several resources are available to help individuals with ADHD and alcoholism, and incorporating preventative measures can be a valuable part of treatment.

Consider the following tips to help prevent substance abuse while managing ADHD symptoms:

  • Get a proper ADHD diagnosis. Learning your neurodivergent condition and all the characteristics and ADHD symptoms you may experience will get you prepared for your battle. It is easier to treat something you know, than something you are not aware of.
  • Learning you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can lead you to ADHD groups that can help set up coping skills for your condition. People with ADHD have different experiences from yours so you may want to listen to them and know more about their conditions.
  • If as a young adult, you are used to alcohol consumption, try as much as possible to limit yourself and break the habit of earlier alcohol use. Taking alcohol in moderation can lessen the chances of alcohol use disorder.
  • For adults with ADHD and alcohol use disorder, cognitive therapy can be a valuable treatment option to help reduce alcohol dependency. Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping patients understand the underlying motivations behind their behaviors and how these may impact their decision-making process. Through this process, individuals can learn effective coping mechanisms and develop strategies for managing their ADHD symptoms while reducing their reliance on alcohol.
  • If you are on ADHD treatment and taking ADHD medication, ask your mental health professional or clinical psychologist if you are allowed to consume alcohol. Knowing this would prevent you from complications that may arise if an ADHD medication and alcohol are taken at the same time.
  • Limit your exposure to situations that will require drinking alcoholic beverages especially if you know that the outcome of these events is not going to be favorable for you.
  • It's important to take alcohol use disorder seriously, as it can lead to substance abuse and a range of negative consequences. To avoid these risks, it's important to educate yourself about the effects of substance abuse on your body and the people around you.
  • If you are struggling with substance abuse and feel like there's no way out, it's important to remember that you're not alone. One approach that can be effective in addressing substance abuse is to take an alcohol intervention approach with your family and peers. By showing that you're serious about your condition and seeking support from those around you, you can break through the stigma associated with substance abuse and take positive steps towards recovery. Remember that substance abuse is a treatable condition, and there are resources and support available to help you overcome it. Don't hesitate to reach out for help and support from your loved ones, healthcare professionals, or support groups in your community.
ADHD Alcohol: Ask for Help as you do not have to go through this alone


Living with adult ADHD symptoms can be a real challenge, and when you add alcohol into the mix, things can get even tougher. But don't worry, with the right treatment and support, you can manage your symptoms and stay healthy and happy. Remember, drinking may feel like a temporary fix for your ADHD, but it can actually make things worse in the long run. So, let's work together to find ways to manage your ADHD without relying on alcohol or drugs. With a little education and support, we can help you live your best life!

ADHD and Alcohol

ADHD and Alcohol: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can I drink alcohol if I am taking ADHD medication?

It's always a good idea to check with your mental health professional or clinical psychologist before consuming alcohol, especially if you're taking medication for ADHD. They can provide guidance to help prevent any potential complications that may arise from combining alcohol with ADHD medication. It's important to prioritize your health and safety, and seeking advice from a professional can help you make informed decisions.

What should I do if I have both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder?‍

It's important to seek professional help as soon as possible if you are dealing with both ADHD and alcohol use disorder. Untreated, these conditions can impact your life in negative ways. The good news is that there are effective treatments available for both conditions. With the right care and support, it is possible to recover and live a healthier, happier life. Don't hesitate to reach out for help and take the first step towards healing.

What is the connection between ADHD and Alcohol Use Disorder?

It is not clear what exactly causes people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to also have alcohol use disorder. It is possible that ADHD makes people more likely to drink alcohol and that alcohol may make ADHD symptoms worse. Or it could be that people with ADHD are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol to relieve their symptoms. Some studies show that impulsivity, one of the most typical symptoms of ADHD, mediate the relationship between ADHD and alcohol use.

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