ADD/ADHD and Adolescent Substance Abuse / Drinking

By: Bradley P. Koffel

"Their foot is on the accelerator but they haven't developed a brake pedal yet." That is the easiest way to describe the normal development of an American teenager's impulsivity.

Factor in ADD / ADHD and the RPM's increase. By nature, teens are hasty in their actions and fail to consider what is at stake. Add in a mix of ADHD and the normally outgoing teen needs more help keeping himself or herself in check. Unwittingly, they self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs.

ADD kids (versus the Hyper-active child) have had difficulty at school since elementary school. By the end of middle school, the ADD teen lost his or her self-esteem simply because they are struggling in school due to their distractibility. This is not a lackluster attitude. They just have a harder time concentrating than their peers. Lower grades and deflated sense of self are high risk factors for teen drinking and drug use. They drink or smoke pot to "feel normal" or "happy" or "to relax". Study after study proves neither alcohol nor marijuana have any beneficial properties to offset the effects of ADD.

The speculation concerning the correlation between ADD / ADHD and substance abuse (including binge drinking) is no longer conjecture. It is fact. Numerous studies just since 2000 have found overwhelming proof that ADD / ADHD diagnosis pre-disposes nearly 50% of the kids to alcohol abuse and other drug use.

Parents today face child-rearing issues never before encountered in the generations before them. Kids are growing up much faster and complicated than just one generation ago. If you are a parent, just ask yourself if your parents can provide you with any competent advice on how to deal with your teen / young adult's problems. It is unlikely. The internet speeds information, both good and bad, positive and negative, right into our homes. Text messaging allows high-schoolers to quickly connect and plot group binge drinking parties.

Kids with parents and grandparents with family history of alcoholism, ADD / ADHD, and Depression are at a higher risk of developing long-term problems with alcohol and other drugs. Early intervention is key.

We recommend that Parents (1) know their family history of alcoholism, ADD / ADHD, and depression; (2) listen to teachers who express concerns about inattentiveness in grade school or middle school; (3) stay on top of where your teen is at all times; (4) and don't think that "this is just a stage that will soon pass". Early intervention is key. Have teens you are concerned about assessed. Take the time to find the leading medical providers for adolescent development to get a very good assessment.

If you wait to address drugs and alcohol with your 17 year old, you will not have time to put remedial steps in place by the time they graduate from high school. The key is getting in front of the ADD / ADHD or depression during the pre-teen years.