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White River Manor is a registered essential service provider and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic continues to offer a world class therapetic Program. We have taken every precaution to maintain the integrity of our environment and screen clients both before and on arrival. Our staff too undergo regular testing and screening to ensure the safety of our clients.


    ADHD and Addiction Treatment

    If you’ve been diagnosed with co-occurring ADHD and addiction or you are living with untreated symptoms of one or both conditions, you’ll know just how challenging it can be.

    As well as dealing with unpleasant symptoms, those living with co-occurring disorders such as ADHD and addiction often, and understandably, wonder which condition came first or what led to the development of either disorder.

    Like the ‘’which came first, the chicken or the egg’’ debate, which took some years to solve, people with ADHD and addiction issues often face more questions than answers.

    So, which condition came first?

    It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why ADHD and addiction frequently coexist together or which condition developed first. 

    However, much of the research literature suggests that those with ADHD (diagnosed or undiagnosed) often turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to cope with the unpleasant symptoms of the condition, which, in turn, puts them at a much higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.

    Here’s what else the research tells us.

    ADHD can increase your risk of substance use as you may self-medicate to cope with unpleasant or undiagnosed symptoms associated with the condition.

    Additionally, studies show that individuals with ADHD have significantly higher risk rates of developing co-occurring addictive disorders compared to those who do not have ADHD due to problems with impulse control, a hallmark symptom of the condition.

    A report from the International Collaboration on ADHD and Substance Abuse found that around one out of six adults with a substance use disorder has ADHD. (The Relationship Between ADHD And Addiction, Verywell mind, Amy Marschall, PsyD, 22 January 2023.)

    As worrying as these statistics are, there are various treatment options available for those struggling with ADHD and addiction issues, offering much hope and promise for people living with one or both conditions.

    This page explores the connection between ADHD and addiction, including symptoms and effective treatments that can help.

    In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the connection between ADHD and addiction or would like to hear more about our treatment programs, the White River Manor team is here to help.

    How we can help you

    If you have ADHD and an issue with addiction, you’ve come to the right place, as we provide a range of evidence-based treatments that help treat your symptoms, explore any underlying issues, and give you the tools to get your life back on track.

    Our typical therapies for treating ADHD and addiction involve a combination of the following:

    Daily one-on-one therapy sessions

    Our esteemed head therapist, Magda Rall, facilitates daily one-on-one client sessions.

    With her extensive experience in rehabilitation, Magda has dedicated her career to helping individuals and families affected by substance use get their lives back on track and break the cycle of addiction through a combination of therapeutic modalities and approaches.

    Her expertise and guidance will equip you with the necessary tools and knowledge to embark on a sober and fulfilling life. 

    Equine-assisted therapy

    Our in-house psychologist and equine specialist, Gert Janse Van Rensburg, has spent much of his career working on complex cases of PTSD and substance addictions.

    He utilises an experiential approach with his clients, founded on the principle of equine therapy.

    Gert notes how horses can profoundly influence the human mind, leading to more favourable outcomes for those in recovery.

    White River Manor also offers a range of behavioural therapies, trauma-informed treatments, group and family support, and experiential therapies such as music and art therapy to ensure you get the most comprehensive and effective treatment program possible.

    Our team understands that each journey to sobriety and wellness is unique.

    That’s why we take pride in our decades of knowledge and experience, which we use to craft personalised treatment programs based on your specific needs and preferences.

    We adapt these programs to align with your long-term goals, ensuring you receive the most effective and tailored care possible.

    To learn more about our treatment programs or for a confidential chat with a specialist, contact our compassionate team today, who will gladly help.

    Living with a co-occurring disorder like ADHD and addiction can be profoundly challenging, particularly without adequate help and support. 

    Our team is always here to listen warmly, support you, and guide you in whatever way you need.

    What is ADHD?

    There are many definitions of ADHD on and offline. However, ADHD UK describes the condition as:

    ‘’A disorder that is defined through analysis of behaviour. People with ADHD, short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with their daily functioning and development.’’ (ADHD UK.) 

    ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that the condition can affect brain function and development, leading to various complications that impact your cognitive, social, and emotional skills and abilities.


    Symptoms of ADHD can present differently in each person. 

    However, typically, the symptoms people with ADHD often experience include:

    • Fidgeting and restlessness.
    • Inattention to detail.
    • Difficulty concentrating or staying on task.
    • Trouble listening to others.
    • Procrastination.
    • Losing or misplacing things often.
    • Disorganisation. 
    • Easily distracted.
    • Forgetfulness.
    • Impulsivity.
    • Bouts of anger or rage.
    • Exhaustion and fatigue.
    • Nervousness and anxiety.
    • Relationship difficulties. 

    ADHD and addiction

    As mentioned, ADHD and addiction often coexist, leading to various complications and challenges for those living with these conditions.

    Here are some reasons why ADHD and addiction often coincide:

    1. Impulsivity 

    As mentioned, a hallmark symptom of ADHD is impulsivity, which causes a person to make risky choices and decisions, including experimenting with substances like drugs and alcohol. 

    Studies have shown that impulsivity increases the likelihood of an individual developing an addiction or substance use disorder.

    2. Co-occurring disorders

    Those with ADHD often have other emotional challenges, called mental health co-occurring disorders. 

    For instance, an individual may have ADHD and depression, or they may have ADHD and anxiety

    The unpleasant symptoms associated with these conditions can make someone more prone to substance use as a way of coping.

    3. Dopamine dysregulation

    Various studies have shown that ADHD and addiction are linked with dysregulation of the brain’s dopamine structure.

    For example, ADHD is associated with lower levels of dopamine in the brain. 

    However, many addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs increase dopamine levels, which provide a pleasurable (albeit temporary) sense of euphoria and reward for individuals with ADHD, making them want to use substances again and again.

    Many people with ADHD use drugs or alcohol to get a dopamine hit, a type of euphoria they wouldn’t usually experience without substances.

    However, regular substance use can lead to addiction issues, where those with ADHD often grapple with both disorders simultaneously, leading to various complications for them and their loved ones.

    What are the symptoms of co-occurring ADHD and addiction?

    Understanding the signs and symptoms of co-occurring ADHD and addiction is vital and can help you (or a loved one) get the help and support you need and deserve much quicker.

    Below are some of the primary symptoms associated with co-occurring ADHD and addiction:

    • Risky behaviour – as mentioned, individuals with ADHD often engage in risky behaviours such as reckless driving and substance use. 
    • Neglecting your responsibilities – you may fail to meet obligations or complete tasks at work, school, or home due to frequent substance use.
    • Increased substance use – you may use more substances or increase the volume or frequency of your substance use to achieve the desired effect.
    • Loss of control over substance use – involves being unable to cut down or regulate your substance use even though you want to.
    • Withdrawal symptoms – you may experience physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms when cutting down or stopping substance use.
    • You continue using substances despite adverse consequences. For instance, you may have health issues or experience relationship difficulties due to substance use, but you cannot stop despite these adverse effects.

    What are the causes of ADHD and addiction?

    Researchers are yet to identify an exact cause for why people with ADHD are more susceptible to developing substance use disorders.

    However, several risk factors have been identified, including:

    • Genetics – having a close relative with a substance use disorder and/or ADHD can put you at significant risk for developing these conditions yourself.  
    • Trauma – individuals with ADHD are more prone to have experienced childhood trauma and adverse experiences in their formative years than those who do not have ADHD. Moreover, studies show that trauma increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder or addiction.
    • Self-treating – those with ADHD may feel tempted to try psychoactive drugs to self-medicate or cope with their ADHD symptoms, such as anxiety or low mood.

    ADHD diagnostic criteria in children and adults


    Children may exhibit different signs and symptoms of ADHD than adults.

    Therefore, the diagnostic criteria will also be different.

    For instance, for your child to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must exhibit six or more symptoms of inattentiveness or six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. 

    They must also:

    • Display symptoms of ADHD before the age of twelve.
    • Display or exhibit symptoms of ADHD for at least six months or longer.
    • Experience symptoms that impact various aspects of their lives, including academic and social.
    • Exhibit symptoms in different contexts (at least two different settings), for instance, in a social setting, such as among friends in their neighbourhood and at school to eliminate any other factors that may contribute to their behaviour, such as a strict parent or school teacher. 


    Adults must exhibit at least five (or more) symptoms of inattentiveness or five symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity to get a diagnosis of ADHD.

    Studies show that for an adult to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must display symptoms that impact various areas of their life and functioning, including: 

    • Driving recklessly.
    • Trouble keeping or maintaining friendships.
    • Complications in intimate relationships. 
    • Underperforming at work, school, or University.

    We’re here to help

    Let’s talk

    Call now for a totally confidential, no-obligation conversation with one of our professionals.

    Treating ADHD and addiction

    Researchers report that the most effective treatment for ADHD and co-occurring substance use disorder is a combination of stimulant or non-stimulant medication and outpatient therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). (The Relationship Between ADHD And Addiction, Verywell mind, Amy Marschall, PsyD, 22 January 2023.)

    Each individual will have different preferences and responses to medication, with some preferring not to use medication as part of their treatment.

    On the other hand, others may opt for non-stimulant medicine only.

    It would help if you felt comfortable with whatever treatment route you choose. After all, this is your life, and only you know what’s best for your health and well-being in the long run.

    Behavioural therapy 

    Many people with ADHD find behavioural therapy incredibly beneficial. 

    For instance, therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy can help you explore and address the underlying factors behind your substance use, allowing you to develop resilience and learn healthier alternatives to coping with your condition and other environmental triggers.

    Community and group support

    Group therapy and community support can be instrumental in treating those with ADHD and addiction, as it gives people the opportunity to connect with others experiencing similar issues.

    Online forums and group support networks can also be beneficial as those with ADHD and co-occurring addiction can speak to others in confidence in the privacy of their own environment, making people feel less judged and shamed.

    Other effective treatments and approaches for treating ADHD and addiction include:

    • Motivational interviewing (MI).
    • Psychoeducation.
    • Trauma treatment, such as EMDR
    • Lifestyle changes that involve cultivating a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.
    • Relapse prevention programs.
    • Aftercare and support.


    Recognising the complex connection between ADHD and addiction is crucial to providing individuals with a practical, well-rounded treatment.

    An integrated, diversified approach to recovery gives individuals the tools and knowledge to manage both conditions and improve their quality of life, leading to lower relapse rates and better outcomes for those in treatment.

    Living with ADHD and addiction can pose many challenges as both conditions often offset each other.

    However, with proper treatment, care, and support, you can learn to manage both conditions and live a life free from the grip of addiction. 

    Contacting White River Manor 

    If you would like further help and support for ADHD and co-occurring addiction, contact one of our friendly specialists today, who will gladly assist.

    Remember, there is no shame in seeking help and support; it takes courage to take the first steps towards a healthier, more optimised life.

    Our team is here to help guide you on this transformative journey.

    Complete the form below to contact the team at White River Manor

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