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Sobering Advice: How to Treat ADHD Alongside SUD

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders (SUDs) are highly comorbid. They overlap — and their connection is of great concern to researchers, clinicians, and patients alike.

Individuals with ADHD (especially when untreated) are twice as likely to develop a SUD as are individuals without ADHD, and about half of adolescents and one-quarter of adults with SUDs have comorbid ADHD.123 What’s more, ADHD complicates the trajectory of SUD; SUDs are often more severe, complex, chronic, and harder to treat among patients with ADHD compared to those without ADHD.456789But SUDs, even with comorbid ADHD, are treatable.

Retention in substance use treatment is key to recovery, and retention is far more likely when ADHD symptoms are treated. Unfortunately, many patients who have an active SUD (or even a past history of substance use issues) are either not diagnosed with ADHD or, even with a diagnosis, they are denied medication and appropriate treatment for their co-occurring ADHD due to overstated and misplaced fears, bias, and misinformation.

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