Adult Alcoholism, ADHD Connected
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms include inattention, motor hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Roughly half of the adults who report ADHD symptoms also report a coexisting substance-abuse disorder. New findings published in the October 2003 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research have identified a distinct phenotype or "profile" of individuals with coexisting ADHD and alcoholism.
Researchers examined 314 adult alcoholics (262 males, 52 females) and 220 unrelated healthy control subjects, all of German descent. Each participant was assessed for psychiatric disorders, such as substance-use disorders (including alcoholism), ADHD, and antisocial personality disorder (APD). Patients with a history of major psychiatric disorders, including depression and schizophrenia, and those with addictions to drugs other than alcohol and nicotine, were excluded from the investigation.
The University of Regensburg study has found that adult alcoholics with ADHD had a significantly higher daily and monthly intake of alcohol, an earlier age of onset of alcohol dependence, a higher frequency of thoughts about suicide, a greater number of court proceedings, and a greater occurrence of APD.
ADHD seems to be highly underestimated in adulthood, yet seems to be an important risk factor for the development of alcohol dependence.
ADHD and Alcohol
"Alcohol dependence may be significantly more common among children of alcoholics who were diagnosed with AD/HD or conduct disorder when they were younger, some of whom begin drinking at age 12 and are already alcoholics by age 14. These findings from researchers at the University of Iowa appear in the December 2001 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Samuel Kuperman, M. D, lead author of the study, said he was surprised at the early onset of drinking among the teens who participated in his study. Research of non-ADD children has shown that many people begin drinking around age 14. "These kids started drinking at a very early age," said Kuperman, adding that parents often times don't realize how much their children are drinking. "I knew that we could expect to find kids drinking at age 14, but I was surprised to find this kind of drinking at age 12," he said.
The University of Iowa professor of psychiatry points out that there is already a significant connection between AD/HD and alcohol abuse: "While AD/HD occurs in about 5% of the general population, the
Severe ADHD May Predict Alcohol Problems: More Likely to Report Alcohol Problems as Teens The researchers found that individuals with severe problems of inattention as children were more likely than their peers to report alcohol-related problems, a greater frequency of getting drunk, and heavier and earlier use of tobacco and other drugs. The findings indicate that childhood ADHD may be as important for the risk of later substance use problems as having a history of family members with alcoholism and other substance use disorders. The study appears in the August 2003 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Source: NIAAA News Release
Comorbid Behavior Disorders Differences Examined
The researchers found that the teenagers who reported more frequent episodes of drunkenness, higher alcohol problem scores, and a greater likelihood of substance abuse were those diagnosed with more severe inattention problems in childhood.
The researchers analyzed distinctions within the ADHD group, focusing on responses from youngsters with more severe symptoms of inattention in childhood, something not routinely done previously. They also examined the differences among individuals with symptoms of comorbid behavior disorders &endash; oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD).
The researchers found that the teenagers who reported more frequent episodes of drunkenness, higher alcohol problem scores, and a greater likelihood of substance abuse were those diagnosed with more severe inattention problems in childhood. The youngsters with severe inattention were about 5 times more likely than others to use an illegal drug other than alcohol and marijuana at an early age.
"The presence of ADHD during childhood appears to be as strong a risk factor for substance use and abuse as having a positive family history of substance use disorder. It is not specific to only one substance but cuts across alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs," says Dr. Molina. "Our findings indicate that the presence of ADHD during childhood, the severity of symptoms, and the persistence of the disorder may be risk factors for early substance use and the emergence of substance abuse disorders during the teen years. Source: NIAAA News Release