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Does Your Alcoholic Spouse Have An Attention Deficit Disorder Diagnosis?

Posted Jun 15 2010 1:39pm

Are you married to an alcoholic spouse that has always been disorganized and that you have helped keep on track? Does your alcoholic husband or alcoholic wife start tasks they never finish or constantly lose their keys, bills, important papers etc? Are they eaasily distracted by noise? Do they procrastinate?

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, your alcoholic spouse may have an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) diagnosis.

I am a psychiatrist that treats a lot of addiction. A number of my patients suffering from alcoholism and addiction have an ADD diagnosis. It seems so common, I have wondered to myself, “What is the deal”?  These two diagnoses seem to go hand in hand. So here’s the scoop:

15% of adults with an ADD diagnosis have a substance use disorder. This is double or triple the rate of adults without an ADD diagnosis. People with ADD show more impulsive behavior and poor judgment. They are more likely to impulsively use drugs or alcohol make themselves feel better. They self medicate to calm their racing brain. The hyperactivity component of ADD or a history of conduct disorder increases the risk of developing substance abuse, not necessarily the “attention” component.

If treated with stimulants during childhood, are they more likely to turn to drug abuse or alcoholism later in life?  Several studies actually show that the earlier the stimulant treatment in childhood, the less likely the risk that substance abuse occurs later in life. Therefore, stimulant treatment as a child may even have a protective effect against developing substance abuse.

Why are people with a history of ADHD at risk for alcoholism and drug abuse?  Even though people with ADHD (attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity) grow out of the hyperactivity as they age, they still experience the motor revving in their brain, so to speak. It’s like their brain is hyperactive. They tend to try and control their racing thoughts by self medicating with alcohol and marijuana according to William Dodson, ADD specialist in Denver.

If you suffer from alcoholism and/or substance abuse and think you have ADD, it is important to seek treatment for both disorders. Stay tuned for a future blog addressing the treatment of ADD in someone who abuses drugs or alcohol.

(If you want additional help turning your marriage around click here to register for my free report on, “ 5 Proven Methods For a Healthier Marriage With Your Alcoholic Spouse”. It may save your family’s life. The information in this report gives you very simple strategies that could very well save your marriage).


Differential Diagnosis of Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Treatment Options and Comorbidity Considerations: Goodman, McIntyre, Bukstein.CNS Spectrums. vol.14, no.7, suppl. 6,July 2009.

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