Helathy ADHD Addictions

If you have ADHD, your risk of also having a substance abuse problem is about 50%.  Researchers have found this to be a problem for both the inattentive subtype and the hyperactive and impulsive subtypes.  It is unclear if the inattentive and impulsive symptoms are the cause of the substance abuse or if the two problems are the result of the particular brain biology of people with ADHD.

Though all subtypes People of ADHD are prone to addiction.  The ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype seems to be more at risk to have poor outcomes related to these addictions.

The poor outcomes of ADHD-HI addiction is probably related to the fact that being impulsive is a sure fire way to end up in a whole lot of trouble.  Lets face it.  If you have a drinking problem and also happen to have Predominantly Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI), you are likely to sit around thinking even more deeply than usual about some metaphysical or philosophical dilemma in your head.  Our poor ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive brothers with a drinking problem, however, may well decide to go diving in a 3-foot pond and end up quadriplegics.

Though the ADHD-HI folks may have poorer outcomes related to their addictions, addiction is a problem for all the ADHD sub-types and some action must be taken to channel this propensity for addiction into something constructive.  I would suggest that all individuals with ADHD find themselves some health addictions to occupy that part of the brain that is prone to excesses.

The healthiest addiction that I can think of is exercise.  I have a friend that is so addicted to exercise that rain or shine, winter or summer, Christmas or Yom Kippur, she exercises for 80 minutes a day.  This same friend is also addicted to yoga, and strawberry-kiwi smoothies.  She used to be addicted to beer but now has channeled her addictions into healthier habits.

I should be addicted to exercise and though I walk almost every day for 4 miles, I have yet to reach the level of devotion for my walking to have me qualify it as an addiction.  I am, hands down, no question about it, addicted to coffee.  Some would argue that this is not a healthy addiction but compared to alcohol or gambling coffee is positively admirable.

Some folks with ADHD are addicted to work.  They often get this way because it takes them so long to get anything done.  Being extremely inefficient we can end up spending most of our lives working.  All that time at work can snowball into a life of obsessive work, work, and more work.  In other words, working all the time can turn into an addiction which, once again, I would consider healthier than gambling or say, shooting up heroin.

My grandmother had ADHD-PI.  I got my ADHD-PI from her.  She was an obsessive Canasta card player.  She played for money and was, by all accounts, extremely good at Canasta.  At some point, Canasta fell out of favor and she moved to poker.  She was also good at poker but then she became very involved in her church and her priest told her that playing cards for money was sinful and she stopped immediately.  From then on she was extremely busy with works of church charity and some might say that she was addicted to the Catholic Church.

I volunteer pretty obsessively.  I run my kid's school lunch program, I volunteer at the Boy's and Girl's Club, I pick up garbage for my neighborhood's environmental project and do river clean-up with a group called Rivers Alive.  I walk dogs at the no-kill pet shelter and mentor Physician Assistant students in the Emergency Department at work.  I deliver food to sick neighbors and I am also on the board of directors at my kid's school.  My partner and friends would probably tell you that I am addicted to volunteering.

The volunteering, like my grandmother's religious obsession, is a pretty darn good way to channel a mind prone to over doing things.  Are you over doing things in a positive way?  If you are not you need to think of something that you love to do that is also healthy and devote as much time as possible to your new health addiction.

Go ahead and get started.  The energy you devote to this new healthy obsession will likely produce great things for you and for others.

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