ADHD and Alcohol: The Connection

On their own, either ADHD or alcohol addiction can be extremely distressing. When a person experiences both disorders at the same time, as millions of people do, their struggles can increase significantly. Thankfully, with education, effort, and effective care, people with ADHD and alcohol addiction can regain control of their behaviors and live much more fulfilling lives.

If you or a loved one are suffering from the long-term effects of alcoholism, our team can help. Lake Ave Recovery offers premier alcohol rehab in Massachusetts for those struggling to stay sober. Call us now at 508-504-9137.

What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition that is characterized by inattention and/or impulsivity. 


According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the inattentive aspect of ADHD can involve the following:

  • Failing to pay attention to detail and frequently making careless errors in school or at work
  • Difficulty sustaining attention during lectures, conversations, or extended reading activities
  • Appearing not to listen when spoken to directly
  • Not following through on instructions or failing to complete assignments or tasks
  • Poor organization of materials or structuring of sequential tasks
  • Avoiding or disliking activities that require sustained mental effort
  • Often losing important personal possessions or materials for school or work
  • Being distracted by thoughts or external stimuli
  • Forgetfulness related to running errands, keeping appointments, paying bills, or similar responsibilities


As described in the DSM-5, the hyperactivity or impulsivity aspect of ADHD can include symptoms such as:

  • Frequent fidgeting, tapping of fingers, or squirming in their seat
  • Standing and moving around in situations such as classes, lectures, and business meetings, where remaining stationary is typically expected
  • Persistent feelings of restlessness
  • Feeling like they are often in a rush 
  • Excessive talkativeness
  • Interrupting others and blurting out answers without waiting for their turn
  • Intruding on conversations or activities without being invited

The symptoms of ADHD typically become noticeable during childhood or adolescence, though they can persist into adulthood. Most people who have this disorder are diagnosed prior to age 18, but later diagnoses can and do occur.

What Is the Connection Between ADHD and Alcohol?

ADHD is a risk factor for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and other forms of addiction. While experts have not yet established a definitive cause-effect relationship between ADHD and alcohol abuse, several behaviors that are symptomatic of ADHD have been associated with a predisposition to abuse and become addicted to alcohol. 

For example:

  • People who struggle with impulsivity may have a difficult time controlling the amount and frequency of their alcohol use.
  • People who have ADHD may abuse alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate and ease some of the more disruptive symptoms of that disorder.
  • People who have been living with untreated ADHD may experience high levels of stress and frustration. They may use alcohol as a means of numbing themselves to these difficult emotions.

ADHD and Alcohol Statistics

A September 2021 study in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews found that as many as 43% of people who have ADHD also struggle with an addiction to alcohol. 

The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported the following statistics about ADHD and alcohol addiction, as well as other substance use disorders.

  • A British study found that 12% of patients who were in detox for alcohol or other drugs had undiagnosed ADHD.
  • Among adults who have ADHD, 15.2% also meet the criteria for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder. Among individuals ages 18 and over who do not have ADHD, the prevalence of addiction is about 5.6%.
  • Among adults who have a substance use disorder, about 10.8% also meet the criteria for ADHD. Among adults who have not struggled with addiction, the rate of ADHD is about 3.8%.

Negative Effects of Untreated ADHD and Alcohol Addiction

When a person needs, but doesn’t receive, treatment for ADHD and alcohol addiction, they remain at elevated risk of myriad negative outcomes, including physical, emotional, and social harm.

The potential effects of untreated ADHD and alcohol addiction include:

  • Substandard performance in school and at work
  • Difficulties finding and keeping a job
  • Problems forming and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Physical injuries due to impulsive or impaired behaviors
  • Medical concerns due to poor self-care
  • Being shunned or ostracized by peers and colleagues
  • Development or worsening of other mental or behavioral health concerns

Get Help for Alcoholism and ADHD in Massachusetts

If your life has been impacted by ADHD and alcohol addiction, Lake Avenue Recovery Center is here to help. 

Our treatment center in Worcester, Massachusetts, offers personalized outpatient programming for adults who have alcoholism, other forms of addiction, and certain dual diagnosis disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We offer both day and evening options so that our patients can participate in treatment with minimal disruption to their schedule.

All of our programs feature close personal attention and comprehensive support from a team of dedicated professionals. We understand how mental and behavioral health concerns can undermine your ability to live a full and satisfying life, and we are committed to developing the customized solutions that will put you on the path to a healthier and more hopeful future.

For additional information about our programs and services, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call our center today. We look forward to answering all your questions and helping you determine if Lake Avenue Recovery Center is the perfect place for you.