ADHD and Substance Use Disorders

Aug 30, 2023

ADHD typically first appears in childhood but when left untreated, it can last through the teenage years and well into adulthood. One risk factor of neglecting the need for treatment is the increased risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). In this blog post, we’ll explain how ADHD can grow into a significant issue and what kind of specialized help a woman needs when ADHD is combined substance use disorders.

Untreated ADHD can potentially contribute to an increased risk of developing substance use disorders (SUDs) due to impulsive and risky behaviors, self-medication to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, experimenting with drugs or alcohol to deal with boredom, and a lack of structure in life. The consequences of substance use from untreated ADHD can negatively affect every part of a woman’s life, from relationships and finances to emotional well-being and self-care. Help for women with untreated ADHD and a SUD is available at Hannah’s House, where co-occurring disorder treatment can be personalized to address her specific needs.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is an acronym for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental condition that usually starts in childhood but can last through adolescence and into adulthood. ADHD is defined by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can have a major impact on daily functioning and quality of life. Inattention is characterized by trouble maintaining attention to tasks or activities, making careless mistakes or neglecting details, being quickly distracted by external stimuli, struggling to organize work and manage time, and regularly losing or misplacing items. Constant restlessness, frequent chatting, and fidgeting are all symptoms of hyperactivity. Acting without contemplating repercussions or thinking through actions, interrupting others speaking or activities, trouble waiting for turns or taking turns in conversations, and impatience and difficulties postponing gratification are all examples of impulsive behavior.

Risks of Untreated ADHD

It is important to remember that the intensity and particular symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person. The risks of leaving it untreated can negatively influence many aspects of one’s life, including academic or vocational performance, relationships, and general well-being. It’s important for women with ADHD to seek appropriate evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment to address these potential risks and challenges.

  • Academic and Professional Challenges: ADHD may hinder a woman’s ability to concentrate, organize work, successfully manage time, and meet deadlines. Without therapy, you may struggle with academic achievement, work performance, and possibilities for progression in your profession. Attention, planning, and impulsive issues might make it difficult to attain academic or professional goals.
  • Emotional Well-being: Untreated ADHD raises the risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and feelings of frustration or inadequacy. Emotional dysregulation, mood swings, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by everyday tasks and expectations are common in women with untreated ADHD. These difficulties can have an influence on your overall emotional well-being and quality of life.
  • Relationship Difficulties: ADHD symptoms can have an impact on a woman’s interpersonal connections. Without treatment, you may have difficulties communicating, forgetting essential facts, acting impulsively, or managing time commitments. These difficulties can put a burden on relationships with a spouse, family members, friends, and coworkers.
  • Financial Consequences: Organizational, planning, and impulse control issues can have financial consequences. Women who have untreated ADHD may have difficulty managing their finances, paying bills on time, and preparing for the future. They may be more prone to impulsive spending or financial irresponsibility, resulting in recurring financial stress and hardship.
  • Health and Self-Care: Untreated ADHD can make it difficult for women to prioritize self-care, maintain good behaviors, and manage their physical health. Difficulties with impulse control and time management can have an influence on your ability to stick to healthy lifestyle choices, including exercising, eating well, and meeting healthcare needs.
  • Increased Risk-Taking Behavior: Women with ADHD who do not receive proper treatment may be more prone to risk-taking behaviors such as misusing substances, impulsively making decisions, or driving recklessly. These choices can have significant consequences regarding your personal safety and well-being.

Correlation to SUDs

Untreated ADHD contributes to an increased risk of developing a drinking or drug problem. Impulsive behavior may include experimenting with illegal substances or misusing prescription drugs without fully considering the risks involved. Drug use or drinking also can become a way to self-medicate in response to common ADHD symptoms, including trouble with focus, remaining calm, and regulating emotions. Untreated ADHD may compel you to seek out stimulating situations or substances to relieve your feelings of restlessness or boredom. Also, women with untreated ADHD may have trouble evaluating the long-term effects of their behaviors and resisting the instant gratification that comes from substance use.

Help for Women with ADHD and Substance Use Disorders

ADHD is frequently associated with other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. When untreated ADHD is present, the existence of these co-morbid conditions might raise the likelihood of developing a drug use issue. Hannah’s House offers help for women with untreated ADHD, a history of drug or alcohol misuse, and anxiety or depression. In order to design a tailored treatment strategy, a comprehensive assessment is performed to assess and diagnose both ADHD and a co-occurring substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorder treatment for women allows our multidisciplinary teams to address ADHD and SUDs simultaneously. A personalized program will integrate therapy with an approach that provides support and strategies for both recovery needs and ADHD symptom management. Hannah’s House uses evidence-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), to help women develop coping skills, improve self-regulation, and learn healthier ways to manage their emotions and behaviors.


Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For more information about the stages of alcoholism in women or to learn about our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.

You May Also Like…

Living with Gratitude

Living with Gratitude

One important piece in the early steps of your recovery journey can lead to mental and physical well-being, increased...