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17. Addiction problems in ADHD

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17. Addiction problems in ADHD

Addiction problems are a possible symptom of untreated ADHD. ADHD medications significantly reduce the risk of addiction,

17.1. Substance-related addictions in ADHD

17.1.1. Alcohol addiction in ADHD

Short-term alcohol consumption reduces stress symptoms. Long-term alcohol consumption, on the other hand, increases them.

If another substance-related addiction existed in addition to an alcohol addiction, young men were 5.3 times more likely to have ADHD.1

17.1.2. Cannabis use and ADHD

Cannabis can have a self-medicating component in ADHD. This already occurs at doses that have no intoxicating effect (microdosing). Nevertheless, non-medical cannabis is not an appropriate treatment and medical cannabis is a possible medication only in very rare constellations.
Dosages that cause an intoxicating effect do not represent serious medical significance. In the case of non-medical cannabis, medical usefulness is fundamentally questionable due to the high fluctuations in active ingredients.
See more at Cannabinoid drugs in ADHD And Substance abuse with self-medication effects in ADHD.

17.2. Non-substance-related addictions

17.2.1. Video game addiction in ADHD

ADHD seems to trigger more video game time, while more video game time does not increase ADHD.2
We hypothesize that the lower interest in more distant rewards induced by ADHD triggers a higher affinity for video games, as they often motivate by means of short-term rewards.
Internet gaming addiction and ADHD appear to have the same reduced functional connectivity between PFC and subcortical brain regions, each of which declined after 1 year of drug treatment.3
One study found a relationship between Internet gaming addiction and inattention. It also found that this relationship was strengthened by a more vertical individualistic cultural orientation with no significant gender difference.4

17.2.2. Internet addiction and ADHD

Of 650 boys at a high school, 12 to 15% showed a pronounced Internet addiction. This was accompanied by increased ADHD symptoms.5
Internet addiction was distinguished by one study into two subtypes: one subtype that correlated with impulsivity and ADHD-HI and another subtype that correlated with compulsivity.6
One study found that Internet addiction in ADHD correlated with motivational dysfunction but not executive dysfunction.7

17.2.3. Cell phone addiction in ADHD

Excessive cell phone use correlated with impulsivity8 and affected 20.1% of participating student subjects.
Excessive cell phone use further correlated with higher levels of

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sexual activity
  • PTSD/PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression

Cell phone addiction correlated directly with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and stress in one study, but not with sleep duration.9


  1. Marmet, Studer, Lemoine, Grazioli, Bertholet, Gmel (2019): Reconsidering the associations between self-reported alcohol use disorder and mental health problems in the light of co-occurring addictions in young Swiss men. PLoS One. 2019 Sep 30;14(9):e0222806. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222806. eCollection 2019. n = 5516

  2. Stenseng.,Hygen, Wichstrøm (2019): Time spent gaming and psychiatric symptoms in childhood: cross-sectional associations and longitudinal effects. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2019 Sep 6. doi: 10.1007/s00787-019-01398-2. n = 791

  3. Han, Bae, Hong, Kim, Son, Renshaw (2019): Resting-State fMRI Study of ADHD and Internet Gaming Disorder. J Atten Disord. 2019 Oct 23:1087054719883022. doi: 10.1177/1087054719883022.

  4. Stavropoulos, Baynes, O’Farrel, Gomez, Mueller, Yucel, Griffiths (2020): Inattention and Disordered Gaming: Does Culture Matter? Psychiatr Q. 2020 Jan 3. doi: 10.1007/s11126-019-09702-8.

  5. Choi, Huh, Kim, Suh, Lee, Potenza (2019): Transitions in Problematic Internet Use: A One-Year Longitudinal Study of Boys. Psychiatry Investig. 2019 Jun;16(6):433-442. doi: 10.30773/pi.2019.04.02.1.

  6. Tiego, Lochner, Ioannidis, Brand, Stein, Yücel, Grant, Chamberlain (2019): Problematic use of the Internet is a unidimensional quasi-trait with impulsive and compulsive subtypes. BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 8;19(1):348. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2352-8.

  7. Zhou, Zhang, Li, Xue, Zhang-James (2020): Motivational but not executive dysfunction in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder predicts internet addiction: Evidence from a longitudinal study. Psychiatry Res. 2020 Jan 25;285:112814. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112814. PMID: 32036155.

  8. Grant, Lust, Chamberlain (2019): Problematic smartphone use associated with greater alcohol consumption, mental health issues, poorer academic performance, and impulsivity. J Behav Addict. 2019 Jun 1;8(2):335-342. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.32. n = 3.425

  9. Selçuk, Ayhan (2019): The relationship between smartphone addiction risk and sleep duration and psychosocial comorbidities in health professional candidates. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2019 Dec 20. doi: 10.1111/ppc.12465. n = 408

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