Behavioural and Physiological effects of ADHD
And occurrence of Substance Use Disorders
Maaz A. Mirza
University of Toronto at Mississauga
ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that is characterized by inattentiveness, impulsivity, and restlessness. Substance use disorder among ADHD patients is much higher than the general public, suggesting a pathophysiological link between the two. ADHD is a very complex and diverse disorder with many different causes, most cases deal with deficiencies in the brain’s dopamine pathway. Evidence has been found linking both the behavioural and physiological aspects of ADHD with substance use disorders. Studies have shown that treatment with the stimulant Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, and Concerta) lowers ADHD symptoms by acting on the dopaminergic system. Furthermore Methylphenidate has also been shown to reduce craving and addiction of various drugs. A clear link cannot be made until more concrete research is done on the causes of ADHD. More research should also be done on the effects of Methylphenidate and its potential as a drug of abuse.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder also known as ADHD is a psychiatric disorder that affects 5 to 10% of children worldwide (Volkow, et al., 2002). The real life implications of ADHD are very detrimental, leading to inhibited development and behavioural changes. Individuals with ADHD have trouble controlling themselves and exhibit high impulsivity along with restlessness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders, DSM-IV, states that multiple symptoms depicting inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity be observed for at least a six month period to diagnose ADHD, and it’s subtypes. The DSM-IV’s diagnostic criteria have come under much scrutiny; one criticism is that the criterions are only tailored towards children. Even though up to 50% of the children that suffer from ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms well into adulthood (Frodl, 2010). The most commonly used prescription drug to treat ADHD is Methylphenidate, commercially most commonly known as Ritalin (Podet, Lee, Swann, Dafny, 2010). Methylphenidate is a psycho-stimulant drug, whose use has been shown to have short-term benefits, including but not limited to improving attention and concentration. At the same time, recent review studies have shown that Methylphenidate does not increase academic performance, does not consistently improve distractibility, and may have adverse long-term side-effects (Advokat, 2010). Many adolescents and adults find it hard to cope with the inexorable effects of ADHD, and as such resort to abusing substances such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy. With this background one could also assume that Methylphenidate would also be abused. As with almost every other stimulant drug that acts on the dopamine system, abuse of Methylphenidate can lead to tolerance and dependence. Stimulants like Ritalin can lead to Substance Use Disorders. Studies indicate that individuals with ADHD are at a higher risk, almost 1.6 times that of the general population, for developing substance use disorders involving alcohol, nicotine, and other recreational drugs (Rosler, Casas, Konofal, and Buiterlaar, 2010). In addition to that, studies have conversely shown that 25 to 50% of adolescent substance abusers themselves suffer from ADHD (Frodl, 2010). The purpose of analyzing the following research is to identify the interaction between ADHD and Substance Use Disorders, how this interaction works, how it influences behaviour, and the effects Methylphenidate has on substance abuse. ADHD can have lasting negative effects on an individual’s daily life; it can make simple things such as socializing and focusing on tasks a difficult undertaking. The three main symptoms which are characteristic of ADHD are Inattentiveness, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity (Frodl, 2010). Thus individuals...