ADHD and Alcoholism May Be Linked
Adults with ADHD More Likely to Become Alcoholics
Oct. 14, 2003 -- Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) may face a much higher risk of becoming alcoholics. A new study
shows the two disorders have a lot in common, but the genetic link between them
Researchers say they have found a distinctive profile of adults
who suffer from both disorders, and ADHD is five to 10 times more common among
adult alcoholics than in the normal population.
"Our results indicate that individuals with persisting ADHD
symptoms in adulthood seem to be at high risk of developing an alcohol-use
disorder," says Monika Johann, MD, research associate at the University of
Regensburg in Germany, in a news release. "Moreover, there is evidence for
a highly increased severity of alcohol dependence in subjects with
ADHD and Alcoholism Linked
For the study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical &
Experimental Research, researchers examined 314 adult alcoholics and 220
healthy adults. Each was evaluated for psychiatric disorders, including
substance abuse disorders, ADHD, and antisocial personality disorder.
Researchers also screened the participants for two genes that
some experts say are common genetic links between ADHD and alcoholism.
The study showed that neither of the genes examined contributed
to a genetic tendency for ADHD or alcoholism. But the study did reveal many
common traits shared by people with the disorders.
For example, compared with alcoholics without ADHD, those with
ADHD displayed the following characteristics:
- Drank more alcohol on a daily basis
- Became dependent upon alcohol at an earlier age
- Thought about suicide twice as often
- Were involved in seven times the number of court proceedings
- Had three times higher rates of antisocial personality disorder
Researchers say the findings confirm previous studies that have
shown that having ADHD as an adult significantly increases the risk of also
becoming an alcoholic.
"ADHD seems to be highly underestimated in adulthood,"
says Johann, "yet seems to be an important risk factor for the development
of alcohol dependence."