What is ADHD?

ADHD is a behavioral disorder, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a condition that either makes it difficult to keep mental focus on a single topic, control the impulse to act out, or both. While it can be diagnosed as an adult, people with ADHD are usually diagnosed in childhood. This is the period of time in one’s life when symptoms become most prevalent. Children with ADHD are often misunderstood and looked at as troublemakers or class clowns in school. It’s difficult for them to stay still, to focus and to control their impulses while in the classroom.

ADHD symptoms can vary from person-to-person, but generally they have high activity levels which makes it difficult to function in daily life. It also makes it difficult for children with ADHD to make friends, because it can cause insecurity and social awkwardness.

There are three types of ADHD diagnoses:


  • Procrastinates on long tasks such as paperwork or forms
  • Overlooks details and often makes careless mistakes
  • Forgets daily tasks such as taking out the trash, brushing teeth, appointments or even meals
  • Poor organization – usually this means a messy room or workspace and missing deadlines or important dates. It can also mean misplacing very important items such as keys, a wallet, homework or a backpack.
  • Can’t focus on a movie, lecture or conversation for very long
  • Are easily distracted and appears to not listen when spoken to and addressed
  • Unable to finish tasks once beginning them. This includes not completing schoolwork, not following directions, or not doing certain job duties when assigned


  • Unable to stay quiet, especially when told to do so
  • Talkative, and is often asked to be quiet
  • Unable to sit still and is constantly fidgeting
  • Unable to stay seated and needs to walk around often, especially where it seems inappropriate
  • Cuts off people during conversation and interrupts
  • Difficulty waiting in line and being patient in general


Some people with ADHD may even be diagnosed with a combination of both types. Since ADHD is a behavioral disorder, there is no lab test to diagnose ADHD. Usually when diagnosed, doctors will gather information from key adults in a child’s life. This can not only include parents, but teachers and coaches as well. They are usually asked to fill out forms and questionnaires to their own experience with the child.

How do ADHD and addiction go hand in hand?

When someone is diagnosed with ADHD, they are often given medication to help control their symptoms. More often than not, these medications are stimulants. While this seems counterintuitive, the medication has an opposite effect on people with ADHD and can help calm the person enough to allow them to focus on school or work. However, as with any medication, they come with the risks of addiction. ADHD medication counteracts their symptoms, and when abused, can be the gateway to addiction.

In addition, people who have ADHD often abuse drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with their outward symptoms. People with ADHD are often times socially awkward, insecure and may turn to substances in order to “fit in” with their peers. They can also use drugs or alcohol to help them feel more outgoing and less socially awkward while at a party or other types of large events. In fact, adults with ADHD are three times as likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and 15% of adults with the disorder have abused drugs or alcohol in the past.

Can I get treatment for both ADHD and addiction?

While there is no cure for either ADHD or addiction, you can successfully learn how to be able to manage your symptoms. Once you learn the tools you need, you can go on to live a healthy life by understanding your triggers and red flags. This can all be done in treatment through Dual Diagnosis. Dual Diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either can develop first, but usually in this case, ADHD has presented itself first.

Signs you may need dual diagnosis treatment:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Damaged otherwise healthy relationships
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drug is not available
  • Feeling like you need a substance to feel “normal”
  • Feeling like you need a substance to help your disorder symptoms before an event

About Cliffside Malibu

You are not alone – ADHD and addiction can very often go hand-in-hand. We are able to help you address the root cause of it all to help you live a healthy, happy life. We give you the tools you need to help recognize, and ultimately control, your symptoms. Upon entering Cliffside Malibu, each patient is carefully assessed and a custom treatment plan is created for not only their immediate needs, but for their treatment for long-lasting recovery as well. Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit cliffsidemalibu.com