Crystal Meth’s ADD / ADHD Connection Part 2

by Pete Quily on July 21, 2005 · 43 comments

Update: check out Part One and Part Three of the Crystal Meth Series of posts

More on the missing (in the public media at least) ADD connection with crystal meth.

The Journal of Addictive Diseases has an article called “Cognitive deficits among methamphetamine users with ADHD symptomatology.”

The preliminary data suggests that executive function deficits and some of the symptoms associated with long-term MA use may be due to the fact that a large proportion of MA addicts had ADHD symptomatology as children.

Here’s a word document that lists various articles. that link no longer works, the study below I believe is from this Patterns of initial methamphetamine use, Jennifer Carnell, Rachel Gonzales, Sara L. Simon (West Los Angeles VAMC Medications Development Unit) & Richard Rawson (Matrix Institute on Addictions) which I can’t find a link for. They talk about a study of 95 meth users

“One third of the subjects (32%) who began using between the ages of 10 and 15 reported doing so because of the calming effect that methamphetamine had on them. These participants were classified using the Wender Utah Rating Scale as having ADHD symptomatology. No other age group included such a large number of participants with ADHD symptomatology.

So 1/3rd of teens using meth in that study had ADHD.  Only 8% of kids & 5% of adults have ADHD.

It also helped the ADDers focus. Well that’s what ADHD stimulant medications also do, only they aren’t made from drano and paint thinner and while they have some side effects, becoming psychotic, and schizophrenic aren’t part of them.

This detailed clinical article on Emedicine discusses the toxicity of Meth and mention it affects not only dopamine but 2 other neurotransmitters involved with ADD, norepinephrine and serotonin see the Pathophysiology section.

Here’s what Wendy Richardson, an addiciton specialist and the author of When Too Much Isn’t Enough: Ending the Destructive Cycle of AD/HD and Addictive Behavior When Too Much Isn\'t Enough: Ending the Destructive Cycle of AD/HD and Addictive Behavior says

The problem is that self-medicating works at first. It provides the person with ADHD relief from their restless bodies and brains. For some, drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and “speed” enable them to focus, think clearly and follow through with ideas and tasks. Others chose to soothe their ADHD symptoms with alcohol and marijuana.

The problem is that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction-related problems that over time make our lives much more difficult. What starts out as a “solution” can cause problems including impulsive crimes, domestic violence, addictions, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relation-ships, families, and death. Too many people with untreated ADHD, learning and perceptual disabilities are incarcerated, or dying from co-related addiction.

Self-medicating ADHD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline. You have pain and problems that are burning out of control, and what you use to put out the fire is gasoline. Your life may explode as you attempt to douse the flames of ADHD.

Here’s some articles on ADD and addictions. For more info on meth see this site which has clinical articles, and presentations on it. Here’s a former users’ meth site with articles, recovery sites

I’m not suggesting that all or even a majority of meth users are undiagnosed or untreated ADDers self medicating.

What I am suggesting is that there probably is a sizeable percentage of them who are. The mainstream media, health authorities and criminal justice system should realize this and start addressing it.

It’s also a wake up call for parents who don’t want to get their kids diagnosed for ADHD or don’t want to give their kids ADHD medication when they’re diagnosed and don’t really give them much other treatment. Not saying everyone must have meds but if you don’t use meds you need to use something else and it’s probably going to be a longer and harder road.

If a child or young adult has ADHD and you don’t use meds or deal with it effectively with some other methods, ADHD coaching, cognitive behavioural therapy, diet, exercise, tutoring, etc, you risk them dealing with it in a negative way through alcohol, tobacco, pot, or drugs like meth. There can be a heavy cost to denial.

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