Study 20% of Alcoholics had ADHD

A study in the Journal Alcohol and Alcoholism looked at 91 adults with alcohol dependence and 61 adults with multiple substance addiction and they determined if these patients were affected by ADHD.

RESULTS: 20.9% WURS-k (Wender Utah Rating Scale) 23.1% (DSM-IV diagnostic criteria) of the alcohol-dependent patients showed evidence of retrospective ADHD affliction in childhood. With the help of CAARS, (Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scales) ADHD was proved to be persistent in 33.3% of the adult patients.

But Adults with ADHD are only 5% of the population.

In the group of substance-addicted patients 50.8% (WURS-k) and 54.1% (DSM-IV) presented with diagnostic criteria for ADHD in childhood and 65.5% (CAARS) showed evidence of ADHD persisting in adulthood.

Again Adults with ADHD are only 5% of the population.

CONCLUSIONS: These results reveal that habit-forming illnesses can be associated with a high comorbidity with ADHD, expressed in the form of alcohol abuse and also in consumption of illegal drugs. The results underline the great importance of early and adequate diagnostics and therapy of ADHD for the prevention of habit-forming illnesses.

While adults with ADHD are only 5% of the population, ADDers are dramatically over represented in people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, the SMALLEST numbers I’ve seen on ADHD and addiction are 20-25% in peer reviewed clinical journals in Pub Med, (a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine indexing articles from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles) and I’ve frequently seem much larger ones. If adults with ADHD aren’t diagnosed and treated, and 85% of them aren’t, they will find ways to treat themselves or self medicate. Some will self medicate in positive ways with exercise, work or hobbies they enjoy, meditation and sex. Others will self medicate with alcohol and drugs, tobacco, food, and gambling, because they all boost dopamine, the brain chemical ADDers are short of and that the ADHD medications increase.

So at a minimum, adults with Attention Deficit Disorder are 4 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, there’s no controversy at all about those numbers by those who know ADHD. But in the media, government, the health bureaucracies and the education systems often seem to be totally oblivious of this. Even if you don’t care about us as human beings, the financial costs of NOT diagnosing and treating adult ADHD are huge. And we’re not even talking about the higher rates of eating disorders, depression, dsythemia and anxiety, let alone crime (also off the charts) among Adults with ADHD. But on the flip side there are billionaires with ADHD, and also many strengths associated with ADHD, properly managed.

Here’s some articles and blog posts on the links between ADHD and addictions.

There is a huge problem in my hometown Vancouver BC Canada with drug and alcohol abuse and trafficking and associated crime, violence and homelessness, we’re in the middle of a civic election and yet no one is mentioning the connection between ADHD and these problems. No politician, no one in the media is talking about it. Peter Ladner candidate for the NPA isn’t talking about it, Gregor Robertson, candidate for Vision Vancouver. Or COPE. I searched on their websites for ADHD and found nothing. We really need a full time adult mental health advocate at city hall. Even though mental health is a provincial jurisdiction, Vancouver often pays the biggest cost of the provincial government’s inaction on mental health. There is no BC provincial adult mental health advocate, there should be one.

It’s hard to find someone in BC to diagnose and medically treat ADHD, so few are trained in it because it’s not being adequately taught in our medical schools, and I get people emailing me and phoning me to find out where to get diagnosed for ADHD several times a week. The BC Liberal (really neo-conservative) government closed down down the only provincial Adult ADHD clinic at childrens hospital because it had a 1 year wait list, which was politically embarrassing. Kill the wait list, avoid bad media coverage about long wait lists. I contacted the NDP (the left wing opposition) repeatedly to help raise the issue in question period but I kept getting shuffled around, promises were continually made and nothing happened. We got coverage on BCTV but no other media outlet and the BC adult ADHD clinic is still dead and the patients are still abandoned.

So diagnose and treat ADHD in children and adults now, or pay a hundred times the price or more in financial terms and in human suffering later, your choice citizens. You’ll be paying the cost one way or another.


  1. Gina Pera

    Thanks for bringing this to the public’s attention, Pete.

    It’s so important to make this connection, especially because too many substance use counselors do not! 🙂


  2. Kevin

    Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have included a Mental Health Advocate in their platform for this election. Vision councillors introduced a motion to create such a position earlier thie year, and the NPA voted agianst it.

    You can view Vision’s platform at

  3. Pete Quily

    thanks Gina

  4. Pete Quily

    Hi Kevin, good vision vancouver does have the mental health advocate in your platform but what is vision’s position on lobbying for the reopening of the adult ADHD clinic at another hospital?

    So given that on page 7 of your Vision Vancouver platform

    you say “On our streets, people are worried about safety. Gangs reign over the drug trade, and untreated addictions ensure a steady flow of clients.

    on page 8 of your platform you say “Focus on the Four Pillars to deal with drugs in our communities. Prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement are the most effective tools to make our communities safer. This includes support for InSite, a focus on access to treatment, and expanding prevention education programs.”

    So given that you think untreated addictions are a problem, prevention is important, and given the connection between ADHD and addictions see my next post ADHD and Addictions 5 more Clinical Studies

    shouldn’t Vision Vancouver lobby to reopen the BC adult ADHD clinic to prevent those people with ADHD who are at much higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction?

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  6. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings

    @ADDmoms RT @petequily nothing alleged about it. Clinical peer reviewed studies, ADHD addictions links &

  7. Pete Quily

    Study 33% of Alcoholics had ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had #ADHD

  8. Kathleen Christensen

    RT @petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had #ADHD

  9. Dr Charles Parker

    RT @kathwriter: RT @petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had #ADHD

  10. DanielleHerb

    RT @petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had #ADHD

  11. Pete Quily

    33% of Alcoholics had #ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had ADHD research #addiction #mentalhealth

  12. Pete Quily

    Study 33% of Alcoholics had #ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had ADHD #mhsm #addiction

  13. Ashling

    RT @petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had #ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had ADHD #mhsm #addiction #mhsm

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