Breaking the link between ADHD and addiction

December 6, 2013 by Alita Pashley
Breaking the link between ADHD and addiction
Dr Melanie White

Adult sufferers of ADHD are two to three times more likely to experience substance abuse or dependence, but a research project which will map the genetic markers of the condition will help sever ties with addiction and could lead to customised treatments.

Dr Melanie White from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) said testing for specific genes associated with actions of the reward centre of the brain involving dopamine - a neurotransmitter which plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviour - would give a better understanding of how the brain works in those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

"I'm looking at of symptoms of ADHD in adulthood as well as whether people have used a range of different types of substances, and the interaction between these genetic markers and aspects of the environment," Dr White said.

"Given ADHD medication is typically a stimulant, I'll be investigating whether it improves their symptoms in the short term and the role of this medication in future substance use or symptoms."

Dr White, who was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to progress her research, said most children diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder carried it into adulthood.

While symptoms, which include restlessness in work and relationships and impulsivity, can be adapted to fit in with the demands of life, the link between ADHD and substance abuse is impossible to ignore.

"One theory is that people are using substances to redress the chemical imbalance in their brain, or that the reward centre and dopamine activity is wired differently in those with ADHD versus the rest of the population," Dr White said.

"However, the theory I'll be investigating is whether early stimulant medication use when the brain is still developing, results in the brain responding differently when exposed to substance use later in life.

"There are diagnostic differences in terms of whether your symptoms are predominantly inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive, but I have no doubt there are several different genes that might lead to susceptibility to on top of the risk for these ADHD symptoms."

Dr White carried out research at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, which has studied the largest group of adults with ADHD in the world. However, she is looking for expressions of interest from Australian adults with ADHD for future studies.

"Hopefully in the future, this type of information will enable us to make customised plans based on people's specific genetic profile amongst other characteristics, often called 'personalised medicine'," she said.

"We hope to be able to effectively say 'this medication would be more effective for you because of your genetic makeup', or conversely 'we don't believe this medication would be a good idea because it may increase some risks for you down the track'."

Explore further: MRI technique reveals low brain iron in ADHD patients

Related Stories

MRI technique reveals low brain iron in ADHD patients

December 2, 2013
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a noninvasive way to measure iron levels in the brains of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study being presented today at the annual meeting ...

ADHD drug effective for people with dependency

October 14, 2013
People with ADHD and substance dependence rarely respond as they should to ADHD medication. A randomised study from Karolinska Institutet now shows that it is possible to obtain the desired efficacy by administering the drug ...

Adult ADHD undertreated despite effective interventions

October 7, 2013
Up to two-thirds of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find their disorder persists into adulthood yet only a small proportion of adults ever receive a formal diagnosis and treatment, research suggests.

CDC: More than one in 10 kids diagnosed with ADHD

November 26, 2013
(HealthDay)—More than one in 10 children and adolescents are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an increase of 42 percent in less than a decade, according to a study published online Nov. 25 ...

Brain imaging shows how prolonged treatment of a behavioral disorder restores a normal response to rewards

June 28, 2013
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by abnormal behavioral traits such as inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It is also associated with impaired processing of reward in the brain, meaning ...

Recovery from childhood ADHD may depend on the pattern of brain development

October 15, 2013
Some people grow out of their childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some don't. In fact, around 50% of individuals diagnosed as children continue to suffer from ADHD as adults.

Recommended for you

ADHD medication tied to lower risk for alcohol, drug abuse in teens and adults

July 13, 2017
The use of medication to treat attention deficient hyperactivity disorder is linked to significantly lower risk for substance use problems in adolescents and adults with ADHD, according to a study led by researchers at Indiana ...

Video game promotes better attention skills in some children with sensory processing dysfunction

April 6, 2017
A video game under development as a medical device boosts attention in some children with sensory processing dysfunction, or SPD, a condition that can make the sound of a vacuum, or contact with a clothing tag intolerable ...

Children with ADHD often live in chaotic households

March 9, 2017
Researchers often observe inadequate parenting, a negative emotional climate and household chaos in families of children with ADHD. A research group at Goethe University Frankfurt and the universities of Bremen, Heidelberg, ...

ADHD a 'brain disorder', not just bad behaviour: study

February 16, 2017
People with ADHD have slightly smaller brains than those without the condition, according to a study released Thursday which insisted it is a physical disorder and not just bad behaviour.

Could the 'Mediterranean' diet help prevent ADHD?

January 30, 2017
(HealthDay)—Kids who follow a Mediterranean diet—high in fruits, vegetables and "good" fats—may be less likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a small study suggests.

Data scientists find causal relation in characteristics of ADHD

December 2, 2016
Hyperactivity seems to be the result of not being able to focus one's attention rather than the other way around. This was proposed in an article in PLOS ONE, written by researchers at Radboud university medical center and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.