Attention problems often lead to self-medication with street drugs or through illegal prescription drug use. Adderall and Ritalin are sometimes abused by individuals who want to study or work longer and have more focus. These individuals may or may not have undiagnosed attention disorders, but by abusing drugs they are putting themselves at risk for developing addiction and greater attention problems due to withdrawal symptoms and side effects. While these drugs are unlikely to cause addiction when taken as prescribed for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), they can be addictive when abused or when taken by someone without an attention disorder. Individuals that abuse cocaine and amphetamines may also be self-medicating attention problems.
Causes of Addiction and Attention Problems
Attention problems and addiction sometimes have similar causes. Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorder make it hard to concentrate or focus, and these same issues may lead a person to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Attention problems aren’t necessarily the result of a mental health issue, as high amounts of stress can lower an individual’s ability to concentrate and focus. Family or relationship trouble can also distract individuals from work or other activities and may lead to drug or alcohol use to cope.
How Untreated Attention Problems May Lead to Addiction
Attention problems may stem from a brain chemical imbalance. Symptoms of ADHD often first appear in childhood but may be mistaken for normal childhood energy. Attention disorders may cause social anxiety, inhibited learning ability or low self-esteem. Attention problems increase the chance that an individual will take risks and be impulsive, making drug use more likely. Prescribed medication taken as directed may decrease the likelihood an individual will self-medicate by abusing drugs, but even prescribed drug use isn’t a substitution for therapy and counseling.
How Addiction Causes Attention Problems
Repeated abuse of drugs or alcohol can lead to mood swings, depression, anxiety and psychological withdrawal symptoms. When the brain is being bombarded by constant chemical changes, it is more difficult to focus and concentrate on daily tasks. Addiction makes it more difficult to tell if attention problems are due to drug abuse or an attention disorder, but integrated treatment can help. Amphetamines are sometimes used to treat ADHD, but if an individual has abused these drugs it may be more difficult to prescribe medication to treat their attention problems.