The Link Between ADHD and Alcohol: Do Teens With the Condition Start Drinking Earlier?

ADHD has only been a mainstream-accepted diagnosis recently. Because of this, society is behind on the research that needs to be done to understand exactly what people with ADHD deal with. One of the more recent studies has been on the link between ADHD and alcohol abuse.

There’s no exact correlation that says people with ADHD will become alcoholics. But there are some studies that show that having this condition makes you more susceptible to an alcohol disorder as an adult. The next question is: What about as a teenager? Do teens with ADHD start drinking earlier?

Teens are already at risk of starting alcohol habits because of peer pressure. Once they start, they don’t always have the tools and strategies to be able to quit. That’s why many who start need a special rehab for teens in order to get back on track.

This short guide will explain why it’s a bad idea for teens to start drinking, especially if they have ADHD.

ADHD, Teens, and Alcohol: Not a Good Mix

Understanding why some people turn to alcohol and others don’t is complicated. Until recently, there haven’t been any solid studies that have been performed on alcohol use in teens with ADHD thrown into the mix. But this research study from 2018 paved the way for more information to be found on the topic.

The study used twins to determine how childhood ADHD impacted alcohol use in teens 17 and under. The end results showed that adolescents who had more severe cases of ADHD as children were more apt to use alcohol at a young age. These initial experiments with alcohol often resulted in an alcoholic disorder.

Because the study used the control of shared family environments and genetics both, it was difficult to argue the conclusions. 

In addition to these results, studies have also shown that teens with ADHD who drink are more likely to engage in:

  • Binge drinking, since the condition often makes it difficult for the teen to know where socially acceptable limits are
  • Decreased tolerance to alcohol and its effects
  • Higher level of alcohol impairment as demonstrated when asked to perform basic tasks
  • An increase in their ADHD symptoms, particularly in impulsiveness, decision-making difficulties, and problems focusing

The long-term effects of those with ADHD who started drinking as teens have also been studied. Over time and with consistent alcohol use, these individuals are more likely to have added trouble. They will struggle in areas of cognitive thinking, short and long-term memory loss, and speech.

Be the Wall With Teen Drinking

Science shows us that as teenagers, our brains are not fully developed and capable of rational thinking. Alcohol impairs this even further. 

Adolescents with ADHD have the added complication of already having a neurodevelopmental disorder. It can last from childhood into adulthood, resulting in struggles that other people don’t have. When alcohol compounds these issues, the overall effect can be dangerous.

When your teen is relying on you to guide them and role model responsible drinking, it’s important to be the wall. If that teen has ADHD, your responsibility has increased even more, since these individuals will struggle with basics. 

You may know when to quit, but your child with ADHD doesn’t have that cognitive balance yet. Be the wall, but explain to them exactly why they need to be careful. You might be surprised how much they appreciate your honesty!