Comorbidity of alcohol and substance dependence with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Alcohol Alcohol. May-Jun 2008;43(3):300-4. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agn014. Epub 2008 Mar 7.


Aims: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is of great clinical importance not only because of its high prevalence but also due to the frequent comorbid illnesses that are connected with this disorder. Several studies were able to demonstrate that ADHD constitutes a significant risk factor for the exacerbation of habit-forming illnesses, i.e. addictions.

Methods: We conducted a study on 152 adult patients with alcohol dependence (n = 91) or multiple substance addiction (n = 61) to determine whether or not these patients were affected by ADHD. For retrospective assessment of childhood ADHD, the WURS-k was used as well as the DSM-IV symptom checklist for ADHD. The CAARS was used to assess the persisting symptoms of ADHD in adults.

Results: 20.9% (WURS-k) or 23.1% (DSM-IV diagnostic criteria) of the alcohol-dependent patients showed evidence of retrospective ADHD affliction in childhood. With the help of CAARS, ADHD was proved to be persistent in 33.3% of the adult patients. 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.

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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*