Comorbidity of ADHD and Substance Use Disorder (SUD): a neuroimaging perspective

J Atten Disord. 2010 Sep;14(2):109-20. doi: 10.1177/1087054710365054. Epub 2010 May 21.


Introduction: ADHD has a high comorbidity with substance use disorders (SUD). Both diseases have profound social, psychological, and economic consequences and are therefore highly relevant for health systems. The high comorbidity indicates some shared underlying neurobiological substrates. Knowing these substrates may increase the understanding of the disease and help identify therapeutic processes.

Method: Neuroimaging studies of ADHD were reviewed and similarities with SUD identified. For this a PubMed research was conducted with the search terms ADHD, SUD, MRI or positron emission tomography (PET) or spectroscopy or imaging.

Results: Similarities were found, in both PET and fMRI studies, between patients with ADHD and those with addiction-related craving. Results from structural MRI and MR spectroscopy do not support a common pathophysiological background, probably because of the lack of studies on craving.

Discussion: ADHD and SUD-related craving share some neurobiological similarities. One reason may be that patients with addiction show more craving when they also suffer from ADHD. The present review thus supports the conclusion from an earlier meta-analysis of clinical studies which found that adequate treatment of ADHD reduces craving and relapse into substance use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology*