Teens at Risk: ADHD Increases Odds of Smoking
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by hyperactivity, an inability to focus, and compulsivity, according to WebMD. Other symptoms may also be present, and the most predominate symptoms will depend on the individual. Children and teens with the condition often struggle in school, as they may find it hard to sit still and focus on school work long enough to excel in the classroom.
How are Tobacco use and ADHD Linked?
According to Everyday Health, young people with ADHD may begin smoking because tobacco use has been shown to help with attention and memory in the short-term, both things these teens may struggle with. This is a form of self-medication, but one that has dire health consequences.
It has also been shown that those with ADHD may have a harder time saying no to peer pressure, and they are often more compulsive in their behaviors. Both of these factors can lead to them trying cigarettes when being pressured by friends or peers, or lighting up before they have thought it through. They may have trouble fully grasping or considering the future health consequences of their actions.
Tobacco use and ADHD are linked in many ways.
As reported by the CDC:
- Smoking during pregnancy is associated with higher rates of children exhibiting disruptive behaviors, like ADHD, later in life.
These findings do not suggest that prenatal smoking causes the appearance of hyperactivity or inattention disorders in children, but only that children whose mothers smoked when they were pregnant are at a higher risk of developing disorders like ADHD.
Smoking also plays a role:
- Should these children develop ADHD when they reach maturity, as teenagers with the type of ADHD that hampers attention turned to nicotine as a way to self-medicate.
Scientific Point of View
A study out of the Washington University in St. Louis, led by Dr. Richard Todd, explained that the nicotine in cigarettes bonded with the two regions in the brain responsible for regulating attention and concentration, improving both.
Todd went on to conclude that “one possible reason many of these children smoke is that they are treating their attention problems in a very specific, pharmacological way.” These findings build on previous studies that showed improved attention spans in adult smokers with and without ADHD when they used nicotine patches.
While Todd did not recommend young people to use the patch as a way to improve their concentration, he did suggest.
It may be worthwhile to look at compounds related to nicotine because of genetic research that has further implicated nicotinic receptors in the brain.
Quitting for the ADHD Patient
Quitting smoking for people with ADHD is harder than for people without the disorder. Thanks to a new study, however, people with ADHD have reason to be hopeful about their chances of quitting.
As people with ADHD, including young people, may experience more intense withdrawal symptoms, the prospect of heightened feelings of sadness and despair prevents many from attempting to quit.
A drug prescribed to treat symptoms of ADHD, methylphenidate aka Concerta, may help with depression and anxiety related to nicotine withdrawal. Evidence shows that ADHD patients who quit with a combination of methylphenidate, an NRT like the nicotine patch, and counseling have lower incidences of depressed or anxious moods compared to non-quitters.
A study headed by Dr. Lirio Covey, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry and a former head of their Smoking Cessation Program, found:
“Anxiety declined in all the participants, but the decline was greater in successful quitters. It happened right away, one week after quit day.”
Dr. Covey did caution, though, that despite the higher chances of smokers with ADHD quitting successfully with a combination of smoking cessation tools, it may take more than one attempt. Depressive episodes may also re-occur during the cessation period, especially for those who experienced them in the past.
Many people who smoke and have ADHD are prescribed bupropion, which was originally specified as an antidepressant but was approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation aid in 1997. This replaces the function of the cigarette by providing the individual with improved focus and calmness. Bupropion has proven itself to be an effective quit smoking aid, and given its antidepressive effects may also be especially helpful to people with ADHD.
The Final Word
It is going to take a lot of work to actively avoid the instances that cause you to want to smoke. You can tell those who are supporting you what makes you feel like smoking, and they can help you steer clear of those things. You cannot avoid every part of your life or every trigger that would make you break your quitting streak. Instead, you may need to find a way to keep yourself occupied which is something best vapes can help with. Many people find alternatives to smoking to take up their time. This helps, because for many, smoking is just a result of them feeling bored. They light up because they have nothing else to do.
So if you involve yourself in a hobby, make some new friends or find a little distraction (stress ball, portable video game, sketch notebook, journal, vaporizer) you can keep yourself from thinking about how bored you are and wanting to grab a cigarette. You need to try to trick your brain into ignoring the cravings. This is not something that will happen overnight, and if you make mistakes, just get back up and keep on going.