For decades, Big Tobacco has targeted young people with advertisements displayed to make smoking seem “cool” or the “popular” thing to do. While much of this marketing has been tapered down in recent years due to government regulations, young people are still prime targets for Big Tobacco. While the risks of developing the habit at such a young age is dangerous for every teen, those with ADHD are especially vulnerable for a variety of reasons.
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.
The Dangers of Smoking for Those With ADHD
There are the inherent dangers of smoking that affect everyone: lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, COPD, and other serious illnesses. Those with ADHD also have additional worries, however. While tobacco may help with clarity and focus on a temporary basis, many individuals with ADHD report that cigarettes actually worsen these symptoms over time. The body and brain become addicted to nicotine in a person who does not suffer from ADHD, but those with ADHD are even more likely to become heavily dependent on tobacco. As it takes more and more tobacco to elicit the same mind clearing effects, sufferers are likely to smoke more and more. Eventually, cigarettes will lose their effectiveness on memory and attention entirely, and symptoms will become worse. By this time, the smoker is highly addicted, and possibly smoking much more than the average person.
Heavy smokers are much more likely to suffer the above health consequences as a result of their actions, and they also typically find it much more difficult to quit. Giving up nicotine containing products can cause uncomfortable psychological symptoms, and those with ADHD are more likely to suffer from more severe versions of these mental health issues. Additionally, many people with ADHD also suffer from another psychological condition, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or obsessive compulsive disorders.
Quitting for the ADHD Patient
Special considerations should be taken in preventing teens from smoking. For those who do smoke, especially those with ADHD, precautions should be taken to control withdrawals and control symptoms. Prescription medications may be used. Others may find that using a nicotine replacement product may be useful to help keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. These products should never be used without consulting a doctor first. A qualified health care professional may prescribe a product that can be used safely by teens.