RDS- The Reward Deficiency Syndrome
Your brain's chemical factory produces serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, endorphins and many other "feel good" chemicals. These often work together in a domino like system, triggering each other to produce feelings of well being.
When neurotransmitter levels are abnormal or blocked from the brain's receptors, discomfort anxiety and pain are the result. This "reward deficiency" is associated with difficulty focusing, heightened anxiety, hypersensitivity and irritability.
Addicts, their offspring and those with ADHD and ADD may be born with an impairment to feeling good naturally. In 1990, a defect in the D2 (dopamine) receptor gene was found to be associated with alcoholism and ADHD. This lack of dopamine receptors interferes with the "neurochemical reward cascade" of the brain, creating Reward Deficiency Syndrome. RDS may be THE main factor in the cause of alcoholism, addiction and ADHD.
Self medicating helps those with RDS feel "normal". It helps them feel good and function with less anxiety. The medication of choice may be an illicit substance, food or an activity such as gambling, thrill seeking or sexual escapades. Risk taking behaviors as well as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana and even carbohydrates cause a release of additional dopamine in the brain and provide temporary relief.
Many people enjoy the positive effects of mood altering substances. But people with ADHD experience an even more intense and powerful payoff. And a higher vulnerability to addiction. Once addicted, abstinence alone usually doesn't work as the symptoms of RDS quickly return.
"The difficulty concentrating, remembering, tolerating noise and managing stress in recovery causes some people to feel they may be going crazy. They are not. It is the return of their ADHD symptoms intensified by the changes in the brain brought about by the use of mood altering substances."- from the book Overload by Blum and Miller
ADHD symptoms and the increase in anxiety due to the changes of recovery and not understanding what is happening increase the chance of relapse. One may require treatment for both addiction and ADHD to lead a successful life in sobriety.
Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children