Adhd and smoking

Understanding the Intricate Connection Between ADHD and Smoking

ADHD, a prevalent precursor to addictions including smoking, presents a complex relationship that warrants exploration. In this article, we delve deep into the intricate connection between ADHD and smoking, shedding light on why individuals with ADHD are drawn to smoking and offering guidance on how to quit.

Why is Smoking a Common Habit Among Individuals with ADHD?

The affinity between individuals with ADHD and smoking stems from various factors. Many report that smoking not only elevates their mood but also aids in managing ADHD symptoms. Despite potentially escalating hyperactivity, it seems to enhance focus and induce a calming effect. This could be attributed to the surge in dopamine receptor availability induced by smoking, which is not confined to nicotine alone. Since a dopamine deficiency is linked to diminished attention regulation and heightened impulsivity in ADHD individuals, smoking can seemingly ameliorate these symptoms.

Furthermore, there are notable genetic correlations between genes implicated in smoking behaviors and ADHD.

Unraveling the Theories Behind ADHD and Smoking

Three predominant theories elucidate the link between ADHD and smoking:

  1. Self-medication Hypothesis: This theory posits that individuals with ADHD resort to nicotine, a stimulant, to self-medicate, temporarily alleviating symptoms. Nicotine can enhance focus and cognitive functions, making it attractive to those grappling with ADHD.
  2. Brain Chemistry: Smoking influences neurotransmitters in the brain, notably dopamine and norepinephrine, which govern attention and reward mechanisms. These neurotransmitters are often imbalanced in individuals with ADHD, making smoking a tempting avenue for temporary focus and attention enhancement.
  3. Social Factors: Adolescents and young adults with ADHD might succumb more easily to peer pressure and the smoking habits of their friends, making it a challenging endeavor to abstain from smoking. Once initiated, quitting becomes a Herculean task.

ADHD and Smoking: What Do the Statistics Reveal?

Statistics unequivocally indicate that individuals with ADHD are more prone to smoking compared to their non-ADHD counterparts. They are:

  • Approximately twice as likely to smoke
  • Prone to prolonged smoking durations
  • Likely to face challenges in quitting
  • Tending to initiate smoking at an earlier age

An article in Attention magazine highlights that those with ADHD are prone to frequent relapses and heightened emotional dysregulation and withdrawal symptoms during quitting attempts. The inherent challenges in emotional regulation for ADHD individuals exacerbate the difficulties in quitting smoking.

Therapists can impart emotional management skills and extend support during distressing phases. Considering both therapy and medication is vital before embarking on the journey to quit smoking.

Strategies for Individuals with ADHD to Quit Smoking

Lirio Covey, PhD, a renowned professor of clinical psychology, offers insights based on her research on how individuals with ADHD can quit smoking. Her suggestions encompass:

  • Preparing for multiple quit attempts
  • Utilizing nicotine nasal spray as an effective quitting tool
  • Anticipating potential decreases in depression and anxiety, with some requiring treatment for emerging depression
  • Acknowledging that while methylphenidate alleviates ADHD symptoms, it might not enhance quit rates

In conclusion, individuals with ADHD are predisposed to early smoking initiation and face hurdles in quitting, partly due to the relief smoking provides for some ADHD symptoms and genetic predispositions. Quitting might necessitate several attempts, employing nasal spray, suitable ADHD medication, and possibly treating emerging depression. Though the journey to quit might seem formidable, it is certainly achievable. Armed with the right medication, therapy, and support from loved ones, numerous individuals have triumphed over smoking. Remember, it's never too late to quit and reclaim your health!

References for ADHD and Smoking:

Further Reading:

What do the stats tell us about ADHD and smoking?




  • People with ADHD are more likely to smoke than their non-ADHD peers. They are:
  • About twice as likely to smoke
  • Likely to smoke longer
  • Likely to have a harder time quitting
  • Likely to start much earlier

According to an article in Attention magazine, individuals with ADHD often relapse more frequently and experience more emotional dysregulation and withdrawal symptoms. Emotional regulation is particularly challenging for those with ADHD, making quitting even more difficult.

Therapists can help teach emotional management skills and provide support during distress. Medication also aids in emotional regulation, so it's essential to consider both therapy and medication before attempting to quit.

How can people with ADHD quit smoking?

Lirio Covey, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology, has researched how people with ADHD can quit smoking. Her advice includes:

  • Expecting several attempts to quit
  • Using nicotine nasal spray as the most effective method
  • Anticipating a decrease in depression and anxiety, with some possibly needing treatment for emerging depression
  • Recognizing that methylphenidate reduces ADHD symptoms but may not improve quit rates

In conclusion, people with ADHD are at risk of starting smoking earlier and having more trouble quitting due to nicotine potentially relieving some symptoms and genetic factors. Quitting may take multiple tries, using nasal spray, appropriate ADHD medication, and possible treatment for depression. While quitting may seem daunting, it's not impossible. With medication, therapy, and support from loved ones, many have successfully quit smoking. Remember, it's never too late to quit and improve your health!

References on ADHD and Smoking:

    1. Taylor MR, et al. (2022). Tobacco and ADHD: A Role of MAO-Inhibition in Nicotine Dependence and Alleviation of ADHD Symptoms. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 16. 845646-.
    2. Four things people with ADHD should know about smoking. Columbia University Irving Medical Center. (2015, September 14).
    3. Cigarettes and ADHD: A robust relationship that's hard to break. CHADD. (2022, May 24).
    4. Low, K. (n.d.). Why people with ADHD are more likely to smoke cigarettes. Verywell Mind.
    5. Love, T. (n.d.). 2019 Annual International Conference on ADHD. In The Intersection of ADHD and Addiction: Myths and Truths. Philadelphia.

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