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Those with ADHD are more likely to get addicted to opioids, says Checkup caller

Pete Quily is a professional ADHD coach in Vancouver. Because of the work he does, he is seeing the opioid crisis in Canada in a different light. Quily says ADHD sufferers are surrounded by legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, and because of the nature of the disorder they can be easily pulled into a life of addiction.
Pete Quily, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder expert, says sufferers are surrounded by legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Due to the nature of the disorder, those with ADHD can then be easily pulled into a life of addiction. (CBC)

Pete Quily is a professional coach who works with people who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Vancouver. Because of the work he does, he sees the opioid crisis in Canada in a different light. Quily says ADHD sufferers are surrounded by legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, and because of the nature of the disorder they can be easily pulled into a life of addiction.

Quily spoke to Checkup host Duncan McCue during the show on the growing opioid crisis in Canada.

Listen to their conversation here:

A professional ADHD coach spoke to Checkup host Duncan McCue about the dangers of using drugs while having undiagnosed ADHD. 3:57

Pete Quily: One angle that people are missing is: why are people using drugs? And one of the reasons that almost no one is discussing is mental health. 

For example, look at people with ADHD. If you look at the actual research, 47 per cent of teen prescription opioid abusers had ADHD. Thirty-one per cent of methadone patients had ADHD. Thirty-five per cent of cocaine users have ADHD. Five per cent of adults have ADHD. If we're four to nine times more likely to self-medicate with legal drugs, why aren't we getting properly diagnosed? Why aren't we being properly screened? Why aren't rehabs looking for ADHD? People with other mental health conditions do it too but I'm focusing on ADHD because I'm an ADHD coach, and I run the Vancouver adult ADD support group.

I hear the horror stories of people with ADHD. I've coached some people who are ex-drug addicts and they weren't diagnosed in rehab, they weren't screened in rehab. If you have ADHD you're short of dopamine. Every legal drug, as well as booze and tobacco, boost dopamine.

So, the B.C. government, as well as governments across this country, are not taking ADHD seriously. They're not properly training doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists to be able to diagnose and treat. And if we're four to nine times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, shouldn't we mandate doctors to be able to diagnose and treat ADHD?

I live in the third biggest city in Canada. I sent out a list of people who can diagnose and treat ADHD for a decade and change. I sent that out thousands of times. I don't live in a tiny, small hamlet of 50 people and I can guarantee outside of the lower mainland it's even worse.

DM: So what you're saying is that we're not dealing with some of the root causes, and that opioids are being too quickly prescribed in some cases. That's what's starting things off for people. So what's missing here then?

PQ: That's actually incorrect.  That's one of the reasons, but that's not the only reason. They're not looking at the other part which is mental health. Not just ADHD, but depression and anxiety.

Yes, you need to deal with the current situation. Yes, you need safe injection sites in more places. If you look at the research, it's conclusive, it reduces deaths, it reduces AIDS, it reduces hepatitis C and it reduces crime in the community. And you need alternatives to street drugs, but you also need to shut off the flow. It's the demand side. 

Pete Quily and Duncan McCue's comments have been edited and condensed. You can listen to their full conversation above. This online segment was prepared by Ieva Lucs on June 11, 2017. 

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