Although attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis is more commonly associated with younger individuals, a study from the Global Health Epidemiology Research Group shows that the condition is also prevalent among adults. Currently, over eight million American adults are affected by the disorder. Apart from how this population is inclined to restlessness and impulsivity, experts have also discovered a link between ADHD patients and cigarette smoking.

Over 40% of those with ADHD are in the habit of smoking, to the point that the condition is considered a risk factor for addiction. Smoking cessation rates are already notoriously low among the general public, and research suggests that it may even be more difficult among ADHD patients. For a closer look at the connection between the two, continue reading below.

Why is smoking cessation harder for those with ADHD?

ADHD comes with hard-to-control symptoms such as an inability to focus and irritability. Studies have found that nicotine can mitigate some of these symptoms, almost acting similarly to ADHD medication. Nicotine releases dopamine and stimulates parts of the brain, producing a calming, therapeutic effect. As a result, it encourages positivity and lessens stress, which may explain why those with ADHD gravitate toward the habit. With it regulating their condition, experts have labeled this as the self-medication hypothesis.

However, it is well-documented that smoking poses many health risks. Case in point, 1 out of 5 people die annually from cigarettes due to its associated diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. This is especially concerning for those with ADHD because they are already predisposed to several conditions. As outlined in a previous article c alled “ADHD and Weight Loss: How to Stay Fit and Healthy”, a person with ADHD is four times more likely to be obese, which brings about its own distinct medical threats, such as hypertension and osteoarthritis.

The challenge then becomes how ADHD patients can quit. Only 7.5% of all those who attempt to quit smoking are successful because of withdrawal symptoms. These only further aggravate the existing indicators of ADHD, namely lack of focus and mood disorders, making it difficult for ADHD smokers to stop. Research shows that nicotine cravings are also much more intense for ADHD patients, and it takes plenty of conscious effort to quit entirely.

Tips that may help ADHD smokers to quit

Adopting NRTs

One of the best ways to get ADHD smokers to stop is to wean off instead of going cold turkey. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products provide controlled dosages that alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, they’re proven to increase the chances of cessation by up to 70%, and they come in various enjoyable flavors that are proven to increase dopamine, which can motivate healthy self-administration behavior. However, it’s best to note that the nicotine content may lead to a few side effects. In a blog post by Prilla on the side effects of ZYN nicotine pouches, the article outlines how users may experience mouth soreness or an upset stomach when they adjust. Fortunately, these issues can be addressed by simply changing dosages or flavors to find the right balance. Similarly, reactions from Habitrol, a nicotine patch option, include muscle pain and skin irritation, proving that NRTs should still be used with care.

Practice positive reinforcement

A recent study on smoking abstinence found that positive reinforcement may be a key to stop for ADHD smokers. Researchers offered monetary rewards for those who managed to stay away from cigarettes. At the end of the study, 64% of ADHD smokers were successful. Analysis from the Oxford Academic seconds that financial incentives are beneficial in this regard. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to find a specific money-led smoking program or break your own budget. To do this at home, you can set milestones for every week you go without smoking and treat yourself to something you enjoy, from the money you save from cutting off cigarettes. Given that the average cigarette smoker spends nearly $5,000 and those who vape using products like JUUL spend upwards of $1,000 annually, that’s a lot of extra resources you can reallocate to more meaningful smoking cessation incentives.

Attend counseling

Therapy is often recommended as a treatment for those diagnosed with ADHD. It assists patients in finding the right approach to thrive with their condition. It helps them control their impulses and guides them to focus better. Similarly, therapeutic intervention is known to increase the chances of smoking cessation by 14%. When paired together, ADHD smokers can receive adequate support on how to quit the habit and successfully maintain this long-term. For free counseling, 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a telephone quitline that offers support nationwide through coaching and online resources.