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Recorded on April 6, 2016

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (2015), 9.5% of all children ages 3-17 are diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder by 2015. These 6 million children will grow into teens and adults, many of whom will have no ongoing professional support. While much of the publicity around the high diagnosis rates has focused on the dangers of prescribing stimulant drugs to children, the lurking danger is in the lack of appropriate support after diagnosis. For this reason, it is important for the addiction professional to understand the basic neural action of an ADHD brain. Effective prevention and treatment strategies should be tailored to account for these differences. In this presentation, we will explore the imbalance between impulsivity and cognitive control, basic brain function of an ADHD brain, basic psychopharmacology of stimulants in an ADHD brain, and strategies for accommodating prevention and treatment experiences. The presentation will use case studies of teens and adults to demonstrate these concepts. Professionals often understand that early use of stimulants (as children) increases the biological and social risk of becoming addicted to drugs and/or alcohol later. However, few understand that those diagnosed with ADHD struggle to control strong impulsive urges that drive their behaviors. Worse, most lack cognitive control to help them to get out of a situation. Teens already struggle to manage their risk-taking urges due to signals from their right inferior frontal gyrus and lack of ability to regulate those urges (prefrontal cortex). Therefore, teens suffer from a brainpower imbalance (Mulhert, Nils, Boy, Lawrence, & Andrews, 2015). Those diagnosed with ADHD and those who take stimulant drugs (e.g.  Concerta, Adderall) are at greater risk for rewiring neural circuitry, making them more susceptible to chemical addiction (Lakhan&Kirchgessner, 2012). Of course, not all teens diagnosed with ADHD and who take prescription drugs will develop a chemical addiction. However, many show increased addictive behaviors (e.g.gambling, sex) as adults.  Clients who are taught strategies to manage impulsivity and increase cognitive control are better able to avoid or recover from addictive tendencies. Case studies will be used to demonstrate to participants how different strategies work with teen and adult clients. Participants will be given a poll to vote as to which strategy to use in each part of the case study. The overall message is to highlight the complexities of treating clients diagnosed with ADHD and to equip participants with effective strategies.

Learning Objectives
  • Explain the imbalance of impulsivity and cognitive control in ADHD diagnosed teenagers and adults.
  • Apply specific prevention/treatment strategies to case studies of ADHD addicted clients.
  • Describe the psychopharmacological mechanism of stimulants in ADHD diagnosed brains.

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This webinar is NOT eligible for ASWB ACE CE hours or NASW CE hours.



Beth Donnellan, M.Ed, ABD, FT, holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education and a Master of Education in School and Mental Health Psychology; she is pursuing a doctorate in interdisciplinary psychology. She holds certification as a field traumatologist and has been licensed in both the mental health and addictions fields. She has over 14 years of college teaching experience for traditional and online universities. She has professional experience in many clinical areas as both a direct care provider and an administrator, including school counseling (K through 12), substance abuse/addictions treatment, mental health counseling, rape/crisis counseling, and traumatology. Donnellan regularly presents at national conferences (including the Society for Research in Child Development, National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), and Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition) focusing on topics related to memory/learning, working memory and substance use, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and memory function. She has published with Prentice Hall (2006, 2007) and IGI-Global (2014). She mentors students interested in conducting research through the Kaplan University Psychology Club and frequently invites them to present with her. She has won many teaching and curriculum awards, including the University of South Florida Provost Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant in 2007. Most recently, she was invited by the leadership of NAADAC to travel to Cuba with a delegation of mental health and addictions professionals to meet with government officials and professionals. Before teaching at the university level, she worked professionally as an addiction counselor, Director of Intervention and Prevention services (addiction), crisis counselor (rape and suicide), school counselor, CEO owner of an ADHD treatment center, and community service trainer. Donnellan is an active member of the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, and the Society for Research in Child Development. She currently serves as an associate editor for the International Journal of Technologies and Educational Marketing. Donnellan has been a full-time member of Kaplan University since 2004.

Who Should Attend

Addiction professionals, employee assistance professionals, social workers, mental health counselors, professional counselors, psychologists, and other helping professionals that are interested in learning about addiction-related matters.

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