Adderall is a prescription stimulant used to treat ADHD. However, many individuals abuse this drug in order to experience euphoria and other effects.
According to the National Library of Medicine, “The combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine [also known by its brand name Adderall] is used as part of a treatment program to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” in adults and children. Though the drug can have a simultaneously calming and focusing effect on individuals who suffer from ADHD, taking larger doses than prescribed or taking it without a prescription at all can lead to severe side effects, chief among them being addiction.
Adderall abusers put themselves at risk of experiencing a number of issues, both physical and psychological, but many of them don’t care. Because the drug causes desirable effects at first, such as euphoria and energy, they do not consider the consequences. However, Adderall abuse can easily become dangerous, just like using illicit stimulants such as cocaine and crystal meth.
Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Abuse
According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, when a person takes an amphetamine-based drug like Adderall, the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine are released and cause the euphoria and increase in energy associated with these drugs. When the drug is taken in prescribed doses, effects are not as intense, but someone who abuses Adderall will often experience symptoms such as
- Increased energy and activity
- Increased talkativeness
- Increased blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate
- Increased respiration
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased need for sleep
- Dry mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Delusions of grandeur
- Heightened sense of wellbeing
People who abuse Adderall consistently will often take the drug continuously in order to prolong their high, a practice known as binging. However, once they run out of the drug or stop using it, they will become depressed and fatigued. This is called binge-crash cycle of abuse, and most stimulant users participate in it because of the good feelings the drug can cause and the desire to avoid withdrawal.
Unfortunately, some individuals start out taking Adderall as prescribed and then realize they feel better while on the drug, causing them to want to take more. Others may take it for the wrong reasons like
- To lose weight
- To stay up all night to write a paper, study, etc.
- To be more sociable and talkative at parties, etc.
- To get high
All of these reasons one may take large doses of Adderall without a prescription are considered forms of substance abuse.
Dangers of Adderall Abuse
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The average age of onset of ADHD symptoms is 7 years,” and many individuals are placed on the drug in their childhood or teenage years. However, this does not mean that Adderall is completely safe. Those who take it should understand the many dangers associated with the drug’s use and abuse.
- Adderall can cause heart problems, including “sudden death in patients who have heart problems or heart defects,” stroke, and increased blood pressure and heart rate (US Food and Drug Administration).
- These issues are even more likely to occur when someone abuses Adderall, and a person can easily overdose on the drug, which can lead to heart and respiratory failure, seizures, and death.
- A person can experience psychological issues as a result of taking or abusing Adderall. The drug commonly causes paranoia and irritability, and those who abuse it for long periods of time can experience full-blown psychosis similar to schizophrenia that causes
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
- Severe paranoia
- Severe weight loss is common in those who abuse amphetamine-based drugs, and malnutrition and its consequences can also occur. Many individuals also suffer from a weak immune system.
- Other dangerous side effects of Adderall abuse include
- Chronic weakness and tiredness
- Repetitive motor activity
- Skin infections caused by constant itching
Abusing any type of stimulant drug can cause severe side effects, including dependence, tolerance, and addiction. A person who misuses Adderall consistently puts themselves at serious risk of developing all the conditions listed above and of their use of the drug becoming compulsive. When Adderall is taken as prescribed, it is usually safe, but large, consistent doses can cause a number of mental and physical illnesses.
Who Abuses Adderall?
Individuals of all ages and groups abuse drugs like Adderall, but none so much as college students. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “An estimated 6.4 percent of full-time college students age 18 to 22 used Adderall nonmedically in the past year” while only 3 percent of individuals of the same age but not full-time college students did the same.
- 89.5 percent of the full-time college students in the same study admitted to binge drinking in the past month as well.
- The illegal production of amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall has skyrocketed in recent years, which makes the drug much more available for illicit use (Drug Enforcement Administration).
- Adderall is the third most abused drug by 12th graders as determined by a survey on past-year use, behind marijuana and amphetamines in general (NIDA).
Adderall addicts often crush the drug and snort it in order to make its effects come on more quickly. This behavior is similar to cocaine abuse, and some individuals do turn to this more intense, illicit stimulant when their tolerances for Adderall itself become too high. Amphetamine abuse in the long term often leads to addiction, whether the individual was originally taking the drug as prescribed or not.
Often, dangerous illicit drugs like crystal meth and crack are easier to obtain than prescription amphetamines, which is another reason why addicts turn to this type of substance abuse. But Adderall itself, if taken consistently and in large doses, can cause all the issues associated with stimulant abuse, and an individual’s use can become compulsive, leading them to risky and dangerous behavior that will affect them and their loved ones.
Am I an Adderall Addict?
If you have been abusing your Adderall medication, you should ask yourself if it is time to seek help.
- Do I use more of my medication than prescribed, take it in a different way than prescribed, or use it more often than prescribed?
- Am I using someone else’s prescription?
- Am I taking Adderall so I can experience effects other than what the drug is prescribed for, such as weight loss or being more fun at parties?
- Do I experience cravings for Adderall when I’m not on it?
- Do I make excuses for myself to take the drug or more of the drug?
- Have I experienced physical or psychological side effects of my substance abuse?
- Do I hide my substance abuse from my family and loved ones?
- Have I lost my job, a relationship, my academic standing, or another important aspect of my life to my substance abuse?
- Have I ever been arrested because of my Adderall abuse?
- Do I feel that I would be unable to stop using Adderall on my own?
If you answered yes to these questions, it is time to seek help. Prescription stimulant abuse is just as dangerous as illicit substance abuse and can lead to all the same issues, which is why you should not hesitate to put an end to this behavior in the safest way possible.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
There aren’t any pharmacological options for the treatment of prescription stimulant addiction at this time, although a patient may require this option during detox. The withdrawal syndrome associated with Adderall is mostly psychological in nature and can be very uncomfortable, so antidepressants, anticraving agents, and antipsychotics may be necessary during this time.
- Behavioral therapy is usually the crux of the prescription stimulant addiction treatment program. These approaches can help patients learn how to
- Recognize and avoid triggers
- Cope with stress and cravings
- Change negative beliefs and attitudes
- Integrate better skills and philosophies into their lives to minimize their chances of relapse
- Support groups can also be a helpful part of recovery, and many different programs exist for substance abusers like 12-step groups or SMART Recovery.
- Co-occurring disorders, like depression, anxiety disorders, etc., need to be treated along with addiction, and these are usually addressed in behavioral therapy. It is very common for someone to suffer from one of these disorders in addition to addiction.
With professional treatment, you can put an end to your Adderall abuse and addiction and start living your life again.