There is no question about it: Adderall is abused by some, and even addictive in many cases. Despite its apparent usefulness in treating some disorders – such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – the active ingredients in Adderall have been shown to have a negative cognitive impact.
Not only that, but there are many adverse effects when individuals who should not be taking the drug use it. This is where drug abuse and addiction take hold.
Answering the Most Common Questions About Adderall
To get the full picture of Adderall as a drug, including how it is abused and can be addictive, this post answers seven major questions regarding the prescription drug:
- What is Adderall?
- What does Adderall do?
- What is the right Adderall dosage?
- What are the Adderall effects to look for?
- What are the unwanted side effects of Adderall use?
- How is Adderall abused?
- What does Adderall addiction look like?
- How can Adderall addiction be treated?
Adderall abuse has risen over the past decade, primarily because high school and college students see Adderall – or its generic counterpart – as a study aid.
Adderall abuse rose nearly 70 percent from 2006 to 2011, and trips to the emergency room as a result of the negative effects of the drug increased by over 150 percent. Clearly, Adderall is not a drug to play around with.
What is Adderall – and What Does Adderall Do?
Adderall is a type of prescription amphetamine that is designed specifically to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD). More specifically, Adderall is the brand name for a prescription drug made of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These are essentially generic Adderall drugs. Because it is an amphetamine, Adderall is considered a stimulant.
Adderall speeds up the way that the nervous system processes outside stimulation. Individuals diagnosed with ADHD have difficulty concentrating on specific stimulation, and the drug works to counteract these symptoms. It is only appropriate for those diagnosed with ADHD since there are no benefits associated with concentration for those who do not have an attention deficit disorder.
Adderall is no longer used only by those struggling with ADD or ADHD. Students looking for a high or concentration in their studies also use it. This is where Adderall abuse and possibility of Adderall addiction come in. Adderall generic or Adderall name brand – both can be dangerous and potentially cause abuse and addiction.
“Adderall is a clever brand and a deceptive brand. In America, amphetamine has traditionally been associated with tweakers, speed freaks, bikers, truckers and all-night sex orgies. Adderall changed all that. Because it’s essentially pure pharmaceutical amphetamine, it quickly became the prescription stimulant of choice for college students, wage laborers, the military, and pretty much everybody else.”
~ James L. Kent, The Huffington Post
Adderall 20mg is the most common Adderall dosage for the prescription drug – the effects of this dose generally last five hours. However, some people take more than Adderall 20mg as they abuse the drug.
An Adderall prescription can cost as much as $300 per month. Some people sell the drug around college campuses for $5 per pill, which makes the drug ripe for abuse and leaves those using it prone to abuse. Sometimes people will buy generic Adderall to abuse, since it can be found for cheaper.
What Does Adderall Do to the Brain and the Body?
In addition to the possibility of abusing Adderall, the drug is associated with several effects and side effects. The effects of Adderall are the things that the drug is designed to do, while the side effects are unwanted physical or psychological changes as a result of using the drug.
Adderall Effects: The intended effect of this prescription amphetamine is to speed up the way the central nervous system processes outside stimulation. This is why the drug is helpful to individuals with ADHD and ADD. Adderall can also be used to treat narcolepsy, since the secondary effect of the drug is to induce wakefulness as a stimulant. This is why some people take the drug to get an “Adderall high”.
Adderall Side Effects: When abused (that is, taken in any way other than how it is prescribed), Adderall can produce powerful side effect. This makes abusing the drug extremely dangerous. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse writes, stimulants like Adderall “can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.” This can lead to decreased sleep and appetite, as well as the onset of malnutrition. In turn, these physical changes lead to psychological Adderall side effects like paranoia and hostility. In some serious cases with a high dose of Adderall, abusing the drug can lead to a stroke or other cardiovascular problems.
A more specific list of Adderall side effects caused by abuse of the drug include:
- Sleeping problems (such as insomnia)
- Acting irritable or aggressive
- Increased anxiety
- Increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty in speaking, confused thinking
- Twitching hand
- Difficulty breathing
- A sudden change in sex drive
All of these are early signs that Adderall abuse may be present. While even taking Adderall as prescribed can produce some side effects, abuse of the drug produces these side effects more frequently and make them more intense. If you see these effects either in yourself or someone you know, it may be time to get help.
How Can Adderall Be Abused?
Adderall is a powerful prescription amphetamine – it can absolutely be abused. Not only that, but it has been abused by thousands of students, workers, and soccer moms around the United States.
It is worth noting here that the only acceptable use of Adderall is with a prescription by a doctor. This is only after you have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or narcolepsy.
This is what the prescription amphetamine was made for. Any other method of us is considered abuse of the drug. Some of the ways that Adderall can be abused include:
- Taking more of the drug than is prescribed by a doctor (i.e. more than the typical Adderall 20mg).
- Taking Adderall using a non-approved method (i.e. snorting the powder)
- Taking the prescription amphetamine for any other reason than the medical condition you have been diagnosed with (i.e. to stay awake the night before a final or during a night shift at work)
- Taking Adderall more often than outlined in the prescription
- Taking the drug that has been prescribed to someone else
- Buying Adderall from an illegal source in order to take it recreationally
- Taking the drug to get an Adderall high
- Taking Adderall for weight loss purposes
Clearly, there are many ways that Adderall can be abused. The two most common ways that the prescription amphetamine drug is abused are as a study aid for college students and as a means of achieving weight loss.
Using Adderall as a study aid: Thousands of college students around the United States buy Adderall illegally, thinking that the drug will help them focus better during their studies. However, research has shown time and again that this is not the case. Adderall cannot be used for cognitive enhancement, as multiple studies have found that prescription stimulants do not facilitate learning, thinking or concentration when those who do not have ADHD or ADD take them.
Using Adderall for weight loss: Some people buy Adderall as a fast and easy way to drop some pounds. However, weight loss is only a side effect of Adderall: it should not be the main reason for using Adderall. This is because the amphetamine is associated with a host of other, less desirable side effects. These include everything from a risk of heart problems to a risk of dependence on the drug.
What Does Adderall Addiction Look Like?
The side effects of Adderall abuse outlined above are also good indications of addiction to the drug. These are both physical and psychological symptoms of abuse. However, many people do not realize that even recreational abuse of Adderall can lead to addiction to the drug. People should only buy Adderall with a prescription.
An Adderall high is only the start. Adderall addiction goes beyond the side effects of prescription drug abuse, like using Adderall for weight loss. In addition to the side effects highlighted above, addiction to the drug is usually associated with several behavioral signs of addiction. The signs of Adderall addiction, or that someone is using Adderall to get high, include:
- Continually buying Adderall through illegal sources
- Chewing or snorting Adderall
- Consistently increasing the Adderall dosage
- Having to refill the prescription for Adderall more often than necessary
- Using Adderall for self-medication
- Going to multiple doctors for an Adderall prescription
- Withdrawing from social activities due to Adderall use
What Can You Do to Overcome Adderall Addiction?
So far, it is abundantly clear that Adderall abuse is a reality in the United States, Adderall addiction is a very real possibility, and Adderall is associated with a great number of side effects – particularly when abuse or addiction are present.
However, the negative Adderall effects can be overcome through treatment. For example, intensive outpatient programs can help those struggling with dependence on the prescription drug in several ways. These programs help patients identify the negative impact that Adderall has had on their life, develop strategies for avoiding the drug altogether, and plan out how they can live a happier and healthier future.
While Adderall abuse and addiction is a very real possibility for those who use it outside of a prescription, this does not mean that overcoming the hold of the prescription drug is impossible.
Christopher Lane. (2016, February). Adderall Misuse is Rising Among Young Adults. Retrieved from:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/201602/adderall-misuse-is-rising-among-young-adults
Constance Shcarff. (2015, October). How to Address Using Adderall and Ritalin as Study Aids. Retrieved from:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201510/how-address-using-adderall-and-ritalin-study-aids
FDA. (2017). Adderall and Adderall XR Information. Retrieved from:https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm111441.htm
James L. Kent. (2013, October). Adderall: America’s Favorite Amphetamine. Retrieved from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/high-times/adderall-amphetamine_b_4174297.html
Kimberly Holland. (2016, December). Adderall and Weight Loss: Here’s the Skinny. Retrieved from:http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adderall-and-weight-loss#introduction1
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, January). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/stimulant-adhd-medications-methylphenidate-amphetamines
National institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2013, December). Five Myths About ADHD Drugs. Retrieved from:https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/5-myths-about-adhd-drugs
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Prescription Stimulants in Individuals With and Without ADHD: Misuse, Cognitive Impact, and Adverse Effects. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3489818/
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