Adderall is a combination prescription drug given to those diagnosed with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It’s a stimulant that increases the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. The effects for those with ADHD are an increased ability to focus and control one’s train of thought. For narcolepsy, it prevents patients from falling asleep suddenly.
if abused, Adderall can cause a serious high and lead to an addiction disorder. High enough doses of the drug can cause dangerous symptoms and overdose.
The drug is considered to be very safe if taken as instructed, but unfortunately, there has been a rapidly growing trend of the drug being abused by individuals who do not have a prescription.
Adderall can be obtained on black markets and crushed up to be snorted or dissolved into a solution to be injected. The high gives the user excessive energy for hours and allows for hyper focus on tasks. Snorting or injecting the drug can create a euphoric rush. If abused enough, the person can potentially stay up for hours. This is often followed by a crash that includes depressed mood and severe fatigue.
If abused for long enough, adverse health effects can develop. There have been reported cases of heart failure during abuse due to the fact that the stimulant increases heart rate, putting strain on the muscle. If left untreated, it’s likely that addiction will lead to the heavy, long-term use that can result in permanent health problems.
Adderall abuse has become an epidemic among young people, especially high school and college students. These individuals take the drug in order to help them get through their schoolwork and other activities. It’s been theorized that the increase in expectations and general workloads among students in both high school and college is to blame for young people turning to drugs to help them cope. They may try it once and, finding it highly effective, begin to rely on it on a regular basis. They may also take more Adderall to help with the symptoms of the crash, and before they know it, an addiction has developed.
According to the Medicine Abuse Project, 6.5 percent of high school seniors have taken Adderall for a nonmedical purpose, and 31 percent of college students surveyed have used either Adderall or the similar drug Ritalin in the past year. Despite the belief that these drugs will improve student performance, nonmedical use of prescription stimulants is linked to lower GPAs and more frequently missing classes.
Professional athletes may also abuse Adderall in order to improve their performance. This became a serious issue in 2012 when a significant number of football players for the NFL were suspended for testing positive for Adderall and similar drugs that had not been prescribed to them. Since the drug also suppresses the appetite, it’s popular among those with eating disorders – predominantly young women and girls.
A total of 7 million individuals in the US abused medications for ADHD like Adderall in 2006, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Signs of Addiction
Because individuals who abuse Adderall tend to be young and ever underage, it’s likely that they will be hiding the behavior from family members, particularly parents. With the growing epidemic of the nonmedical use of medications like Adderall, it’s important for parents to be familiar with the signs of abuse of and addiction to this drug. No matter how careful addicted individuals may be, there are nearly always distinct signs to pick up on as the substance begins to take control of their lives.
Stimulants like Adderall produce a very recognizable set of behaviors and changes that become more noticeable the more the individual relies on the drug. Unexplained bursts of energy followed by fatigue and sleepiness are common and tend to be more intense than those produced by caffeine or a sugar rush, even in a teenager. During a binge, where individuals take multiple doses of the drug over time to keep the high going, they may stay awake for 24 hours or more and then sleep for an abnormally long period of time.
Other signs of Adderall abuse include:
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
Individuals snorting Adderall are also likely to develop chronic runny or bloody noses and/or sinus infections. Injections leave telltale marks at the injection site, often called track marks.
Abuse of a drug is one thing, but addiction is the real danger. An addiction is classified as a mental illness or brain disease that can cause afflicted individuals trouble for the rest of their lives even if they receive treatment. However, the sooner they get treatment, the better off they tend to be.
Addiction to any substance often comes with the following signs:
- Secretive behavior
- Personality changes
- Changes in social circles
- Changes in hygiene or grooming habits
- Significant unease and agitation when the drug is unavailable
- Avoidance of situations wherein the drug is unlikely to be available
- Financial, social, or legal problems related to the drug
- Decreased ability to meet work, school, or family responsibilities
- Failed attempts or refusal to attempt to quit using the substance
Some of these signs are merely the symptoms of being a young person going through a volatile period in life. However, when they’re combined with signs of Adderall abuse, they point to a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Fortunately, addiction treatment has become widely available in the US. There are over 14,500 specialized treatment centers for addictions to all kinds of substances, many that are tailored to different economic situations, specific age groups, different co-occurring disorders, and specific religious affiliations. At the same time, most health insurance policies cover addiction disorder treatment up to and including residential or inpatient rehabilitation.
Each addicted person’s situation is unique, so it’s important to ensure that the treatment plan is tailored to the individual. For those experiencing addiction for the first time, who don’t know much about their options, the first step may be to simply visit one’s primary care doctor. The doctor’s knowledge of the individual’s medical history can help the medical professional to make a referral to an addiction treatment center.
There, the addicted person’s first decision will generally be about how to approach getting off the drug. There are currently no medications specifically geared toward treating stimulant addiction, but in the case of prescription drug addiction, it’s often easier to allow the client to taper off the substance. Especially if the person started with a prescription to the medication, doctors may outline a program in which the client takes smaller and smaller doses over time before going off the drug altogether. This helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The downside is that it leaves the addicted person to deal with the temptation to take more of the drug to experience a high.
The alternative is to quit all at once, often referred to as “quitting cold turkey.” This can be very difficult to do on one’s own. However, most treatment centers offer a medically assisted detox service in which the client stays in a hospital setting for the duration of the worst withdrawal symptoms. This allows medical staff to monitor the client’s vital signs and treat any unpleasant symptoms that pop up. It also significantly lowers the risk of relapse during withdrawal due to the continual medical supervision.
After detox, it’s highly recommended to begin a rehabilitation process. This can consist of an inpatient program wherein the client stays in a special facility for several weeks without any access to the drug, or an outpatient program in which clients can still go to work and sleep at home, but are required to come into the treatment center a few times a week for drug tests, therapy, support group meetings, and other forms of treatment.
Mental health screenings and therapy are common requirements of rehab programs as it’s likely for mental illnesses to co-occur with addiction disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about half of all mentally ill people also have a substance use disorder. Untreated mental illnesses can be the cause of and/or fuel an addiction and increase the chance of relapse if nothing is done to address this problem. Even if no other mental illness is detected, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered to be fairly effective in treating addiction disorders. In the case of young students, time management and stress reduction training can be very helpful in eliminating the need for drugs like Adderall.
After rehabilitation is completed, it’s important to continue seeking support and working to improve one’s life in order to avoid once again falling into a state wherein drug use becomes tempting.
Adderall addiction may develop because an individual was trying to improve personal performance, feeling intense pressure to do so and feeling unable to reach that improvement without the help of a drug. In these instances, reducing that pressure and finding new ways to reach personal goals are essential to ensuring one stays on the path to recovery.