Adderall Addiction and Abuse

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant with powerful addictive properties. You can become addicted to Adderall if you take it for an extended period, in large doses. Although the drug is often prescribed to treat disorders such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy in children and teenagers, using it for longer than prescribed is not advised. Unchecked use and abuse of this drug will ultimately lead to potentially fatal consequences.

Adderall increases levels of dopamine in the brain, inducing euphoria, alertness, and razor-sharp focus. This is why it is commonly abused by students and those looking to enhance performance at work.

If you find yourself or a loved one struggling to quit using Adderall, you can get help. Treatment is available to help you kick the habit and live a healthy life again. You can find experts with experience treating abuse and addiction, who can help you take the right steps towards recovery.

What is Adderall?

To fully grasp the concept of Adderall addiction, you have to understand what it is and how it interacts with your system.

Adderall is a prescription medication generally used to treat children and adults afflicted with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is the brand name of a combination drug that is produced by synthesising two central nervous system stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.

ADHD is a disorder characterised by a lack of attention, impulsive behaviours and unstable hyperactivity. Narcolepsy is marked by uncontrollable deep sleep, often accompanied by hallucinations and brief paralysis.

At prescribed doses, Adderall calms the symptoms of ADHD and induces increased wakefulness, improved cognitive control, euphoria and muscle strength. However, when taken without prescription in large doses, it can result in psychosis and rapid muscle breakdown.

There’s also a risk of developing an addiction to the drug. Your brain might become dependent on Adderall after long-term, consistent usage, leading you to need it for even basic brain function.

When taken, the drug travels to the brain to enhance the production of neurochemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals are responsible for mood, alertness, motor activity and general brain function.

Other names for Adderall

There is an extended release version of the drug known as Adderall XR.

Adderall is also identified by a number of slang names used on the streets. Being widely abused by teenagers and young adults, these street names are more commonly used among this demography and in schools.

They include: Bennies, Pep pills, Speed, Eye openers, Wake-ups, Red Dexies, Red pep, Blue pill, Black beauties, Copilots and Beans.

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What is Adderall used for?

As well as being prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, Adderall is often used (and abused) by people trying to boost their performance. This mainly involves students and workers who have exams or deadlines to face. The drug easily induces insomnia and loss of appetite in people without ADHD, which gives them more sleepless hours to work or prepare for exams.

The drug is also abused by recreational drug users, because of the feelings of euphoria and overexcitement that it induces.

Causes of Adderall addiction: Who is most at risk?

You can easily become addicted to Adderall if you don’t use it as per a doctor’s prescription. Its effects on your brain will lead you to repeatedly use the drug to enjoy longer hours of increased wakefulness, self-confidence, euphoria and alertness. Over time, your brain will depend on Adderall for dopamine production, which will cause adverse health symptoms once you stop using or cut back on your regular dosage.

There are various circumstances that can lead you to abuse Adderall. These include:

Environmental factors

Your chances of abusing Adderall will usually depend on the environment that surrounds you. Being exposed to community violence or having an unstable life at home may increase your likelihood of abusing this drug.

Company

If you circulate with friends or relatives that use Adderall, you may be influenced to take the drug somewhere along the line.

Performance

This is perhaps one of the main reasons for abusing Adderall and falling into the trap of addiction. Sometimes, you have a deadline to meet, an exam to prepare for and pressure to get higher grades at school or fulfil more tasks at work. When faced with these issues, it’s easy to see Adderall as the answer. This is because the drug can extend your natural human abilities by tampering with your brain. However, long-term use will only do more harm than good.

How addictive is Adderall?

Adderall addiction is unlikely to occur in those who strictly use the drug under prescription. However, for those that use the drug illicitly for the ‘high’ it induces or to boost productivity and performance, addiction is indeed a possibility.

After taking large doses of Adderall for a while to enhance effectiveness and energy, your brain will gradually become accustomed to the prominent presence of the drug and cut back on its own production of dopamine (leaving that task to Adderall). At some point, more and more of the drug will be needed to recreate the same feelings. At this point, you’re said to have developed tolerance.

From there, decreasing your intake or abruptly quitting the drug will lead to negative health symptoms, which will result in a compulsive need to take Adderall to fend off these symptoms.

Methods of Adderall usage

Adderall on prescription usually comes in tablet form, for oral ingestion. Tablets come in different release forms and comprise a range of doses from 5 to 30 milligrams.

The release forms of Adderall include two extended-release versions and immediate-release tablets. Adderall XR is the shorter extended-release version of 12 hours.

Users who want to experience the effects faster often crush the tablets or empty the capsules and snort the drug. This will speed up the feelings induced by Adderall, as it travels to the bloodstream faster.

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Signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse

Abusing Adderall has numerous effects, which are not always positive. In fact, the negative effects of abusing the drug outweigh the positive ones by far.

Signs and symptoms you are likely to experience when you abuse Adderall include:

  • Being overly talkative
  • Sleeping for long periods
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unusual excitability
  • Aggression

Continued abuse can lead to alterations in the neurocircuitry of the brain, which can cause mental disorders such as depression and psychosis.

If you have a relative that you suspect may be using Adderall, there are telling signs and behavioural giveaways that will expose their drug abuse. Firstly, there will be a reduced sleep regime and increased energy and alertness. They may work longer than usual and seem to never tire. There are also adverse effects to look out for when Adderall is abused. They involve changes in behaviours and a drug-seeking compulsion.

People who abuse Adderall (especially for performance) tend to always hide their abuse of the drug, as they may be considered cheats. In other cases, you may choose to hide your illicit use of the drug as a result of the stigma you could face if other people find out.

Health risks of Adderall addiction

Adderall is often wrongly considered a safe drug, as it is a prescription medication and can be given to children. You might take the drug with well-meaning intentions, without understanding the adverse effects it can cause to your health. If you haven’t used Adderall for long, please stop. However, if you have abused the drug, it’s advised that you seek medical help immediately.

Some of the dangerous effects the drug can cause include headaches, restlessness and dizziness. You may also experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Increased irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Trouble with cognitive function
  • Stomach troubles
  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Verbal or motor tics
  • Skin problems

Severe effects of the drug include muscle damage, psychosis and extreme depression that may result in suicidal thoughts.

Short-term effects of Adderall

During short-term use under prescription, Adderall will produce positive effects if you’re suffering from ADHD or narcolepsy. It does this by boosting chemicals in the brain such as norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals will boost your alertness and attention span, and only make you sleep as little as necessary. The drug will also help increase blood flow to the muscles.

These effects will make you feel energised and invigorated during this period.

However, there are short-term negative effects associated with the drug, even when taken under prescription. These effects include insomnia, feelings of restlessness, loss of appetite and weight loss, as well as possible cardiac problems.

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Long-term effects of Adderall

Extended use of Adderall can result in severe health complications, especially when the drug is used in large doses and abused over a prolonged period. Because Adderall spikes the production of neurochemicals in the brain, long-term effects of Adderall abuse can include hostility, depression and paranoia.

Heavy use of the drug for a long time will certainly lead to dependence and addiction. The effects will likely include hallucinations, cardiovascular problems, tremors, panic attacks, suicidal ideation and psychosis.

Over time, the pleasurable effects the drug gave you initially may begin to reverse as a result of tolerance. This could lead you to take larger doses, which in turn might result in overdose. If you notice any of these symptoms and have fallen foul of addiction, consult a healthcare professional before you quit using Adderall, as withdrawal complications may arise otherwise.

Co-occurring disorders

Co-occurring disorders are common in Adderall addiction. Widely known as dual diagnosis, these disorders are mental illnesses that present themselves alongside your substance abuse. They make addiction difficult to treat and may tempt you back to using the drug if not properly addressed.

If you were prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD and went on to abuse the drug, symptoms of ADHD will occur simultaneously alongside your Adderall abuse.

On the other hand, if you abused Adderall to boost performance without having a prior mental illness, your addiction may cause psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and psychosis.

In both cases, dual diagnosis is said to be present.

Teen Adderall abuse and addiction

Adderall abuse and addiction is common amongst teenagers. This is because they mostly see it as a sure-fire means to getting high grades and inducing self-confidence. Sometimes, it’s hard to meet the demands of school and there’s a perceived need to spend longer studying. Adderall provides a solution, as it shuts down the body’s hunger sensors for a while and nullifies the need for sleep.

Some youngsters solely use Adderall to get ‘high’ and experience the euphoric effects. This may stem from use at teenage parties and similar hangouts.

Some teenagers abuse Adderall having been prescribed it. They sometimes want a stronger ‘high’ than the prescription dosage induces, so seek ways to ‘up’ their usage as a result.

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Relationship between Adderall and other substances

Adderall affects the central nervous system like other stimulants and illicit drugs. However, its effect on the brain may differ from that of other substances. When taken alongside other stimulants, you will run the risk of severe, immediate side-effects, along with powerful ‘highs’ and adverse withdrawal symptoms when you choose to quit.

When taken in combination with Adderall, depressants like benzodiazepines, alcohol and marijuana can induce more adverse negative effects than they would cause if taken alone. Taking Adderall with alcohol also increases the risk of a fatal overdose.

There’s also great risk when taking Adderall in combination with Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are antidepressants and produce adverse health effects such as seizures, hallucinations, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate, when combined with Adderall.

Adderall overdose explained

Overdose will occur when you take more Adderall than your body can handle. This is the breaking point for your body in terms of Adderall abuse.

You will be at risk of overdose if you:

  • Take Adderall without prescription
  • Take Adderall for an extended period other than medically recommended
  • Take more than what has been prescribed
  • Abuse Adderall alongside other substances like marijuana, alcohol, or benzodiazepines

Overdose commonly occurs as a result of tolerance. When your body and brain grow desensitised to the effects of the drug, you’ll need a higher dose than before to replicate the desired effects. This trend will go on and likely result in an overdose.

Overdose could also easily occur when you relapse in the middle of your addiction treatment. This is why it is important to stick to treatment once you start (to ensure full recovery).

Adderall overdose can lead to physical symptoms such as fainting, fatigue, diarrhoea, rapid heart rate, uncontrollable shaking and fever as well as more serious effects such as loss of consciousness, seizures and tremors. Psychological effects such as hallucinations, depression, panic, anxiety and aggression are also common.

Adderall abuse and addiction facts and statistics

Reports from treatment centres and hospitals indicate an increasing use of Adderall in the UK today. Adderall is known as a ‘smart drug’, often taken to enhance cognitive ability. An estimated 10-15% of students in the UK (around 230,000 students) admit to using Adderall or other prescription drugs or alcohol to increase focus and concentration for longer study hours. The use of the drug is reportedly also rife amongst professionals looking to boost performance.

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What to Do If You Need Help Quitting

If you are struggling with Adderall abuse and addiction, it’s important to seek help the moment you notice the signs. If you have experienced any symptoms of addiction, contact a medical professional immediately.


FAQs

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug made from the combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is used to treat and manage symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy, but is abused by people trying to boost performance in school and work, because of how it affects the brain.

How is Adderall used?

Under prescription, Adderall tablets are ingested orally. However, recreational users (seeking to induce a near-instant effect) crush the tablets and subsequently snort the drug.

Is Adderall addictive?

Yes. Adderall is addictive for people who don’t use it under prescription and those that use the drug beyond what is prescribed.

Who abuses Adderall?

People seeking to boost performance (like students, athletes and professionals) tend to abuse Adderall. People with eating disorders often use the drug’s appetite-inhibitory properties to control their binges.

Those afflicted with ADHD may also abuse the drug if they go ‘off prescription’ and take large doses for longer periods.

How can i spot Adderall addiction?

Adderall addiction is accompanied by compulsive and obsessive behaviour towards the drug. If you notice yourself looking to acquire Adderall through any means, then you’re likely addicted.

Is Adderall harmful?

Adderall will cause serious health problems if you abuse it for a long time or use the drug without a prescription.

What is Adderall dependence?

Dependence is a state where your brain and body has become so used to the presence and effects of Adderall that it now needs the drug to perform basic functions.

Because your brain cannot match the level of dopamine produced by Adderall, it will rely on the drug for your new, daily requirements.

Where can I find help?

The best way to get help for your addiction is through rehabilitation and medical care. You can seek emotional help from self-help and support groups, as well as family and friends.

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