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What You Need to Know about Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Prescription drug abuse has become pervasive in the United States. Even "study drugs" like Adderall are sought after by drug users. Although it does not provide a euphoric high, the stimulant effects are desirable.  Adderall abuse is when one takes unprescribed doses. The misuse of this drug may lead to addiction.

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What is Adderall and What Does It Do?

Adderall is a prescribed stimulant that helps treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Dopamine levels in the brain increase when using Adderall.

What is Adderall and What Does Adderall Do?

Dopamine is the chemical that is associated with pleasure and attention. The boosted alertness allows users to overcome their attention disorders. For those seeking an Adderall high, they look forward to the stimulant effects of the drug. Like mixing energy drinks with alcohol, the drug can boost the effects of other drugs.

Adderall and generic versions range from 5mg to 30mg. Since children and adults take the drug, there's a need for a variety of dosages. It is available in tablets as well as capsules. Adderall XR is the once-daily extended-release capsule.

Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) is mainly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. "People with ADHD persistently have more difficulty paying attention or are more hyperactive or impulsive than other people the same age. This pattern of behavior usually becomes evident when a child is in preschool or the first grades of elementary school; the average age of onset of ADHD symptoms is 7 years. Many people's ADHD symptoms improve during adolescence or as they grow older, but the disorder can persist into adulthood. ADHD diagnoses are increasing. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2011, 11 percent of people ages 4–17 have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Adderall creates a calming and focusing effect on the brain. When used together with therapy, the patient experiences an increase in confidence and self-esteem. The drug can also help relationships through the improvement of communication. It is prescribed to children, teens and adults to treat their attention disorders.

Ideally, a doctor would prescribe the medication at low doses and increase the dosage as needed until the patient feels the benefits.

Adderall XR and Adderall generic are Schedule II drugs. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are: Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin.

Sale and manufacture of Adderall, Adderall generic and all Schedule II drugs is highly regulated. On a state to state level, there are different punishments for the distribution of illegal stimulants. There are also consequence for those that buy Adderall.

Adderall abuse is popular with high school and college students. You may wonder why this age group is using the drug. For one thing, it’s prescribed to these age groups or they have had it prescribed in the past so they know what it feels like to use it. The temptation to use this drug is strong because it helps them concentrate on their studies.

Students may feel the pressure to do well on tests and use the drug to stay up late studying for an exam or to complete a paper. They may stay out late having fun with their friends, and then they feel the need to take the drug to keep them awake the next day in class.

Another reason for the popularity of the drug with students is because their friends are using and they get invited to try it at a party or club. They like the energy it gives them and the increased alertness even if they aren’t studying. It also seems like a safe drug because it’s given as a prescription medication and you don’t hear much about the problems of misuse in the news as you do with other drugs.

It can be difficult to tell when someone is abusing this drug, which is another reason students feel safer using it. Even their parents may just think their child is enjoying school and feeling good and not notice that something is unusual. However, if you suspect your child may be using a stimulant to help them with school or for partying with their friends, you need to follow up on your suspicions and talk to them. Students often don’t realize the dangers of misusing any medication, even one that seems relatively safe.

Adderall and Adderall XR are known by many names on the street. These include:

  • Addys
  • Beans
  • Black beauties
  • Dexies
  • Pep pills
  • Smart pills
  • Speed
  • Study buddies
  • Uppers
  • Zing

Teens especially try to cover their tracks by using alternative names for drugs. Parents need to be extremely vigilant of what their teens are doing and consuming. The internet is a great resource for learning about new drug names. There are many parent forums that you can also join to stay updated with teen trends. Also, if there are trust issues between teens and parents, getting the help of a counselor can help.

Adderall Addiction

Why is Adderall So Addictive?

According to NIDA, "When taken in doses and via routes other than those prescribed, prescription stimulants can increase brain dopamine in a rapid and highly amplified manner (similar to other drugs of abuse such as methamphetamine), thereby disrupting normal communication between brain cells and producing euphoria and, as a result, increasing the risk of addiction."

Many Adderall abusers push the effects of the drug by taking more and more. The increased Adderall dosage leads to heightened drug effects, but it also leads to increased tolerance. Next time the user wants to take amphetamine, they will need more to experience the same high.

Part of the addiction is the access to buy Adderall. Like prescription opioids, drugs like Adderall are often given to patients by doctors. As reported by the New York Times, "Sales of stimulant medication in 2012 were nearly $9 billion, more than five times the $1.7 billion a decade before, according to the data company IMS Health."

For those who do not have ADHD or narcolepsy, Adderall is used as a performance enhancing drug. As a cognitive improving drug, it helps users think faster and stay alert longer. Many college and high school students use it to stay up all night and study. In a 2006 study that asked 4580 students about their illicit use of prescription stimulants, "Lifetime and past-year prevalence rates for illicit use of prescription stimulants were 8.3% (382 students) and 5.9% (269 students), "respectively. Approximately three fourths (75.8%) of the 269 past-year illicit users of prescription stimulants reported using an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine combination agent (e.g., Adderall) in the past year, and approximately one fourth (24.5%) reported using methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, Methylin)."

For physical performance enhancing, studies show an increase in alertness and endurance. Due to this increase in performance, the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) have all banned the drug. If it is medically prescribed by a healthcare professional, the athlete must go through the proper process to get approval for use.

It's important that proper treatment is provided for those prescribed stimulant drugs. As the addiction becomes a commonplace one, healthcare professionals and parents alike are looking to find ways to curb this dangerous behavior.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Adderall Abuse

Clearly, the main co-occurring disorder seen with Adderall abuse is ADHD, but many abusers take it to disguise fatigue caused by depression or anxiety. The energy from the stimulant effects of the drug can mask symptoms of other disorders. It extremely important that those abusing Adderall get support for their addiction as well as the co-occurring disorder.

What Does Adderall Look Like?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), "In many cases, people receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. This may occur because both mental and substance use disorders can have biological, psychological, and social components. Other reasons may be inadequate provider training or screening, an overlap of symptoms, or that other health issues need to be addressed first. In any case, the consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death."

Adderall Side Effects

An Adderall high gives users heightened energy and attention, but there are some negative side effects of the drugs. The side effects can be worse depending on drug interactions.

Adderall Street Names
  • agitation
  • dizziness
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • excitability
  • irritability
  • headache
  • fear
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • tremor
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • sleep problems (insomnia)
  • dry mouth or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • hair loss
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • loss of interest in sex
  • impotence
  • increase blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • heart palpitations

One should seek medical attention if they feel these more serious symptoms:

  • high blood pressure
  • rapid heartbeat
  • pain during urination
  • moodiness
  • strange behavior
  • tremors
  • hallucinations

The long-term side effects of heavy use include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these long-term and risky side effects, please see a healthcare professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall addiction

Symptoms of abuse may vary, but like many drugs, users start to act strangely compared to their non-addicted selves when taking more than the recommended dosage. Adderall side effects include withdrawal symptoms that are the most obvious to detect. If you or someone you know experiences the following, they may have a dependency:

  • Moments of extreme energy and relentless fatigue (sleeping all day when not on drug)
  • Unable to perform tasks unless on Adderall
  • Taking more pills than prescribed
  • Higher dosage (look for finishing bottle before new prescription is ready)
  • Depression (lows)
  • Weight loss due to suppressed appetite

Abuse of Prescription Drugs

Here's the problem with abuse of prescription drugs, according to NIDA - "When taken in amounts or ways other than prescribed, like snorting or injecting, stimulants can increase the dopamine in the brain very "quickly. This changes the normal communication between brain cells, producing a "high' while also increasing the risk for dangerous side effects. Over time, this can lead to addiction, which is when you continue to use the drug despite negative consequences."

Especially in teens, this change in brain chemistry can be risky. Adolescents have the most to lose due to their developing brains. And by experiencing addiction earlier in age, they will be more likely to have issues with substance abuse as an adult. This is a huge problem since many Adderall abusers are teenagers. It is an appealing drug due to the energy and alertness it provides. Use by teens also may lead to the use of other drugs. If the pills are illicitly obtained, it may put them in situations where other drugs are present.

Many people buy Adderall for its appetite suppressing side effects. Adderall weight loss is not safe, however. It can cause rapid weight loss and lead to malnourishment if misused.

You may wonder how serious Adderall abuse is if you’re using this drug or know someone who is. While it may not seem like a big deal to take this medication even if you haven’t been prescribed it, there are dangers of abuse you need to be aware of.

This drug can cause high blood pressure which can increase your risk for a stroke or heart attack. Long-term use, especially when combined with caffeine, can cause damage to your kidneys. It can lead to heart disease, panic attacks, depression, inability to concentrate, insomnia, lethargy, mood swings, hallucinations and paranoia. It can even cause you to have thoughts of suicide or to act out aggressively.

Another issue with this medication is the risk for other drug use. If Adderall becomes difficult to access, a person may turn to other drugs on the street to prevent withdrawal and to get that high they are craving. When combining drugs, the risks rise even more.

Can You Die from Taking Too Much Adderall?

Yes, you can die from taking too much Adderall. When tolerance increases, more and more of the drug is needed to feel the effects. Amphetamine poisoning is different with everyone, but it usually involves extremely high dosages and slipping into a coma. Convulsions are another sign of overdose. There are a variety of ways the body shuts down due to too much amphetamine in the system. These ways include: kidney failure, circulatory collapse, cardiogenic shock, pulmonary edema, and pulmonary hypertension. These are extreme symptoms of overdose. A moderate overdose, or withdrawal, may seem milder, but medical attention is absolutely necessary to know what treatment is needed.

Adderall Detox – Coming Off an Adderall Addiction

Just like with any other addictive substance, you must get Adderall out of your system to begin recovery. This isn’t always an easy process, especially if you have been using for a long time. You may suffer withdrawal symptoms when you stop using. Some of these symptoms of withdrawal that you can expect include the following:

  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Intense hunger
  • Insomnia and sleeping too much
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Intense cravings
  • Suicidal thoughts

As you can see from this list, detoxing from Adderall is serious. You should never try it alone. Instead, find a detox facility that will help you through the difficult but necessary process.

When you go to a detox facility, the staff will assess your needs. They will determine the best option for the process cased on how long you’ve been using and other factors. It may take a few days for you to start feeling better.

You’ll start noticing withdrawal symptoms within a day or so from your last use. The symptoms will increase in severity until the body begins to adjust. This can take a few days or up to a week until they start to subside. During this time, you’ll be monitored. You may be given medication to help with the symptoms of withdrawal. If a medical emergency should arise, you would get immediate attention, which could be life-saving.

More detox centers are turning towards a holistic approach to treatment. Instead of relying on medications to help a person with withdrawal, they learn to become healthier and allow the body to detox naturally. The right nutrition can strengthen the immune system so it can handle the symptoms and lessen their severity. Many addicts fail to eat right or even eat at all on some days when they’re using. They don’t get the right nutrients since they aren’t eating like they should. Adderall is also used for weight loss, which means it would suppress your appetite.

Exercise is usually part of a holistic detox treatment plan. When a person works out, the brain releases those feel-good hormones like what you get by using drugs without the side effects. It also gives you more self-confidence as you work to improve the way you look and feel. It also helps your body return to normal function faster as you get healthy.

Adderall Rehab and Recovery – How to Recover from Adderall Abuse

Once detox is complete, the next step is rehab. You may not feel like you need this second part of the recovery process. You’re probably feeling better than you have for some time, and you may be ready to start your new life. However, statistics show that people are more likely to relapse if they don’t seek addiction treatment.

When you go to rehab, the goal is to help you learn how to manage your addiction. It’s a disease that isn’t curable, but it can be handled in a way that you don’t go back to using. You have several options for treatment, and you must decide which is best for your situation.

You may find outpatient care to be the ideal solution. You can continue working and taking care of your family while in therapy. You generally attend therapy at least one or two days for a few hours. With intensive outpatient rehab, you may go more often and stay longer. For this type of program to be successful, you need to have the support of your family and friends. You also need to be able to stay away from negative influences such as people who are using or those who pressure you to continue.

Inpatient rehab is another option, which may be necessary if you have a long-term addiction or if you have been using other substances with Adderall. With this program, you stay in the facility and attend therapy and group meetings every day. You don’t have to deal with distractions as you focus on overcoming your addiction. Most programs last up to 30 days unless you need residential treatment. With this option, you may stay for several months until you can get your addiction under control. It’s most often used when you have been through treatment before and relapsed or when you’ve been using for years.

What Will Happen in Treatment for Your Adderall Addiction?

Just like any other addiction, you must get to the bottom of why you were abusing Adderall. You may have felt pressure to do well in school or to perform your best at work. You may have a difficult time dealing with stress or other reasons might have led you to making the decision to turn to drugs. You must get to the root of the problem and learn how to deal with these issues so you don’t relapse in the future. Most drug addiction rehab clinics use multiple programs to reach these goals.

You’ll go through counseling and group therapy as part of your addiction treatment. Group meetings allow you to learn about the stories of other recovering addicts and to develop friendships with people who understand what you’re going through. Individual counseling is where you do the hard work and deal with the difficult issues.

You may also need medication if you were taking Adderall for ADHD. Otherwise, you may work to find a new way to manage your condition without the use of addictive drugs. Many programs focus on health and wellness, socialization and community involvement as well as family therapy to help heal the whole person. The idea is to give you the tools to be successful long-term and avoid relapsing. A person who has developed self-confidence and a sense of purpose is less likely to turn to drugs when problems arise. They have been equipped to deal with these issues in a more positive way.

When comparing drug rehab programs, find out about the services that are available and the methods of treatment used. This will help you determine which program is right for you to help you overcome your addiction to Adderall.

Ashwood Recovery

What to Do if You Know Someone Using Adderall

Ashwood Recovery can help those with Adderall and stimulant dependence become sober again. If you know someone who is struggling, it's important to give them the resources they need to find help. Those with prescription stimulant addictions may not feel like they have a problem. The popularity of the drug can lead to denial of a problem. "Pros" like Adderall weight loss may make someone hesitant to discontinue use.

What to Do if You Know Someone Using Adderall

Addiction changes the brain in many ways, and it can become difficult for an addict to see the inherent problems with their drug misuse. An intervention is a great way to sit an addict down to discuss their drug dependence and make a plan to get them the help they need.

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Adderall Abuse and Addiction Information