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Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Adderall (Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine) Abuse and Addiction

Prescription drug abuse has become pervasive in the United States. Even "study drugs" like Adderall are highly sought after by drug users. Although it does not "provide a euphoric high, the stimulant effects are desirable.

What is Adderall and What Does Adderall Do?

What is Adderall and What Does Adderall Do?

For many people who have heard of the drug but don't understand it's uses, they may ask, "What is Adderall?". Adderall is a commonly prescribed "stimulant that helps treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Dopamine levels in the brain are increased when using Adderall. Dopamine is 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 Addiction

What Does Adderall Look Like?

Besides answering "What is Adderall?" and "What does Adderall do?", it's important to understand what it looks like so it can be easily identified. "Adderall and Adderall generic dosages 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.

What Does Adderall Look Like?

Intended Use for Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine

As was said before, Adderall generic (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 high 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 Street Names

Adderall Street Names

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.

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 given to patients by doctors often. 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 enhancing 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 caused by 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.

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."

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Adderall Side Effects

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

  • 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 Adderall effects of misuse and other amphetamines 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 Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine Addiction

Symptoms of Adderall abuse may vary, but like many drugs, users start to act strangely compared to their non-addicted selves when taking more than the recommended Adderall 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 Adderall 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 Adderall dosage (look for finishing bottle before new prescription is ready)
  • Depression (lows)
  • Adderall 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.

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 Adderall effects. Amphetamine poisoning is different with everyone, but it usually involves extremely high dosages and slipping into a coma. Convulsions are another sign of Adderall 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 Adderall withdrawal, may seem milder, but medical attention is absolutely necessary to know what treatment is needed.

What to Do if You Know Someone Using Adderall

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. "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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Full Infographic:

Adderall Abuse and Addiction Information
  • Abuse, National Institute on Drug. "Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines." NIDA. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Jan. 2014. Web. 08 June 2017. <https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/stimulant-adhd-medications-methylphenidate-amphetamines>.
  • Drug Abuse for Teens, National Institute on. "Prescription Stimulant Medications (Amphetamines)." NIDA for Teens. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, n.d. Web. 08 June 2017. <https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-stimulant-medications-amphetamines>.
  • Enforcement Administration, Drug. "Drug Schedules." DEA / Drug Scheduling. Drug Enforcement Administration, n.d. Web. 08 June 2017. <https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml>.
  • Schwarz, Alan. "The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2013. Web. 08 June 2017. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/health/the-selling-of-attention-deficit-disorder.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
  • Teter, Christian J., Sean Esteban McCabe, Kristy LaGrange, James A. Cranford, and Carol J. Boyd. "Illicit Use of Specific Prescription Stimulants Among College Students: Prevalence, Motives, and Routes of Administration." Pharmacotherapy. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2006. Web. 08 June 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1794223/>.


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