Adderall, a commonly prescribed stimulant, is raising awareness, and according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, these pills should be treated with the same scrutiny as prescription painkillers.
Adderall addiction is growing in numbers, and the dangers are harsher than you might think.
Adderall is, in fact, beneficial for individuals who might suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is who it’s intended for. However, more and more individuals, especially students, are getting hooked on the drug without even knowing it.
Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine in chemical structure, so any signs of Adderall addiction should be taken very seriously.
Since Adderall is a stimulant, it might be hard to recognize the effects of the drug. Typically, initial use of Adderall will help you perform better in all aspects of your life, and it will keep you focused and motivated.
Adderall can often be prescribed at a young age to aid in the treatment of ADHD, but little do parents and those taking it know that dependence will occur a lot faster than those who start taking it at a later age.
Also, if an individual has been taking Adderall for a long time, the effects will most likely wear off quickly—meaning they need more of the drug to feel the same effects.
Ultimately, these are the signs of Adderall addiction. The root of addiction, although unclear, is based on several factors ranging from psychological impairments to the chemical structure of the substance.
ADHD Treatment or Adderall Addiction?
Adderall is a drug that is mostly made up of amphetamines—affecting the central nervous system as a stimulant. Stimulants generally cause effects such as emotional and cognitive changes, changes in sex drive, increased wakefulness, and improved mental and cognitive control.
The components of Adderall activate and increase the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Long-term use of Adderall will create serious and abnormal damages to the brain’s normal functioning.
Although Adderall produces several euphoric effects and potential happiness, the risks of taking Adderall are far worse.
First, Adderall can be taken in various forms such as:
- Oral Consumption
Injecting the drug produces more immediate yet more dangerous effects. Sometimes, the route of administration can determine how severe an Adderall addiction is and heightens your chance of experiencing an overdose caused by the substance.
Most Adderall users are unaware of the negative side effects brought on by the “wonder drug.”
However, the effects of an overdose on Adderall alone should be enough to restrict use. An Adderall overdose is gruesome and can result in cardiac arrest, death, and long-lasting psychological and mental impairments.
Also, if you are under the influence of other substances, your chances of suffering more severe side effects of an overdose are heightened: it is more likely that you will experience consequences without the ability to recover.
Adderall is also highly addictive and can act as a gateway to other substances that pose more serious threats to the body and brain such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Once your body and brain get adjusted to the feeling of uppers, it constantly wants more to feel “normal” and feel pleasure—otherwise diminished by the lack of drugs.
Adderall has a significant abuse potential as a prescription stimulant. But misusing the drug can increase your risk of dangerous consequences like dependence, addiction, and overdose. Recognizing the signs of Adderall addiction will help you to understand if you or a loved one needs treatment. Recognizing adderall addiction symptoms is the first step toward adderall addiction treatment.
Short-term effects of Adderall addiction are:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Increased alertness
- Heightened energy
- Well-being and contentment
Long-term effects of Adderall addiction consist of:
- Damages in the nasal passages
- Skin infections such as an abscess
- Paranoid tendencies
- Memory impairments
- Erratic behavior and thought process
- Convulsions, Coma, or Death
- Weight loss
- Slow growth rates
- Infectious diseases
Changes in Appearance
Adderall is known to be an appetite suppressant. It can also cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia. If you are looking for the signs of Adderall addiction, you will notice rapid weight loss and overall unwellness of the body.
You might begin to see dark circles under the eyes due to the lack of sleep, and you might also find yourself going through emotional mood swings, which can take a toll on the body.
During active addiction, you will often keep an unkempt appearance, which is also an indicator that you may be suffering from substance abuse.
The most obvious signs of Adderall addiction correspond to the behaviors you exhibit when you’re abusing stimulants. You might be acting out of character and become more aggressive toward people you are close with. Also, you might not be able to function properly or handle situations accordingly when you are on or off Adderall.
This causes a great deal of conflict, and it can also cause the potential to suffer consequences by the law, depending on the actions you’re taking to obtain the drug.
Even if you are diagnosed with ADHD, taking the drug in excess or selling it for profit to buy your own on the street is illegal, and you risk your freedom by doing so. Also, many people lie about their diagnosis, which can result in jail fines or criminal records, leading to using Adderall illicitly, which has its own risks.
Although Adderall is known to increase mood and productivity in those who need the drug, it can actually create a plethora of adverse mood changes in those who abuse it and take it recreationally.
Adderall addiction and even short-term use can cause many unwanted emotional and mental side effects. The use of addictive substances, especially stimulants, creates permanent and altered brain chemistry, resulting in various mood swings, hostility, and even psychosis.
If you have a mental illness or predisposed to schizophrenia or other major mental disorders, your chances of suffering from psychosis are greater, and the outcome is potentially fatal. It can lead to negative consequences that you may not be able to get out of, such as jail, homicide, or self-inflicted pain.
Although you may think these things cannot happen to you, there is no way to tell, especially if you are pushing the limit when it comes to the overconsumption of drugs or alcohol.
Changes in Relationships
Active addiction to any substance creates tension throughout relationships with your family, close friends, or loved ones. Adderall addiction is hard to detect, and most of the time, individuals who take it might be in denial of their addiction because a doctor prescribes the drug.
When an individual actively using a substance feels this way, they might act out or isolate themselves from family or friends that are concerned. Unfortunately, this can lead to reactions and disagreements, which will potentially cause a falling out in relationships.
It is important to an individual’s recovery that they receive support from their family and loved ones. Without their support, the success rate and overall motivation to get clean can diminish quickly and possibly lead you to engage more frequently in Adderall abuse or other substances.
Also, drug addiction will make you unstable and possibly cause you to push people away and lose everything, which is one of the most common consequences of addiction in general.
Some people, especially those with co-occurring disorders, will present more severe and dangerous signs of addiction versus someone who is just abusing the substance. However, one is not better than the other, and both individuals should seek treatment and look toward getting off of the substances they are using.
How Addictive Is Adderall?
Adderall is a relatively safe and well-tolerated drug when it is used as prescribed by your doctor. However, it can be addictive when it’s used for too long or in high doses. Adderall doesn’t have an addiction liability that is on the same level as illicit stimulants like cocaine or meth, but it can cause tolerance, dependence, and substance use issues when misused. The drug is federally controlled as a Schedule II substance, which means that it has a significant potential for misuse, along with accepted medical uses.
Consistent Adderall use that lasts for too long or misuse over a period of time can cause tolerance to build. Tolerance is when the drug seems to be less effective than it was when you first started taking it. Tolerance is caused by your brain’s adaptation to the presence of the drug. If you continue to use it, you may become physically dependent on the drug. Physical dependence may be even more likely if you increase your dose to compensate for tolerance. Dependence makes it so that quitting will cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.
Like other stimulants, Adderall’s manipulation of dopamine in the nervous system can lead to addiction. Addiction affects your reward system, which is designed to work with chemicals like dopamine to encourage you to seek out and repeat certain tasks. Addiction is characterized by the compulsive use of a drug, despite the consequences that are caused by it.
Why Do People Engage in Adderall Abuse?
Adderall is a relatively safe drug to use when it’s prescribed to you by a doctor. However, when it’s misused or abused, you increase your risk of side effects, chemical dependence, Adderall addiction and overdose. So why do people misuse or abuse Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant medication. Stimulants are often used as recreational substances for their ability to cause an exciting euphoric high. Drugs like cocaine and meth are illicit stimulants that can cause an intense euphoria that increases your energy levels and elevates your mood.
Adderall and other ADHD medications may be used for similar purposes, but they aren’t as potent, so they won’t cause as powerful a high. Still, they can cause you to experience an elevated mood, increased energy levels, alertness, and a sense of excitement, empowerment, or confidence. However, using stimulants as recreational drugs can cause you to experience uncomfortable side effects like sleeplessness, insomnia, anxiety, jitters, heart palpitations, and shakiness.
You may also experience an uncomfortable crash or withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, depression, and hypersomnia.
Adderall may be used as a recreational drug, but that’s not the only reason that this drug is misused. Adderall is also used as a performance-enhancing drug, a study drug, or as a pep pill. Adderall and other ADHD drugs may be used for their ability to increase alertness, wakefulness, and focus. Athletes, students, and people who need to stay awake and alert for long hours may use the drug without consulting a doctor.
The steps in treating Adderall addiction resemble the treatment methods used to treat any addictive substances. Most addiction treatment centers use a series of techniques and methods that are proven successful on countless occasions.
The beginning stage of determining if you need treatment for Adderall abuse is recognizing the signs of addiction. Ultimately, you have to be willing to get help and admit you are powerless over any substances to remain abstinent.
After recognizing the signs of addiction and admitting to yourself that you need help, you should admit yourself into a medical detox program. If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms and have built a tolerance and dependence, there is a chance you will need to enter a medical detox facility to safely combat the physical and psychological aspects of withdrawal.
A detox program is the first step in treating Adderall addiction. Although the symptoms of withdrawal aren’t deadly, they are highly unpleasant —especially when it comes to the psychological effects of Adderall abuse.
The beginning stages of withdrawal can begin in as little as a few hours after the last dose and can last up to seven to 10 days. You might experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Memory loss
- Extreme cravings
- Risk for psychosis
- Vivid or disturbing dreams
These symptoms will range in severity based on the individual, how much of the drug is being used, and the duration of use. However, those symptoms are typically classified as acute symptoms that can gradually worsen over time, particularly in the early stages of recovery.
Adderall withdrawal can also be more severe and potentially life-threatening if you are taking other drugs in conjunction with Adderall. Also, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) will most likely produce a series of psychological effects that can take up to six months to resolve themselves.
Dealing with co-occurring disorders can also worsen withdrawal symptoms and the duration and severity of PAWS.
Programs of Recovery
After you complete a three-10 day detox program, your journey is still not over. The next step in treating Adderall addiction is transitioning to a residential program, which will help you solidify your foundation in recovery and help you overcome some of the obstacles that may have caused you to begin using drugs in the first place.
Residential programs resemble inpatient programs with their techniques and methods; however, inpatient is a higher level of care, and you might be in that facility for a longer duration than residential. Either way, the benefits of committing to both facilities consequently are endless and can be the primary determining factor in your success of maintaining sobriety.
Inpatient and residential programs offer services such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Individual therapy
- Relapse prevention programs
- Individual treatment plans
- Group therapy
- Addiction education
- Trauma therapy
Residential and inpatient programs will total up to 30 to 90 days, depending on your individual needs. Some people need more extensive care than others, especially when dealing with co-occurring disorders or polydrug use.
Although the benefits and extensive therapy methods used in residential can help with maintaining sobriety, it is imperative to complete the whole continuum of care to get everything you need out of treatment in a safe and effective environment.
After inpatient programs, you will be suggested to attend intensive outpatient and outpatient programs. These programs are designed to help you transition back into society after spending a great deal of time in a safe, enclosed environment.
This transition can be overwhelming to some individuals, so it is important to remain in a program where you can go to receive the same therapeutic values, only dealing with adjusting to life without the use of Adderall or other substances.
Outpatient programs range in duration, but they are relatively easy to complete. You will start by attending three-hour sessions for about three days a week—slowly decreasing the hours spent there and the number of days you are required to attend. These programs typically last anywhere up to 12 weeks, depending on your individual needs.
No one person recovers at the same rate as another, so it is important to be patient and trust the process.
Maintaining sobriety is not over once you complete the entire treatment process. After treatment programs, you will most likely need to take an interest in some kind of 12-step program, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous to build a support network and have people and a program to turn to when trying to change your life.
These programs have been proven effective in some individuals, and they can lead to higher success rates than doing nothing after completing treatment.
Also, individual therapy can help you get through some of life’s obstacles and prevent relapse.
Unfortunately, relapse is common, but it does not need to be a part of your recovery process. Preventing relapse is possible, and it can be achieved by following suggestions and trusting the recovery process.
Adderall addiction recovery depends on the individual themselves. Children who are diagnosed with ADHD are indeed prescribed Adderall or the equivalent—resulting in them having a higher risk for developing a tolerance and dependence to the drug at an early age.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, about 43 percent of children ages 4 -17 were receiving medication for ADHD. The medication used for the treatment of ADHD is commonly Adderall; however, there are several other names and chemical compounds of drugs that produce similar effects and pose the same risks as Adderall use.
Adderall addiction in individuals who do suffer from mental impairments and individuals who do not is possible. Fortunately, there are several tools used to effectively treat stimulant addiction.
Although a large number of individuals struggle with Adderall addiction, recovery depends on the individual and how willing they are to admit they are powerless over drugs. Also, if they want recovery from substance abuse, they will do everything in their power to obtain it.
Adderall Abuse on College Campuses
The focus of Adderall abuse and substance use problems have centered around college campuses and with good reason. As many as 35.5 percent of individuals in college were using non-prescription stimulants such as Adderall in 2002.
However, not all of them are using the drug recreationally. Instead, they’re using Adderall and other amphetamines as a “study drug.” Adderall affects dopamine levels in the brain. In people with ADHD, it can help them focus by increasing the reward you’re feeling, even when you are focusing on one task.
People with attention problems usually have some kind of deficiency that involves dopamine, so their minds are constantly seeking something more rewarding, especially when they are trying to focus on mundane tasks.
However, Adderall can do the same thing for someone who’s trying to study for a final exam or pull an all-nighter.
The pressure to succeed, maintain good grade-point averages (GPAs), and balance hectic schedules have some students looking for a more competitive edge. Adderall can help boost test scores and lengthen the time you can study and retain information.
However, abusing Adderall in this way can also lead to insomnia, physical and mental health problems, and addiction.
How Dangerous Is Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant drug that’s safe to use as a prescription, as long as it’s used as directed. However, when the drug is abused or used in high doses, it can potentially become dangerous. Very high doses can be potentially life-threatening.
Stimulants like Adderall can cause serious symptoms like seizures, fever, hallucinations, changes in heart rate, changes in blood pressure, aggressive behavior, and difficulty breathing. Overdose can have damaging effects on the heart, nervous system, muscles, respiratory system, kidneys, and other body systems.
Adderall can be fatal in very high doses, which can cause the following life-threatening complications:
- Cerebral hemorrhage
- Heart attack
- Serotonin syndrome
- Rapid muscle breakdown (Rhabdomyolysis)
- Fluid build up in the lungs
- Severe hypertension in arteries in the lungs
- Kidney failure
- Metabolic acidosis
People who have health conditions like heart disease may be more vulnerable to Adderall overdose. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s medication guide on Adderall, sudden death has occurred in people who have heart problems and take Adderall.
Adderall is also considered to have a moderate dependence liability and a high potential for addiction when abused.