Academics are the cornerstone of a great civilization. When we focus our efforts on learning new things, we open ourselves up to new opportunities. But academics also build competition, expectations, and stress for students. In high school, students have to work hard to get into a good college. In college, students have to work even harder to maintain their grades, keep their scholarships, and earn their way to good jobs or graduate schools. In some cases, it’s a lot of pressure for a teen to manage.
For that reason, a drug designed to help people with a common mental disorder has gained popularity on college campuses. It’s abused, not for recreation, but to give students a boost in their ability to study and retain information.
Adderall is a common prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. As a stimulant and amphetamine, it works to lift your mood, keep you alert, and help you retain information. It may be perceived as the ideal all-nighter drug. However, Adderall and other amphetamines can be dangerous when they’re abused. They can cause anxiety, insomnia, panic, and irritability. In cases where it’s abused in high doses for a long time, it can cause a condition called stimulant psychosis, which is when a stimulant brings about hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.
If the drug induces sleep problems like insomnia, it can adversely affect your health over time, especially during a rigorous college schedule.
Adderall abuse is ultimately not worth the benefits it brings, considering the potential risks to your health and well-being. If you or your child is abusing Adderall, it’s important to address the problem immediately. If you’ve developed a substance use disorder, it’s advised to seek help as soon as possible. Learning the signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse can help you get the help you need for yourself or your child before some of the most serious consequences occur.
Learn more about how you can spot the signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse.
How Adderall Works
Adderall works in the brain similarly to other stimulants. It primarily affects a naturally occurring brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is one of your brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, and it’s responsible for regulating your mood and motivation. When dopamine is released, you may feel excited, energized, happy, or driven to accomplish a task. People with ADHD may have a deficiency of dopamine, or something may be disrupting that chemical process. (The exact cause of ADHD is unknown.)
Adderall can help to regulate this process by both increasing the release of dopamine in the brain and blocking a process called reuptake, in which the chemical is removed from your nervous system and recycled. The results are increased focus, energy, and a lifted mood. Illicit stimulants like cocaine and meth cause a similar reaction to a much greater degree, causing feelings of immense power and euphoria.
However, when the drug is abused, this chemical process can also cause some adverse effects as well. The most common side effects are psychological, causing mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and obsessive behaviors. In some cases, stimulants can cause physical complications, and Adderall has been shown to cause abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, and weight gain. Less common effects include hypertension, an abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia), and reduced circulation.
Adverse effects are more common in people who abuse the drug, take high doses of it, or use it without diagnosed ADHD or narcolepsy.
The Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Abuse
Adderall abuse can lead to physical dependence and psychological addiction. If left untreated and unchecked, it can causeserious long-term complications. Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms can mean early intervention. Generally,addressing a substance use disorder early means avoiding some of the more long-lasting, severe consequences of addiction. While substance use disorders can come on rapidly, it also causes some clear signs and symptoms.
Aside from the physical symptoms mentioned above, Adderall abuse can come with some behavioral signs that a parent or guardian might notice. Common behavioral signs include:
- Taking more of the drug than prescribed
- Taking more than you intended
- Lying about drug use
- Hiding drugs around the house
- Taking the drug because you feel you need it to succeed
- Doctor shopping
- Getting medications without a prescription
- Strange sleep patterns
- Periods of isolation, apathy, or fatigue
- Talking rapidly or more than usual
Adderall has a low risk for physical addiction, but independence can cause withdrawal symptoms. People who stop using it after frequent high doses may experience a period of depression, fatigue, apathy, and drug cravings. It’s also possible to develop psychological dependence. You may feel like you need the drug to do well or you may be afraid that you won’t be good enough without it.
As with any substance use disorder, prevention and early intervention are the best way to treat Adderall addiction. If you or someone you love is showing these signs, speak to an addiction treatment specialist or medical professional as soon as possible.
Signs of Stimulant Psychosis
Stimulant psychosis is one of the most serious side effects, and it can occur after the abuse of illicit drugs like cocaine or meth and prescription amphetamines like Adderall. Typically, chronic use of a drug at high doses has the highest chance of leading to psychosis. The drug’s effects, mixed with long periods without sleep, can make psychological symptoms more pronounced.
Psychosis refers to a psychological phenomenon that’s characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. Generally speaking, someone who is struggling with psychosis will experience blurred lines between reality and their own thoughts. It can be difficult to determine what’s real and what’s a delusion. Certain mental illnesses can cause psychosis, like schizophrenia. However, certain psychoactive drugs can also cause psychological effects that result in psychosis.
Signs and symptoms of amphetamine psychosis are:
- Auditory and visual hallucination
- Delusions of persecution
- Extreme agitation
- Severe anxiety
Prescription medications such as Adderall are less likely to cause psychosis than other amphetamines like meth, but it’s possible for long-term abuse to cause a psychological problem. However, Adderall psychosis can usually be reversed with treatment.
Though stimulant psychosis is usually a temporary condition, unlike psychosis brought on by certain mental disorders, it’s still a serious mental health problem. Someone going through severe psychosis could become a danger to themselves or others. If you start to feel some of the symptoms of psychosis after using amphetamines like Adderall, speak to a medical or mental health professional as soon as possible.