Adderall is a stimulant, and more specifically, an amphetamine. It works in the brain by affecting dopamine and norepinephrine in the nervous system. Like other stimulants, it works by increasing the release of dopamine and blocking a process called reuptake, which is when excessive amounts of a chemical are removed and recycled. The result is an increase in dopamine and serotonin that binds to and activates receptors. When agonized, these receptors can lift your mood, increase your focus, and make you feel more energized.
How Addictive Is Adderall?
People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy may have a problem where dopamine and serotonin are less efficient or less abundant in the nervous system. Adderall can help users by giving them a boost of these feel-good chemicals.
Unlike illicit stimulants like cocaine and meth, Adderall’s effects are much less intense. Taking a normal dose is less likely to cause euphoric feelings, especially if you have diagnosed ADHD. As a result, Adderall has a much lower risk of causing addiction. However, very high doses can cause euphoric effects as well as some adverse reactions like panic, irritability, anxiety, or stimulant psychosis.
However, Adderall abuse doesn’t usually come from a desire to get high. Rather, people take it to get ahead. Adderall has shown to be effective at enhancing cognitive performance. It keeps you awake, alert, and improves working memory. People who take it while studying can study longer and absorb more information. For that reason, illegal use of Adderall is common on college campuses as a way to gain a competitive edge and increase test scores.
In such cases, a person may develop a psychological addiction to Adderall. The more they use it, the more they may feel they need it to succeed. Adderall does have some risk for chemical dependence. Chronic use of the drug can result in withdrawal when you try to quit. Withdrawal symptoms include hypersomnia, fatigue, depression, drug craving, and increased appetite. ‘
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
Addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs) often have a wide variety of underlying factors. People who come to treatment often have legal issues, medical conditions, financial problems, and a host of other potential problems that have to be addressed for treatment to be effective. However, one of the most common problems that tend to accompany addiction is mental health issues.
In fact, people with mental disorders are 29 percent more likely to also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetime. Mental health problems can pre-date a person’s struggle with addiction and act as a significant factor in developing a substance use disorder. Some believe that certain drugs can cause mental health problems, but it may also be that drugs trigger or worsen existing, undiagnosed issues.
If a mental health problem isn’t addressed in addiction treatment, it’s like trying to mop up a break in a levy without plugging the leak. In the early days of addiction treatment, some doctors would refuse to treat patients with co-occurring mental health problems. Today, we’ve come to understand that mental health and addiction treatment are closely related, which is why many addiction treatment centers have dual diagnosis programs.
Dual diagnosis refers to a treatment approach with a specific focus on treating a substance use disorder and a co-occurring disorder at the same time. When you enter treatment, it’s important to address substance use problems as soon as possible, but to do that effectively, mental health issues must also be addressed.
When it comes to the use and abuse of Adderall, there are a few mental health issues that can be factors that lead to addiction. Again, since Adderall doesn’t have a significant threat of being chemically addictive, there are usually psychological factors at play. Here are some of the co-occurring mental health issues that may come with Adderall addiction.
ADHD and Addiction
Studies show that ADHD is a common mental disorder that accompanies substance use problems. A survey found that more than 15 percent of people with adult ADHD also met the criteria for a substance use disorder. ADHD is also the most common mental health issue among children. Kids with the disorder may start taking psychoactive medications from a young age, which may play a role in the development of anSUD.
The close relationship between ADHD and addiction can present a problem to doctors who are treating patients with both disorders. They may be hesitant to prescribe medications to someone with a history of SUD. On the other hand, untreated ADHD may lead to more psychological complications like anxiety or depression, which are also risk factors for SUDs.
The causes of ADHD are unknown, and there is typically not just one cause for a SUD. Both have a wide variety of contributing factors, and their relationship may be because of shared risk factors. Still, someone with a history of SUD should approach medications like Adderall with caution. Ask your doctor about all your options.
Another mental health issue that’s related to Adderall addiction is anxiety. The use of study drugs is a growing trend on college campuses all over the United States. The pressure of exams, academic competition, and maintaining scholarships often prompts students to turn to performance enhancers to avoid cracking under the weight of their responsibilities. As bachelor’s degrees seem to be becoming less valuable, they are becoming harder to earn. According to an article in The Washington Post, students often find themselves underprepared for the stress and responsibilities of college life.
All of a sudden, you are expected to manage your academics on your own, and you need to maintain a good grade-point average if you want to keep your scholarships. Meanwhile, the cultural expectations that come with college are seen as a rite of passage.
That’s a lot of stress.
Anxiety is the most common mental health issue among college students. According to one survey, 41 percent of students sought help from their college counseling centers in dealing with anxiety, and 36 percent needed help with depression. For many, drugs like Adderall seem like the boost they need to relieve some of the collegiate pressure. However, though Adderall can help with focus and improve study skills, it can also worsen anxiety.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
The abuse and overuse of prescription stimulants like Adderall can lead to a fairly serious substance use disorder. However, with the right treatment, you can overcome psychological addiction and address any co-occurring mental health issues. Addiction treatment is a process that’s tailored to your individual needs. When you first enter treatment, you’ll go through an assessment process that’s designed to determine the right level of care for you.
Substance use disorders related to Adderall don’t usually require the highest level of care in addiction treatment like medical detox or inpatient services. However, if you have medical or psychological complications that need higher levels of care, it may be necessary. Otherwise, you may be placed in an intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment program based on your needs. In treatment, you may go through psychotherapies, individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.