Adderall, a brand-name prescription medication, is used to treat Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The powerful central nervous system stimulant is made up of a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which boosts the levels of dopamine in the brain and lifts users’ moods.
People with ADHD are able to concentrate for longer periods when they take the medication at therapeutic levels. But the benefit of maintaining focus for a longer time also appeals to people who don’t have ADHD or narcolepsy, the condition in which the brain is unable to control sleep-wake cycles; these people seek to abuse it for that reason and more.
According to recreational Adderall users, they have more energy and a heightened state of alertness when using Adderall, which has helped boost its reputation as a “study drug” that improves academic performance and gets them through those long, late nights of studying.
A Note on Whether Adderall Will Make You Smarter
While Adderall makes people feel more alert and perhaps helps them focus longer or endure tasks longer, it does not actually make them smarter or improve their cognitive abilities. Despite this, some people still use the drug for nonmedical purposes because they think it improves their intelligence.
Adderall lifts users’ moods because it boosts the brain’s dopamine levels in the brain, but when used recreationally, it can create feelings of euphoria.
Adderall Is Easy to Get
While it is estimated that ADHD affects up to eight percent of college students in the U.S., Timothy Wilens, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, told Medscape Medical News that nonmedical use or misuse of Adderall is on the rise, and data suggest the drug is easy to obtain.
“Recent data indicated that almost two-thirds of college students were offered prescription stimulants for nonmedical use over a four-year period, and 31 percent had used stimulants for nonmedical purposes,” he told the site.
Government data also support that there is widespread Adderall access. About 42 percent of the high-school seniors surveyed for the 2016 Monitoring the Future report said amphetamines such as Adderall were easy to get. The survey also reported that Adderall use among 12th-graders in 2015 reached 7.5 percent – among the highest usage levels for prescription and over-the-counter and illicit drugs other than marijuana.
Adderall Users and Alcohol
Adderall is highly abused among college students, and demand for it has increased because of its performance-enhancing reputation. Recreational Adderall users typically open the capsules or crush the pills before snorting the substance, which can be potentially fatal.
The drug is more potent when snorted because users are consuming it in larger quantities than intended. Those amounts also enter the bloodstream faster. At that intensity, users can develop substance dependence or addiction.
Recreational users also use the “study drug” as another “party drug,” like cocaine, to stay awake at social events, including those where is alcohol is served. This is not a good mix. Alcohol is a depressant while Adderall is a stimulant. With both substances present in the body, they cancel each other out, according to Healthline, and compete with each other.
Healthline also says Adderall can dull symptoms of alcohol intoxication, so a person taking it and drinking, too, may not be aware of how much alcohol they actually have consumed. Over-drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. Research has also shown that the drug combination can adversely affect the cardiovascular system.
Other examples of how snorting Adderall affects someone who doesn’t have ADHD or narcolepsy include:
- Damage to the nasal lining, sinuses, and lungs that have been in contact with the substance
- Experiencing psychotic episodes
- Severe dermatoses, a skin disease
Signs of chronic Adderall abuse include:
- Changes in personality
Adderall users who don’t struggle with ADHD or narcolepsy who misuse the drug risk becoming psychologically dependent on it.
Recent research suggests that misusing Adderall can cause cognitive dysfunction in college students who misuse the drug, according to a 2016 Medscape Medical News article.
Non-ADHD users who ingest Adderall in large amounts or during a prolonged period can develop a high tolerance for the drug. This means that heavy users are likely to experience painful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop using or cut back on it. Abruptly stopping Adderall use is not recommended.
Instead of going “cold turkey” and abruptly stopping Adderall use, people with Adderall dependence are strongly encouraged to withdraw from the drug safely during a detoxification process monitored by health care professionals at a detox or drug rehabilitation facility. People who abuse Adderall and alcohol may experience a more dangerous and complicated withdrawal process, so coming off both substances should be done with care.
The taper method is commonly used to wean people off Adderall. The process involves gradually reducing the dose as the client is monitored. Tapering allows the body to adjust to the drug leaving its system. It also allows for a safe withdrawal and reduces chances of a relapse. Users should be upfront about how much of the drug they use and how often they use it so medical professionals can implement the right taper.
After detox is completed, recovering Adderall users are encouraged to seek treatment at a reputable, drug rehabilitation facility. After treatment is completed, former users may find they have Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, known as PAWS. Symptoms include depression and drug cravings among others. An inpatient or outpatient treatment program can help users figure out how to best manage PAWS as they create a new life.
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