A very well-known prescription drug, Adderall is actually one of the most commonly prescribed Amphetamines, with effects similar to meth. When prescribed, it is typically meant to treat individuals with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and in some cases narcolepsy (a chronic sleep disorder).
When taken, Adderall helps improve attention spans, hyperactivity, and impulse control. Users often experience increased focus, a rush of energy, a sense of well-being, and increased feelings of confidence. This is why it is a common drug for students, athletes, and even professionals.
A tablet that’s meant to be taken orally, Adderall has a very strong addictive potential due to its accessibility, seemingly positive effects, and the brain’s changing tolerance level when taken too often.
How Adderall Actually Works
Adderall is what is referred to as a stimulant. A stimulant is a type of drug that speeds up messages traveling between the brain and the body. When taken, the drug works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the Central Nervous System. Dopamine, often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical, is naturally created in the brain, but Adderall produces an unnaturally high level of it when taken. Norepinephrine is in control of how the brain reacts to events, specifically how quickly it reacts to outside events and how it pays attention.
Even when taken responsibly and how it’s prescribed, Adderall can form a dependence on it in the brain. However, dependence is different from Adderall addiction.
The differences between dependence and addiction:
- A dependency on Adderall is caused by the natural physiological response to the drug. Addiction is typically a psychological/physical dependence because they are chasing the high.
- An individual dependent on Adderall often needs a physician’s assistance when getting off of the medication and dealing with the chemicals affecting the brain. On the other hand, an addicted person does not wish to discontinue use and instead is obsessing over how to obtain more because they can’t cope with not using.
The Road to Adderall Addiction
Due to its high volume of use (The Washington Times reported that 16 million Americans over the age of 18 are using prescription stimulants) and accessibility, the path from responsibly taking Adderall to abusing it is not very long. Since the drug provides seemingly positive effects as noted before such as increased focus, energy, confidence, and more, it may make sense why people choose to use it too often.
However, too much of this drug produces more negative effects than good, and when taken too often or at too high of doses, the brain’s chemicals can move into dependency on the drug, as explained above. If continued, that dependency can move into an addiction.
Signs of an Adderall addiction can include:
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and nausea when not using
- Needing to take more amounts to feel the effects of the drug
- Not having the ability to cut down on use
- Being unable to finish school/work without Adderall
- Continuing use of the drug even after knowing or experiencing its harmful effects
- Choosing Adderall over other activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling inattentive without the drug
Who Abuses Adderall?
The honest answer to what kind of person abuses or is addicted to Adderall would be anyone. It is rare that a person sets out to become addicted and the beginning use of the drug can make many individuals believe it is a good thing (and for some, it may be). However, certain groups of people are more likely to start abusing the drug than others.
Students and professionals, specifically high school and college students, use Adderall frequently. Its ability to help them stay focused, stay awake longer, and be attentive in a stressful situation is one of its main selling points. Naturally, the student or professional begins to rely heavily on Adderall to be successful, and instead of weaning off of the drug, they require more and more.
Athletes are also common Adderall abusers. Since side effects of the drug include fighting fatigue and giving focus, you can imagine how this would be attractive to an athlete in both practice and professional games. Sadly, individuals with eating disorders also abuse Adderall, due to its ability to suppress appetites.
Although not an all-inclusive list, the types of people above are more susceptible to Adderall addiction and should be made aware of its dangers.
Harmful effects of Adderall and Overdose Warnings
Negative side effects, signs of overdose, warning of mixing with other drugs
Even with the promise of initial good effects and the hope of an easier everyday life, particularly for those struggling with ADHD, Adderall comes with a list of side effects that are not necessarily positive. Particularly when abused, these effects should not be taken lightly:
- Severe weight loss
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Erratic heartbeat
- Abdominal pain
When an addict starts experiencing the above symptoms, instead of the initial positive ones, they usually try to increase their intake instead of stopping use. This can lead to an Adderall overdose and even death. Signs of an Adderall overdose include:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Chest pain
- Irregular breathing, specifically fast
In other cases, addicts may combine Adderall with other drugs, in an attempt to increase its effects or minimize its negative effects. Common drugs to mix it with include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and Xanax. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to an increased risk of overdose.
An Adderall addiction is not to be taken lightly, and treatment options are available. If you have questions or are ready to start your recovery journey, we’re here to help. Contact our skilled addiction and mental health professionals at Emerge Healing Center to learn more about our treatment and program options.