Adderall is the brand name for a prescription stimulant that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is most commonly prescribed for people with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or narcolepsy. However, it is also abused by some people for non-prescription purposes for its energy-inducing euphoric effects.
Adderall has a high potential for addiction, and people who use the drug without a prescription or at higher than recommended doses are at risk of developing dependency and tolerance.
How Adderall Works
The effects of Adderall are the result of increased levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is one of the body’s main “feel good” chemicals and is used to signal rewards. Dopamine is naturally occurring, but Adderall produces an abnormally high amount.
This increase is what triggers dependency in some people, as addicts feel the need to continue using Adderall in order to remain alert and energetic. Cessation of the drug, or “come down” is precisely the opposite of desired effects – the user is often tired, irritable, and mentally groggy.
The Presentation of Adderall Addiction
No one sets out to become to addicted to Adderall, or any other substance for that matter. Often, the person who seeks to obtain the drug does so for a specific purpose, although some use it recreationally.
People who are addicted often appear hyperactive – talkative and energetic. However, they may also appear strung out from lack of sleep or the constant up and downs of coming down and re-dosing. Although unlike some other drugs, addiction can be very deceptive, and not noticeable in normally highly-energetic people.
Also, people who abuse Adderall regularly may crush up pills and snort them in order to get a stronger and faster effect.
Adderall can be abused for many purposes. Among the most common include:
- Weight loss
- Studying/cramming for tests
- To enhance mental performance
- To enhance athletic performance
- Recreation/euphoria (i.e. parties, concerts, clubs, etc.)
- Staying awake for long periods of time
- Increased energy
- Increased confidence
Faces of Adderall Addiction
If you were asked to imagine a typical Adderall abuser? who would you see? Most people would say young people, especially students. And in fact, students are twice as likely to abuse the drug as their non-student counterparts.
But most who enter treatment say they began around age 23 – an age perhaps just past this scenario.
Who Abuses Adderall?
Students and young adults who work in high-pressure environments such as sales often abuse Adderall. The increased alertness and ability to stay awake may help users meet demands at school and work. College students are twice as likely to abuse the drug as their non-student counterparts.
Truck drivers who are forced to stay awake for long hours have also been known to use Adderall, as well as athletes to fight fatigue and enhance physical performance.
Also, people with eating disorders or people trying to lose weight may use Adderall as a weight loss tool. In addition to increasing energy, it also acts as an appetite suppressant.
Adderall is also commonly used as a “club drug” like MDMA. People use them before going to clubs, raves, parties, and concerts to enhance their experience. But anyone of any age can abuse Adderall, and do so for a variety of reasons.
In rare cases, an Adderall overdose can be fatal. In general, signs may include:
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Fast breathing
- Uncontrollable shaking
Problematic Drug Interactions
It is not uncommon for people who abuse Adderall to do so in combination with other drugs. They may do this to enhance the effects of Adderall, or to counteract the effects of the drug (i.e. taking nervous system depressants such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications).
Unfortunately, using other drugs in conjunction with Adderall increases the risk of side effects, overdose, and serious complications. In fact, in 2009, 67% of emergency room admissions for stimulant drugs also had other drugs in their system. These often include alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana.
Adderall also increases the risk of alcohol intoxication and poisoning. This is because it masks the depressant effects of alcohol and creates a virtual tug-of-war happening inside the body’s nervous system.
Treatment For Adderall Addiction
Adderall addiction can be a very difficult habit to break. Many addicts, just like alcoholics or illicit drug users, must undergo medical detox and participate in an inpatient or outpatient rehab program.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support are often used to treat those with Adderall dependence. In addition, during detox medications may be administered to alleviate some of the symptoms of withdrawal.