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Adderall Addiction and Abuse

Adderall abuse is a growing concern in the United States. High school and college students are among the drug’s most frequent abusers.

Addiction to Adderall

adderall addiction pillAdderall is an addictive prescription stimulant with effects similar to cocaine. People regularly taking Adderall at unprescribed doses are at a high risk of becoming addicted.

Over time, those habitually using Adderall develop a tolerance to the drug and are unable to function normally without it.

Adderall works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine, the body’s “feel good” chemical, creates a rewarding effect. Although dopamine occurs naturally, drugs like Adderall produce unnaturally high levels of it. This can cause users to come back for more.

The brain of an addicted person is dependent on Adderall to stimulate alertness and productivity. Without Adderall, addicted people often feel tired and mentally foggy. These are symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, a strong sign of an addiction.

Common signs of an Adderall addiction include:

  • Needing larger doses to feel the drug’s effects
  • Taking the drug despite knowledge of the harm it’s causing
  • Not being able to finish work without Adderall
  • Spending a lot of money getting the drug
  • Being unable to feel alert without the drug

No one intends on becoming addicted to Adderall. Usually, the problem starts as a way of increasing productivity on a stressful day at work or to study for an important test. Some people even fake the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to get their own prescription for the drug.

This is how many people eventually become addicted to Adderall and soon prioritize the drug over everything else.

“Uninsured, I chose to pay hundreds for a refill instead of buying groceries. I’d consume far more than my allocated dose, then spend sleepless nights tossing and turning, my mind racing and heart pounding, only to wake up and take another pill with a coffee to compensate.”

Writer and former Adderall addict Kate Miller, New York Times, 2013

The withdrawal symptoms caused by Adderall addiction makes it hard for users to quit on their own. These withdrawal symptoms can seem unbearable for some. Getting the help of a therapist or treatment center increases the chances of successfully quitting.

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Understanding Adderall (Prescription Amphetamines)

Adderall, a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, is the most commonly prescribed amphetamine. It is a schedule II controlled substance because of its strong addictive potential.

Doctors prescribe Adderall to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. While it decreases fatigue in narcoleptic patients, it has the opposite effect in those with ADHD.

Adderall comes as a tablet to be ingested orally with doses ranging from 5 to 30 milligrams. Some people looking for immediate effects may crush up their tablets and snort Adderall. Street names for Adderall include speed, uppers, black beauties, Addys and pep pills.

Adderall Effects and Abuse

Many people mistakenly believe Adderall is “safe” because it is prescribed by doctors. However, continued abuse of Adderall can lead to long-term side effects and an addiction that can be hard to break.

People abuse Adderall because it produces feelings of confidence, euphoria, increased concentration and a suppressed appetite. These effects make Adderall a go-to choice for anyone looking for a boost in physical or mental performance.

Taking Adderall without a prescription, or in a way not directed by a doctor, is considered abuse. This includes snorting Adderall pills or taking large doses to get a stronger effect.

Adderall is abused for many purposes, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Studying
  • Athletic performance
  • Recreation (to get high)
  • Staying awake

Although people tend to associate Adderall abuse with high school and college students, many older people also use the drug. In fact, most people who have received treatment for an Adderall addiction started taking it when they were approximately 23, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Who Abuses Adderall?
Students and professionalsAdderall’s ability to help users focus and stay awake for longer than normal makes it attractive to students and working professionals facing ever-increasing demands at school and work. College students in particular make up a significant population of those abusing Adderall.
AthletesAthletes may abuse Adderall to counter fatigue and enhance performance during practice and in competition. In 2012, Adderall abuse contributed to a record-breaking year of drug-related suspensions in the National Football League.
People with eating disordersPeople struggling with eating disorders may abuse Adderall because it suppresses appetite. If someone with an eating disorder becomes addicted to Adderall, they will often require treatment that cares for both issues simultaneously.

Adderall abuse can cause severe health-related problems including a potentially lethal overdose.

Signs of an Adderall overdose may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast breathing
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Fainting
  • Fever

Common Drug Combinations

There are several reasons for combining Adderall with other drugs. Some users may do this in an attempt to enhance the effects of Adderall. Some may even take a drug to relax if Adderall is preventing them from sleeping. No matter the reason, mixing Adderall with other drugs increases the risks of overdose and complications such as heart attack.

In 2009, 67 percent of people admitted to an emergency room for complications with prescription stimulants like Adderall had other drugs in their system.

Some drugs commonly combined with Adderall are:

The chance of getting alcohol poisoning is higher for people taking Adderall. This is because the alertness Adderall produces can mask the effects of severe alcohol intoxication. Someone on Adderall might not realize how much they have drank, and end up with alcohol poisoning.

Studies have also shown that students using Adderall are more likely to abuse alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.

Adderall Statistics

16million

Almost 16 million prescriptions for stimulants like Adderall were written in 2012 – approximately triple the amount written in 2008.

116Kusers in rehab

In 2012, over 116,000 people were admitted to rehab for an addiction to amphetamines like Adderall.

2xas likely

Full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their peers who aren’t in college.

The longer you have been abusing Adderall, the stronger an addiction can become. The withdrawal symptoms that start shortly after quitting can make it hard to stop on your own. There are many options available for treating this addiction, such as therapy and outpatient rehab. Get help overcoming an addiction to Adderall today.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: November 25, 2015

  1. The New York Times. (2013). More Diagnoses of ADHD Causing Concern. Retrieved on March 23, 2014, from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/health/more-diagnoses-of-hyperactivity-causing-concern.html?pagewanted=all
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Adderall and College Students. Retrieved on March 23, 2014, from: http://www.samhsa.gov/samhsanewsletter/Volume_17_Number_3/Adderall.aspx
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  4. Ruiz, Pedro and Eric Strain. Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, Fifth Edition. Philadelphia, PA. 2011.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/stimulant-adhd-medications-methylphenidate-amphetamines
  6. Miller, Kate. New York Times. (2014). The Last All-Nighter. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/the-last-all-nighter/?_r=0
  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601234.html
  8. Battista, Judy. New York Times. (2012). Drug of Focus Is at Center of Suspensions. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/sports/football/adderall-a-drug-of-increased-focus-for-nfl-players.html
  9. Schwarz, Alan. New York Times. (2013). The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/health/the-selling-of-attention-deficit-disorder.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  10. Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Adderall. Retrieved on September 15, 2015 from: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf
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