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Article Summary

A Guide To Adderall Addiction

With so many students in high school and college abusing it, Adderall is quickly becoming a growing concern. An addictive prescription stimulant, this drug's effects are similar to those caused by cocaine. As a direct result, even those who take it following orders from a doctor are also highly likely to become addicted.

Since 2000, the number of prescription users has surged. In fact, Adderall sales increased by over 3000% between 2002 and 2006. Although these drugs came into the market through legitimate prescriptions, the amplified distribution had the compounded effect of increasing the opportunity for abuse.

Similarly, the fact that this medication is a potent stimulant means that it can be difficult to recognize its abuse. People take it to enhance their productivity and alertness, and most of them are highly motivated individuals who don't display the telltale signs of addiction. As a result, the vast majority succumb to its effects while others only get treatment after an overdose.

Read on to learn more about Adderall addiction:

Understanding Adderall

As a prescription medication, Adderall is comprised of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is mostly used in the treatment of narcolepsy and ADHD. Among ADHD patients, the stimulant increases alertness, focus, and attention, thereby providing successful therapy. On the other hand, narcoleptic patients may benefit by taking it to decrease fatigue.

The drug also acts as a potent CNS (central nervous system) stimulant, making it one of the most commonly prescribed amphetamines. However, the federal government has classified it as a Schedule II controlled substance on account of its strong potential for addiction.

The following street nicknames are also used to refer to this drug:

  • Beans
  • Black beauties
  • Dexies
  • Double trouble
  • Pep pills
  • Speed

At its most basic, Adderall comes in the form of a tablet designed for oral ingestion, with typical doses ranging between 5 and 30mg. It is also available in capsule form. However, those who abuse it may ingest the crush the tablets up and snort the resulting powder. Others mix the powder with water and take it intravenously.

By so doing, the drug rushes into the system and binds to the dopamine and norepinephrine receptors in the brain and the adrenal glands epinephrine receptors. This action increases the volume of feel good dopamine chemicals in the brain, improve focus, and create a sense of euphoria.

Today, the drug is popular among students in college and high school because they identify with its mythical ability to enhance academic performance. Abusers often count on Adderall because they believe in its euphoric and stimulant properties.

Adderall Uses

Adderall was designed to increase the levels of dopamine (feel good chemical) in the brain, thereby creating a pleasant effect. Even though this chemical occurs naturally, if you take substances like Adderall, your brain might produce higher levels of it, causing you to want more of it.

With time, continued use of the medication may cause the abuser to develop tolerance and be unable to function without it. The addict's brain, at this point, might become so dependent on Adderall that they might end up having to look for it whenever they need to stimulate productivity and alertness. Without it, they are likely to feel mentally foggy and tired.

Since doctors prescribe Adderall, many people are deluded into thinking that it is safe for anyone to use. However, continued abuse often leads to serious addiction and long term side effects.

That said, many people who abuse Adderall do so because of its ability to:

  • Suppress appetite and promote weight loss
  • Produce euphoria
  • Improve confidence
  • Increase concentration

These effects make the drug the ultimate choice for people looking to boost their mental or physical performance. However, taking Adderall without a doctor's prescription or without following the doctor's direction can prove to be damaging, and is considered to be a form of drug abuse. It occurs in the following ways:

  • Consuming it through non-approved methods, such as snorting
  • Purchasing it from illicit sources
  • Taking higher doses than the doctor prescribed
  • Taking it more frequently than was prescribed
  • Using another's medication
  • Using it recreationally
  • Using the drug to fulfill non-medical purposes, such as to remain active for long periods

Adderall Effects

Abusing Adderall might result in a wide variety of both short and long term effects with the potential to negatively impact your life. Most of these effects are long-lasting and might lead to fatal outcomes.

Consider the following effects of Adderall abuse:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Engaging in illicit activities
  • Headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Interactions with law enforcement
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental health issues
  • Neurocognitive impairment
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • The development of severe medical conditions
  • Weight loss

Adderall Side Effects

The side effects of both prescribed and non-prescribed Adderall use range from the commonly mild to the severe. Consider the following side effects that don't necessarily indicate abuse:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Convulsions
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tremors
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

While looking for its immediate effects, many users might choose to snort Adderall through the sinus cavity. Although this leads to an intense high, snorting also carries serious side effects including:

  • Destruction of the sinus cavities
  • Damage to the nasal cavity
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased risk of overdose

Adderall Addictive Qualities

Most people who take Adderall do not intend to become addicted to it. In many cases, the problem starts with the user looking for a way to increase their productivity on stressful days or while studying for major tests. Some users might even fake ADHD symptoms to get a prescription.

With time, however, the user is likely to become addicted to the drug and start prioritizing it over everything else in their lives. In fact, the US National Library of Medicine asserts that abusing or misusing Adderall might lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction among those who:

  • Take it longer than was prescribed
  • Increase their dose without consulting their doctor
  • Take it more than was prescribed

If you find yourself visiting many doctors so that you can get multiple Adderall prescriptions, or if you ever have two or more active prescriptions for the medication, it is highly likely that you have a problem with the drug.

Adderall Overdose

Regular Adderall use and abuse might cause severe problems including potentially lethal overdose. After you go off label and start abusing this drug, the risk of overdose is likely to increase.

Consider the following signs of Adderall overdose:

  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Fast breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Panic
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors (Uncontrollable shaking)
  • Vomiting

Since overdose on stimulants like Adderall tends to lead to grave health consequences, it is imperative that you call your local emergency services or 911 immediately if you suspect you have overdosed or someone has.

Adderall Withdrawal

In many cases, Adderall's withdrawal symptoms are quite unlike its effects. While the drug might increase your energy levels, euphoria, and concentration, the crush you experience after you've gone off the drug is likely to result in these effects reversing.

Once you become addicted to it, you may end up spending more resources and time, and greater energy looking for and taking Adderall while ignoring your school, personal, family, and work obligations.

Some of the common withdrawal symptoms resulting from Adderall use, abuse, and addiction include but are not limited to:

  • Achiness
  • Adderall cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to naturally improve your mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Oversleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobia-type feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping

Adderall Dangers

Taking Adderall might physically change the neuro-circuitry in your brain. This often leads to an alteration of behavior accompanied by a series of such mental disorders as depression. Addiction also carries the risk of acquiring suicidal thoughts.

Although some users inject this medication to enjoy a better high, such inject may lead to a fatal overdose. Additionally, several athletes who used Adderall to enhance their performance succumbed to the drug because the increased blood pressure led to cardiac arrest and heat stroke.

It is for these reasons and more that amphetamines such as Adderall are now banned by the IOC (International Olympic Committee).

Signs And Symptoms Of Adderall Abuse

Doctors increased the prescriptions for Adderall nearly five times between 2002 and 2012. By so doing, they effectively made it easier for curious or interested parties to get their hands on the drug from family members and friends.

Compared to other drugs, Adderall is not quite as stigmatized. As such, it might be difficult to recognize when your loved ones have a problem with this drug. Further, although not all users and abusers are addicted, this medication is also a slippery slope that you might eventually need it when you are looking to increase your productivity or to stay awake.

The key to understanding Adderall use, abuse, dependence, and addiction lies often depends on your ability to spot certain behaviors. For instance, most addicts might prioritize getting and using the medication over everything else because they might not be able to function unless they get their short. Since addicts have a hard time controlling the amount of the drug they take, it is highly likely that they might also ignore important familial and social obligation.

According to the American Psychiatric Association's DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the following are some of the main characteristics of addiction to Adderall:

  • Compulsion to use the drug
  • Continuous use despite its adverse consequences at home, work, and on your health
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Lack of control over Adderall

However, most of the signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse and addiction may affect your behavior and body. These signs include but are not limited to:

a) Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Dramatic behavioral changes
  • Failure to meet obligations at home or work
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Rambling speech
  • Restlessness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Social isolation
  • Threatens others
b) Physical Symptoms
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Tinnitus (or, the ringing of the ears)
  • Weight loss
c) Cognitive Symptoms
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Hyper-alertness
  • Increased concentration
  • Paranoid ideation
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Tactile hallucinations
  • Transient ideas
d) Psychosocial Symptoms
  • Depression
  • Extreme agitation
  • Extreme impatience
  • Hostility
  • Intense anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Unprovoked aggression or anger

Treatment For Adderall Addiction

As mentioned above, the symptoms you get when you withdrawal from Adderall might make it difficult for you to quit on your own. Therefore, if you are addicted and decide to quit cold turkey, the chances are high that you might experience critical effects that are quite the opposite of the effects from the drug. These symptoms include unusually slow heart beat, loss of concentration, and fatigue.

NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) has extensive information about the main types of recovery services available for dealing with the abuse of drugs like Adderall, among other stimulants.

The two main approaches include psychotherapy and MAT (medication-assisted treatment). Whereas detox might be provided by any site within the rehab center, the ultimate treatment might involve a combination of effective options, both from the outpatient and inpatient industries.

Since Adderall is a stimulant, addiction is highly likely to require the highly intense behavioral therapy referred to as the Matrix Model. NIDA also reports that this treatment approach is particularly effective for stimulant addiction. It works mostly because of the formation of a close relationship between the therapist and the patient while working on getting the patient to improve their sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

This model comes with:

  • Drug education
  • Individual, group, and family therapy sessions
  • Participating in self-help groups
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Testing the patient's urine to ensure they continue abstaining from Adderall

Last but not least, you might want to check in with aftercare services, such as sober living facilities, support groups, and 12-step programs for resources on how to continue with life after recovery at the end of your initial treatment regimen.

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