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Adderall is commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder). However, many Americans have been using this amphetamine based stimulant as a form of speed and to give them an edge in the classroom and workplace.
Some have also hailed this trend as the beginning of a revolution in smart drugs. However, doctors are in agreement that Adderall is not safe when used over and beyond what a prescription calls for.
Understanding the history of Adderall - particularly in light of the last amphetamine epidemic that peaked in 1969 will illuminate you on just how dangerous this medication can be unless used under the strict instructions of a doctor in treating ADD, ADHD, and narcolepsy.
Read on to find out more:
From 1929 to 1945, amphetamine was largely marketed as the first ever antidepressant medication. The drug was first discovered by Gordon Alles, a biochemist who was trying to find substitutes for ephedrine. He realized that amphetamine caused stimulating effects, and officially kick started the history of amphetamine.
SKF (Smith, Kline, and French) introduced this class of drugs to the American market in 1933 - more specifically in the form of an OTC (over the counter) Benzedrine inhaler. At the time, the drug regulations were quite sparse. Therefore, people could easily access amphetamines even though they were poorly understood. As such, many people started using this drug for both medical and non-medical purposes.
In particular, SKF heavily marketed amphetamine as the first antidepressants, with claims that it was effective at treating depression. In the military, World War II servicemen received the drug to improve focus. By the end of the war, more than 500,000 civilians were abusing it for weight loss and the Benzedrine inhaler was commonly thought suitable for use by people of all ages.
However, SKF's patent for amphetamine expired in 1949, causing the sales of the drug to surge because other pharmaceutical companies could manufacture their own formulations and cocktails.
By the 50s, psychiatric specialists and general practitioners who had embraced psychosomatic medications turned this class of drug into the first line of defense against emotional distress.
The increase in prescriptions by doctors and deft marketing in the pharmaceutical industry also made it seem that amphetamines were innocuous. Although industry experts still knew that it was potentially habit forming, they did not think that it was worse than, say, coffee.
Eventually, the Beat Generation adopted these drugs as a favorite. Fueled by coffee and Benzedrine, Jack Kerouac typed his "On the Road" in under 3 weeks - an amazing feat even by modern standards.
In the 60s and 70s, however, the negative side effects of using and misusing amphetamines started becoming more apparent. This follows the saturation of the drugs among the general populace.
Additionally, addiction researchers started uncovering the fact that this class of drugs was far more habit forming than they had earlier been led to believe. In the same way, clinicians started realizing that anyone could be affected by amphetamine psychosis, and not just patients with latent psychological disorders.
However, the tide of prescriptions for the drug did not wane - not even after superior medical alternatives were introduced for the treatment of depression. In fact, prescriptions from general practitioners started flooding the streets and comprised 80 to 90 percent of the drugs confiscated by law enforcement officials.
In 1965, Johnny Cash was arrested and later charged for possessing amphetamines. By 1970, it was reported that a minimum of 10 million people in the US had taken these drugs within the past year. Among these users, about 4 million were abusing amphetamines for non-medical and recreational purposes.
By the late 60s, veterans from the Vietnam War came back home and their families and friends realized that they were addicted to amphetamines. Additionally, hippies reported bad trips on the drug, and motorcycle gangs high on the substance terrorized dozens of small towns.
Congress convened and established enforcement on schedule-based drugs like amphetamines. Initially, these drugs were classified under the less restrictive class of Schedule III substances before being moved in 1971 to Schedule II. At around the same time, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) declared that these drugs were not to be used for treating depression and weight problems.
These restrictions caused the production and use of the drug to plummet. The only remaining uses that were still approved included the treatment of hyperkinetic disorder of childhood (now known as ADD) and narcolepsy.
Doctors had already noticed (from as early as 1936) that amphetamines could increase concentration and produce calming effects in hyperactive children. However, it was only in the 80s that the DSM-III (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - 3rd edition) renamed hyperkinetic disorder of childhood to attention deficit disorder. By then, this manual had become the standard reference used by the US legal system, drug companies, and clinicians. In 1987, the condition was clarified further as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In the early 90s, diagnoses of the condition skyrocketed after studies discovered that it could persist into adulthood. With this increase in diagnoses, pharmaceutical companies continue competing - particularly in trying to discover new treatments based on amphetamines.
Although a wide variety of differing stimulant formulas were concocted for combating ADHD, Adderall emerged as the preferred drug among doctors and users. It was created largely by combining amphetamine salts.
Additionally, the use of the drug quintupled between 1995 and 2008. As a direct result of the surge in legal supplies of the medication, there was a simultaneous rise in its non-medical and recreational use - particularly among high school and college students in highly competitive academic environments.
In the same way, American physicians started noticing that many of their patients were struggling with daily tasks and responsibilities.
The nonmedical use of amphetamines especially among students is well documented. However, by 2015, research showed that working professionals had also started turning to the drugs - particularly to Adderall - to help them keep up with an increasingly fast paced and competitive work environment. Workers would simply feign the symptoms and effects of ADHD to get doctors to write them prescriptions for the drug.
As a direct result, the rising use of amphetamines in the workplace led to many debates. At the time, some people thought that the amphetamine craze was similar to the one that had been witnessed in the past while others saw it in the light of a positive revolution in smart drugs.
However, if history is the judge, then the widespread marketing and prescription of amphetamines to a population that views the drug as harmless - for the most part - could probably lead to increased abuse and eventual addiction.
Study drugs is a colloquial term that refers to a variety of prescription stimulant medications - including Concerta, Ritalin, and Adderall. Today, these drugs are commonly used to enhance certain aspects of an individual's mental functioning, including but not limited to:
However, these agents are technically referred to as nootropics - a term that was first coined by Corneliu E. Giurgea (a Romanian chemist and psychologist) in 1972 to refer to their mind altering effects.
The other terms that are used to describe Adderall and other drugs include:
However, some people also use these terms to refer to nutraceuticals, health supplements, and a variety of other substances that are widely thought to produce cognitive enhancing effects.
Still, although Adderall is referred to as a study drug, it is actually a potent stimulant primarily prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy and ADHD in both children and adults. Narcolepsy, in particular, causes the affected individual to experience excessive sleepiness during the day before suddenly falling asleep without any warning.
Amphetamine, the chemical from which Adderall is made, was first synthesized in 1887 by Lazar Edeleanu, a Romanian chemist. At the time, however, researchers did not have any practical uses for the drug. Therefore, it was largely ignored and forgotten for more than 40 years before Gordon Alles (an American chemist) revisited the compound while trying to develop a new drug for the treatment of asthma.
Alles used 50mg of the substance on himself (a dose that is 5 times larger than the standard used today). He reported the following effects:
Although it soon became clear that amphetamine wasn't useful in dealing with asthma, the stimulant effects it elicited made it popular for a variety of medical uses, including but not limited to the treatment of weight loss and depression. During World War II, soldiers also took the drug in the form of energizing pep pills.
In 1996, Adderall was officially introduced into the market as a medication consisting of two different amphetamine molecular structures. Additionally, FDA approved an extended release formulation of the drug (Adderall XR) in 2006.
Adderall works by binding to TAAR1 (trace amine-associated receptor 1) and VMAT2 (vesicular monoamine transporter 2) in the brain. Although the effects arising from this neuron binding are hard to understand, the end result is that they cause a rise in the release of norepinephrine and dopamine within the synaptic cleft - much in the same way that other stimulants like methylphenidate work. Similarly, the amphetamine component of the drug will increase the synaptic levels of neurotransmitters like epinephrine, histamine, and serotonin.
Amphetamines have been abused for long time in America with clandestine labs and prescriptions being the main sources of these drugs on the street and the black market. This is in spite of the fact that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has reported that most of the supply comes from patients who divert their legal prescriptions, doctor shopping, pharmacy theft, and prescription fraud.
Today, Adderall comes with a high potential for abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction. This is because it works by raising the levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. At therapeutic doses, however, this dopamine increase is effective because it helps people with ADHD focus and remain calm. Still, the elevation of dopamine might also:
As a result, Adderall and other similar stimulants have historically been abused by people who are not clinically diagnosed with ADHD. Most of them use it for the following purposes:
The demographic of Adderall abuse has historically covered large segments of the American population - from World War II veterans, to artists of the Beatnik movement in the 50s, and eventually to the housewives of the 60s. Today, most of the people who misuse this amphetamine based drug are students in competitive colleges and high schools, as well as high flying professionals trying to gain an edge in their work environment and careers.
In fact, only a decade after Alles rediscovered amphetamine (in 1929), college students had already started abusing the drug as a study drug and to enhance their performance in the classroom and in exams. Today, this segment of the population continues reporting extremely high levels - to epidemic proportions - of using the drug for non-medical purposes.
Since Adderall is classified as a controlled substance, handling, distributing, marketing, or using it - unless you are a researcher, pharmacist, or physician - could cause you to face the following legal penalties:
As a prescription stimulant, Adderall is a legal drug with legitimate medical uses. Still, in spite of the cavalier attitude that many young people demonstrate with regards to possessing, distributing, and abusing this drug, you need to remember that the DEA classifies it as a Schedule II controlled substance. Therefore, even though Adderall comes with certain medical uses, it also carries a relatively high potential for abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
To ensure that you do not become addicted to it and end up suffering as a result of the various negative effects of abusing this drug - which can include adverse withdrawal symptoms and a high potential for overdose (that might lead to sudden death) - the best thing you can do is avoid using it. If you are already addicted and dependent, however, consider going for treatment at a certified Adderall addiction and rehabilitation treatment center.
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