Adderall is a powerful amphetamine stimulant which helps people focus. It is typically prescribed to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help them focus their attention in order to function in daily life, school, and work. However, Adderall will make anyone focused. This makes it a prime target for abuse in settings such as college study sessions and stressful workplaces. Adderall use, abuse, and addiction has exploded over the past two decades.
Prescriptions for the medication increased fivefold between 2002 and 2012. From 2006 and 2016, manufacturing of prescription stimulants increased a staggering nine million percent. This widespread use has also led to increased availability through friends, colleagues and even on the street.
Abuse as a “Study Drug”
One of the main reasons for Adderall abuse is as a “study drug”. Students claim that they use it to stay up late and study before a big exam or write big papers on a deadline.
In fact, it is so prevalent among college students that one study at a small university in Maine found that one in three students had abused Adderall at some point.
Abuse as a Party Drug
Further abuse comes when Adderall is used as a stimulant for energy purposes. Often for people with ADHD, which has a hyperactive component, Adderall (and other stimulants like Ritalin) can actually calm them down and the focus it provides helps them remain in the present moment. However, this is not the case for people who abuse the drug without medical need for it. The stimulant properties of Adderall can therefore make some people feel energized, upbeat, and outgoing. This is often why it is found on the party scene. Some college students claim it makes them more talkative, better company, and able to stay up later.
Another big risk of Adderall abuse comes in when it is mixed with alcohol. Mixing depressants (alcohol) and stimulants can be very dangerous, masking the effects of both and leading to overconsumption.
Abuse for Weight Loss
Lastly, Adderall’s appetite suppressant qualities mean many people use it as an unhealthy weight loss tool. A study among college student users found one in five women who take Adderall do so to lose weight. Unnatural and ongoing appetite suppression can cause multiple health problems such as malnutrition and can lead to eating disorders. Furthermore, eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa often co-occur with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Addiction to drugs like Adderall.
Adderall Side Effects, Abuse Warning Signs and Overdose
Side Effects of Adderall
- Dry Mouth
- Loss of Appetite
- Feeling wired
- Severe anxiety or Panic Attacks
Warning Signs of Abuse
- Excessive Weight loss
- Secretive behavior
- Sexual dysfunction
- False sense of well-being
Adderall is a potent amphetamine and abuse in high amounts can lead to dangerous complications such as heart attack, stroke, and liver failure. When combined with other substances like alcohol, the risk of overdose increases. Signs of Adderall overdose can include symptoms such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid breathing
- Uncontrolled shaking
- Dark red or brown urine
Adderall overdose can be fatal. Therefore, if someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Dependence and tolerance can develop relatively quickly if Adderall is taken every day. Subsequently, withdrawal symptoms can occur when the drug is not taken after a long period of regular use. Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, irritability, difficulty sleeping, nausea, vomiting, and/or unusual fatigue. Sometimes stimulant withdrawal can make a user feel hungover. Depending on duration of use and dosages taken, symptoms can last a few days or a couple weeks.
Understanding the difference between abuse and addiction
Taking Adderall recreationally or to study for an exam is a form of abuse, but not necessarily addiction. However, regular abuse is a dangerous road that can lead to full blown addiction. People who are addicted to Adderall will prioritize the drug above all else and need it to function.
Signs of Adderall addiction may include:
- Missing social events or important obligations in order to use Adderall
- Unable to do work without it
- Requiring larger and larger doses in order to feel the effect of Adderall
- Spending significant time and money obtaining, using, and recovering from use
- Unable to feel alert without it
- Wanting to quit but feeling unable to do so
- Experiencing withdrawal when not using Adderall
If you or a loved one are showing signs of Adderall addiction, it is recommended that you attend a treatment program. Treatment can help you work through not only the physical dependence but the emotional and psychological reasons for using. Further, working a treatment program offers the best outcome for long-term recovery and a better life.
If you think you may have a problem with Adderall, call us today. We’re here to help and we’re here to listen.
Teter CJ, McCabe SE, et al. “Illicit Use of Specific Prescription Stimulants Among College Students: Prevalence, Motives, and Routes of Administration.” Pharmacotherapy 2006. 26(10):1501-1510.