Adderall is in wide use in the U.S., both for legitimate and illegitimate purposes. A prescription stimulant, the drug is just as likely to be abused for its focus-boosting qualities as it is used based on doctors’ orders.
According to a survey conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry, the use of prescription stimulants is widespread. There were no less than 16 million Americans over the age of 18 using Adderall and other prescription stimulants in 2018.
At least 25 to 30% of that figure included college students looking for a way to burn the midnight candle without paying the price.
However, the dangers of Adderall abuse make a few extra hours of concentration and energy hardly worth it. There are several studies that show without doubt that Adderall, when taken wrongly (and even rightly, on occasion), can be very dangerous.
This article will examine the danger of Adderall abuse and the unsavory effects it can have on several aspects of its victims’ lives.
What does Adderall do?
Adderall is an amphetamine-based prescription stimulant usually recommended for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It includes a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine which can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD can be a difficult condition to live with, causing a lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness in patients. Diagnosis for ADHD usually comes before age 16 and more than 60% of people continue to endure these symptoms long into adulthood. Adderall is also commonly diagnosed for other ailments such as narcolepsy, and even depression, in some cases.
The drug is made from a mixture of amphetamine salts which stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain. People with ADHD tend to have low levels of dopamine, and this leaves them feeling flat and constantly seeking stimulation.
By stimulating the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, Adderall keeps the brain from getting distracted by potential “rewards” in the environment. People using the drug are left feeling more focused and attentive.
However, the drug is increasingly being used without a prescription to boost performance at school or work. Due to its reputation as a pill that can induce hyper-focus, improve mood and energy levels, more people abuse Adderall for non-medical purposes. The drug is even being used now as an alternative for weight loss due to a side effect that suppresses appetite.
The Danger of Adderall Addiction
Although Adderall is fairly harmless at prescription levels, it can be easy to become severely dependent on the drug when taken without a prescription. Even with a prescription, taking Adderall for longer or at higher doses than prescribed can result in dependence.
Due to the risk of addiction occurring from too large intake of the drug, doctors typically prescribe Adderall at the lowest effective dose possible. The safe range is usually between 5 to 60 milligrams at most per day.
Apart from misuse and abuse, persons taking any of the following medications may also be at risk of developing an addiction to Adderall:
- Anti-seizure medications
- Blood pressure medications
Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
One of the earliest signs that a person may be developing an Adderall addiction is when they begin to enjoy taking the drug and look forward to future “hits”. This, in addition to more than one of the following symptoms, may point to an addiction:
- Feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability once the drug wears off
- Displaying drug-seeking behavior such as spending a lot of money or effort to get the drug or needing to inject or snort the drug to hasten its effect
- Experiencing physical symptoms of withdrawal such as insomnia, dizziness or panic attacks once the drug wears off. This is also called an “Adderall crash”.
- Increased tolerance to the drug with the individual needing higher quantities to feel its effects
Adderall is a powerful medication, and even little incidents of misuse or abuse can blossom into severe dependence. The longer you misuse the drug, the stronger the addiction can become. Sadly, prolonged misuse or abuse can lead to even worse and possibly permanent effects.
Adverse Effects of Adderall Abuse and Misuse
The immediate feelings of wellbeing and energy stimulated by Adderall as well as its status as a prescription drug lead many to overlook its potential danger. However, Adderall can be very dangerous when abused or misused for prolonged periods.
The danger is such that even in countries where it is legally available for prescription, the drug is handled extremely carefully. In the UK, for instance, the drug is absolutely unavailable for prescription to children under the age of 5.
In other countries such as japan, concerns over the medication are so strong that it is banned completely, even for prescription use. As the following adverse effects show, this is not done lightly.
- The Brain: Perhaps the most dangerous effects of the drug are the changes it can cause to the brain. Adderall is meant to stimulate the activity of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain. However, these changes may impact the brain’s reward center over time, and alter one’s ability to experience pleasure without the chemical support of amphetamine use. It may lead to the formation of a tolerance to the drug, inducing higher reliance on medication and severe withdrawal symptoms. Worse, it may increase susceptibility to suicidal tendencies, aggression and psychosis.
- Pregnancy: Use of Adderall during pregnancy may lead to serious birth defects. A study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that women who took ADHD medication such as Adderall were more likely to have a baby with certain birth defects. These include gastroschisis, omphalocele and transverse limb deficiency.
- The Heart: At high doses, Adderall increases the risk of heart problems. It may also lead to high blood pressure and stroke. Typically, these risks are present even with a valid prescription from a doctor. Those that use the drugs without the benefit of a prescription do so at extremely high risk and may be essentially courting heart failure.
The real dangers that may arise from Adderall misuse and abuse call for great caution in handling the medication. Even with a valid prescription, use of the drug may include significant risk, which should not be taken lightly.
If you have a loved one that has fallen foul of the dangers of Adderall, it is absolutely crucial that they obtain professional help immediately. Taking measures such as trying to quit the medication “cold turkey” may be well-intentioned, but may have even worse consequences.
Speak to a doctor immediately so they can assess the danger and whether referral to a treatment program will be necessary. Stonegate Center has collaborated with many qualified physicians to help people facing the dangerous effects of Adderall abuse and addiction find positive outcomes.
We provide a train of deeply qualified and professional staff to help our patients achieve the resolution and strength to reclaim their lives. Contact us today at (817) 993-9733 to speak to an Admissions Coordinator in recovery. We combat substance abuse issues, such as an addiction to stimulants, through a highly-individualized treatment plan for each of our clients.
Our programs consist of individual and group therapy sessions using a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model. As well, we are big believers in the 12-Steps and incorporate their approach into our clinical and medical approach. So, give us a call to learn more or feel free to comb through our website for more info or a virtual tour!
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.