Adderall abuse and addiction is increasingly common, especially among teenagers and young adults. It’s important for parents and teachers to be aware of the signs of Adderall abuse, so addicts can get treatment early on and reduce the risk of serious health effects with prolonged use.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant that is most commonly prescribed to people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADD/ADHD are neurological conditions that cause behavioral problems, such as impulsiveness, trouble focusing, and getting distracted frequently. The disorders are most commonly found in elementary-aged kids and adolescents, but adults can also get diagnosed.
Recent data has proven that stimulant abuse is getting more common. According to a survey from the American Journal of Psychiatry, an estimated 5 million Americans are illegally using prescription stimulants, with the main goal of increasing their concentration over a long period of time. Over half of the respondents said they use prescription stimulants for cognitive enhancement, 22 percent use it as a study aid, and 15 percent said they abuse stimulants simply to experience the high.
Adderall is a strong drug that does have side effects, even when taking in the prescribed dose. In order to recognize Adderall abuse, it’s important to be able to distinguish normal symptoms from more serious signs of abuse. As a stimulant, Adderall can have some unpleasant effects, such as:
These side effects should not interfere with the person’s quality of life or their ability to function on a daily basis. If the symptoms are getting worse over time, or seem out of character, it’s likely that the person could be misusing the drug.
The way Adderall works is by stimulating the central nervous system. When someone takes the drug, it increases the number of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine connections in the central nervous system, which speeds up brain activity. As a result, people who suffer from ADD/ADHD are able to focus better and are less likely to exhibit impulsive behavior.
Although less common, Adderall is also prescribed for people who suffer from narcolepsy, a disorder that causes extreme daytime tiredness, and sudden attacks of sleep. As a stimulant, Adderall is effective in helping people improve alertness and reduce sleepiness, which can greatly improve their quality of life.
When someone is addicted to Adderall, they are reliant on the drug to feel alert, motivated and productive. Without it, they likely feel tired, mentally foggy and have trouble focusing or getting anything done. Some of the hallmark signs of Adderall abuse include:
Another common sign that someone is abusing Adderall is that they often run out of their prescription early because they’re taking more pills than prescribed. When they don’t have enough medication to get through the next few days, they often spiral into panic mode and will do anything they can to get more of the drug.
Statistically, college-aged kids are the most likely group to become addicted to Adderall, whether they have a prescription for it or not. In fact, full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their peers who aren’t in college.
College can be an incredibly hectic and stressful period when schoolwork is challenging and social lives are hectic—it’s easy to get burned out when self-care is neglected. Many students who are prescribed Adderall will take a higher amount of the drug to give themselves an extra boost to get through the day or to pull an all-night study session before a big test.
But those once-in-a-while habits can quickly lead to a more serious problem. Over time, the body gets used to having higher doses of the drug in its system. The lower, prescribed dose becomes not enough to feel the effects of the drug, and the user compensates by giving themselves a higher dose. Alarmingly, data shows that college-aged kids aren’t worried about the harmful effects of Adderall. According to a 2016 survey, nearly 40 percent of individuals between the ages of 19-22 who reported regularly taking the drug for non-medical reasons, did not believe that Adderall poses a “great risk” of harm.
Adderall abuse is also a huge problem in people who don’t have a prescription for it. According to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Adderall misuse is highest among 18- to 25-year-olds who get the drugs from friends or family members, without a prescription. Some people will even fake the symptoms of ADD/ADHD to get a prescription for the drug. It’s not uncommon for kids with or without a prescription for Adderall to sell the drug to other kids in their social circle.
College athletes have also been known to abuse Adderall. The extreme physical and mental demands of many sports leave players feeling exhausted day after day. Taking Adderall can help them get a boost of energy to push through with minimal recovery time and improve their performance. In professional sports, Adderall is banned by most national leagues, and is classified as a performance enhancing drug that is illegal for players to use during the season.
Heavy, prolonged use of Adderall can have harmful effects on the brain and the body. Common symptoms resulting from long term Adderall abuse include:
Adderall addiction can also lead to neurotoxicity, which is a buildup of toxins in the central nervous system. People who experience neurotoxicity suffer from adverse psychological effects that can lead to psychosis or schizophrenia-like symptoms. Many people who suffer from neurotoxicity begin to hallucinate and report seeing and hearing things. The condition usually gets worse until it permanently damages the central nervous system.
In addition, people who abuse Adderall also put themselves at risk for permanent brain damage. Adderall increases the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, and eventually, the brain gets used to getting those chemicals from an outside source. As a result, the brain could stop producing enough of those chemicals naturally to maintain normal energy levels when Adderall is not present.
Heavy Adderall use can also damage the brain’s dopaminergic nerve endings, which make it harder for the brain to produce dopamine, which is responsible for activating the brain’s reward center. It’s possible that Adderall abuse could permanently damage those nerve endings, which would require a person to be on medication for the rest of their lives.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with Adderall abuse issues, our team at Launch Centers can help. We provide treatment for ADHD, as well as Adderall and stimulant addictions. Using a combination of therapies, we help our clients recover from their addictions and treat mental health disorders, while empowering them to live their best lives and reach their goals.
Our approach to treatment recovery is much different than traditional treatment centers. Our 180-day program combines educational and vocational elements with clinical treatments that help clients live a successful life long after recovery. Contact us today to learn more about ADHD and Adderall addiction treatment at Launch Centers.