Adderall abuse and addiction are 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.
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, about 22 percent use it as a study aid, and 15 percent said they abuse stimulants simply to experience the high.
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.
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.
Adderall works 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.
People who abuse Adderall put themselves at risk for permanent brain damage. Because Adderall increases the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, 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.
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:
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme weight loss
- Unusually talkative
- Impulsive behaviors
- Having incomplete thoughts or sentences
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Running out of their prescription early due to taking a higher dose than recommended
Statistics show that college-aged individuals are the most likely group to become addicted to Adderall, whether they have a prescription for it or not. Full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their peers who do not attend college.
College can be an incredibly hectic and stressful period when schoolwork is challenging and social lives are busy, making it easy to feel burned out. Many students who are prescribed Adderall will take a higher amount of the drug than directed in order to give themselves an extra boost to get through the day or to pull an all-night study session before a big test.
Despite the potential for serious harmful effects of misusing Adderall, many college-aged users aren’t worried about doing damage to their health. 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.
College athletes have also been known to abuse Adderall. The extreme physical and mental demands of many sports leave players feeling exhausted. 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.
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 primarily get the drugs from friends or family members, without a prescription. It’s not uncommon for individuals with or without a prescription for Adderall to sell the drug to others in their social circle.
Heavy, prolonged use of Adderall can have harmful effects on the brain and the body. Common symptoms resulting from long term Adderall abuse include:
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Chronic insomnia
- Trouble gaining weight
- Permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract
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.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall abuse issues, our team at Launch Centers in Los Angeles can help. We provide treatment for ADD/ADHD, as well as Adderall and other 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 ADD/ADHD and Adderall addiction treatment at Launch Centers.