What is Adderall?
Table of Contents
- What is Adderall?
- How Does Adderall Affect the Body?
- Is Adderall Addictive or Habit Forming?
- How is Adderall Used?
- Who is at Risk of Developing an Adderall Addiction?
- Recognizing the Signs of Adderall Addiction
- The Side Effects of Adderall Abuse
- Is it Possible to Overdose on Adderall?
- Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
- Adderall Addiction Treatment Options
- The Importance of Medical Detox in Addiction Recovery
- Find Substance Abuse Treatment Centers Nationwide
- Medically Reviewed By
Dextroamphetamine, or Adderall as the brand name drug, is a potent stimulant that is commonly prescribed to help manage Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as well as to treat narcolepsy – a sleeping disorder that causes individuals to fall asleep at random.
While prescription Adderall can be extremely effective in treating these conditions, it does have its downfalls. Many prescription stimulants, including amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
This means that, while these drugs do have an accepted medical use, they also pose a high risk for substance abuse. Unfortunately, prescription stimulant abuse, particularly Adderall misuse, has become increasingly prominent within the United States in recent years.
Because of this, stimulant medications have become highly regulated by the federal government. For instance, Adderall use for medical purposes is highly controlled, requiring a renewed prescription each time a person needs to refill their medication.
Keep reading to find out more about Adderall dependence and addiction, and how to find effective forms of treatment!
How Does Adderall Affect the Body?
As a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall works by directly influencing the brain’s reward center. For someone who does not need Adderall, this drug use may produce feelings of extreme confidence, euphoria, improved concentration, and decreased appetite.
These effects are what generally lead individuals to misuse Adderall, as they believe that it can enhance their performance abilities. However, these supposed benefits are only temporary, and will likely result in further complications with long-term abuse.
How Does Adderall Help With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
For individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD, prescription stimulants such as Adderall are often prescribed to help improve focus and attention by reducing an individual’s hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.
This is achieved by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine levels within the brain. Adderall activates the production of these neurotransmitters, which are the two main hormones related to the reward centers in the brain.
These effects can be quite helpful for treating ADHD, as increased levels of these hormones can help calm a hyperactive person’s system, ultimately boosting their focus and productivity levels.
Individuals who have been prescribed Adderall will likely also be encouraged to simultaneously participate in certain therapeutic and behavioral health services. These allow them to better understand the way their mind works and manage their symptoms in their day-to-day lives.
Is Adderall Addictive or Habit Forming?
For those who have been prescribed Adderall, they will likely develop a dependence on this drug, rather than an addiction to it. This means that the chemical makeup of their body will become adjusted to the regular presence of this medication.
While they may be dependent upon it, attempting to stop or cut back on Adderall will not cause intense drug cravings or an obsessive need to use. However, a doctor’s assistance may be required to safely taper off Adderall in order to give the body time to adjust to its absence.
For those who misuse Adderall, whether with or without a prescription for it, this will eventually lead to the development of a tolerance to the medication. Once this occurs, they will need to begin using Adderall more often, or in larger doses, in order to achieve the desired effect.
This behavior will ultimately create both a psychological and physical dependence on the drug, causing a person to be driven by a constant need to acquire and abuse Adderall, as they may no longer be able to produce dopamine or norepinephrine independently.
They will also develop intense physical and mental side effects when attempting to reduce or stop the usage of this drug, an experience referred to as substance withdrawal. At this point, professional addiction treatment will likely be required to overcome an Adderall dependency.
How is Adderall Used?
As a prescription drug, Adderall typically comes in the form of a tablet or pill, which is taken orally. When it comes to those who abuse this substance, these Adderall pills are often crushed and snorted.
Snorting Adderall can produce a faster and more intense high; however, this method of drug abuse can also bring with it significant health problems, as well as a higher risk of addiction.
Many individuals who misuse Adderall also abuse alcohol and other drugs with this substance. This is typically done in an attempt to boost certain Adderall effects, such as euphoria and energy enhancement.
However, mixing certain substances can also increase an individual’s risk of experiencing adverse side effects, including overdose. This, of which, can lead to permanent health damage, and even death if not properly treated.
Who is at Risk of Developing an Adderall Addiction?
It is important to understand that anyone can develop an addiction, whether this is to prescription drugs such as Adderall, or any other substance.
With that being said, there are certain individuals who may be at a greater risk of abusing and forming an addiction to Adderall, including:
- Young Adults. Younger individuals such as high school or college students under significant academic pressure may abuse this “study drug” in an attempt to increase their performance in school. This may be particularly prevalent among young adults who struggle with mental health disorders, which can cause additional pressure and stress.
- Athletes. Many athletes will misuse Adderall as an athletic performance enhancer in order to maintain or achieve certain performance goals and expectations. This drug may also be used to boost their energy and focus levels.
- People With Eating Disorders. Adderall can often suppress appetite levels for many individuals who take it. This has made it a commonly-abused drug for individuals with eating disorders or who are attempting to lose weight in extreme manners.
Recognizing the Signs of Adderall Addiction
Most people would not know if someone was on Adderall unless they themselves understood the drug and the effects it has on users. Someone who is taking the medication as it is prescribed shouldn’t show any Adderall addiction symptoms.
However, if the person is self-medicating with larger doses or otherwise abuses Adderall, some changes in their behavior will most likely be noticeable. This may include significant differences in their sleeping habits or re-occurring hyper fixation on tasks and work.
This may also include significant changes in their energy levels, such as random bursts of extreme wakefulness and exhaustion, correlating with the highs and crashes of Adderall.
Most people who are taking Adderall will also experience some level of weight loss. When someone begins abusing the drug, one of the most common Adderall addiction symptoms is weight loss which brings the person to an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).
In addition to these indicators, individuals may exhibit several other noticeable signs of Adderall abuse, including:
- Personality Changes. Someone abusing Adderall will often become far more talkative than they usually are, as well as more confident in public or social settings. However, they may also develop significant mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, stress, and paranoia.
- Increasing Adderall Use. Whether with or without a prescription, taking Adderall in higher doses or more frequently than usual, especially if this is done in order to feel ‘normal,’ can be a significant indication that an individual has become addicted to this drug.
- Using Alternative Methods of Administration. Anyone who smokes or snorts Adderall is virtually guaranteed to form an addiction to it. Taking the drug in either of these manners greatly increases its intensity and how quickly the user feels it, something that typically would not be necessary unless addicted to Adderall.
- Regularly Using Adderall for Non-Medical Purposes. Adderall is frequently used for purposes that fall outside of its medical application, as it is often seen as a solution for many of life’s ‘problems.’ However, using this drug without a need for it can not only be habit-forming, but extremely dangerous; especially if mixed with other substances.
- Continuing Use Despite Obvious Adderall Dependence Symptoms. Anytime a user is cognizant of their own Adderall abuse signs but continues using the drug, it’s a clear sign that they have a problem. At this point, their Adderall dependence has developed to a point where the short-term benefits that come from using outweigh the risks.
The Side Effects of Adderall Abuse
Along with the generally pleasant feelings that may come from taking Adderall, there are also several unpleasant side effects that may occur from its abuse. Short-term Adderall misuse may cause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Uncontrollable shaking in one or several areas of the body
- Changes in sexual libito
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
More rare, but severe, side effects may result from short-term misuse of Adderall as well, including:
- Pounding heartbeat or rapid heart rate
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or visual changes
- Numbness in the body
- Slowed speech
- Rash or itchiness
- Shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing or hoarseness in the throat
- Verbal or muscular tics
- Skin blistering and peeling
- Swelling in the throat and around the face
In addition to these short-term effects, chronic Adderall misuse can also present significant health consequences based on a person’s method of administration. Someone who crushes, liquefies, and uses this drug intravenously may increase their risk of collapsed veins.
Furthermore, those who snort Adderall may cause extensive damage to their nasal cavity, and may even lose the partial or full sense of smell. In general, long-term abuse of this substance may also cause high blood pressure, hair loss, reduced blood circulation, and an irregular heartbeat.
Is it Possible to Overdose on Adderall?
When taking too much Adderall or using this drug repeatedly within a short period of time, it is possible for an individual to experience a drug overdose. This risk is drastically increased by mixing Adderall with other drugs.
For example, someone who mixes this drug with alcohol not only increases their risk of an Adderall overdose but of experiencing alcohol poisoning, as well. Both, of which, can be fatal if not properly addressed.
What are the Signs of an Adderall Overdose?
Knowing how to recognize the warning signs of an Adderall overdose can not only help prevent significant health issues from occurring but may even be life-saving. When it comes to the symptoms of overdose, these may include:
- Abdominal and chest pain
- Heart attack
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fast breathing
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
If someone drastically reduces their Adderall usage or attempts to quit using altogether, this may result in the development of severe withdrawal symptoms. These may include:
- Low energy
- Inability to concentrate
- Dry mouth
- Body pains
- Mood swings
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Excessive crying
- Memory loss
- Drug cravings
The intensity of the Adderall withdrawal period can make it feel impossible for many people to overcome their addiction on their own. Because of this, those struggling with Adderall abuse are strongly encouraged to seek professional addiction treatment when attempting to get sober.
Adderall Addiction Treatment Options
There are several professional addiction treatment options available to those struggling with an Adderall use disorder. These services will likely be similar to those recommended for treating other substance use disorders involving prescription drugs, including:
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), because addiction is such a personal disease, participating in several different levels of care and following an integrated treatment plan is the best path to overcoming this condition.
This may include dual diagnosis treatment options for those struggling with a simultaneous mental health and substance use disorder. These services may be provided by both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, as well as addiction recovery support groups.
The Importance of Medical Detox in Addiction Recovery
Participating in a medically-supervised detox program is often a critical part of the addiction recovery process for many forms of substance abuse. These allow individuals to be gradually weaned off an abused substance, reducing some of the health risks associated with withdrawal.
When tapering off Adderall in a clinically controlled and supportive environment, this level of addiction treatment can help manage or prevent more severe withdrawal symptoms associated with this stimulant use disorder from occurring.
Furthermore, certain addiction medicines may also be administered to help reduce drug cravings, as well as a person’s risk of relapse. Individuals may participate in supervised detox as a stand-alone form of treatment, or as the first of several steps in their recovery process.
Find Substance Abuse Treatment Centers Nationwide
The Find Addiction Rehabs mission is to help people who are struggling with addiction find the help they need. If you or a loved one is displaying signs of Adderall abuse, we can find a treatment center and recovery services that can provide all of your care needs.
So don’t wait; call our 24/7 hotline today, and let us help you take the first step in achieving sobriety, and discover a happier, healthier, and substance-free you!
Nicole Rogers is an experienced and accomplished writer with special interests in the fields of Anthropology, English, and behavioral health, and has written countless articles for newspaper publications, institutional research journals, and Find Addiction Rehabs.
Her alma mater is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Nicole hopes to spread awareness of and combat the stigmatization surrounding addiction and substance abuse treatment through her writing and work in the field.