Looking for ways to improve school or college grades? Overburdened by work at the office? Trying to pull an all-nighter to submit the exam paper? Want to lose excess weight? All these issues are the non-medical reasons that people so often tend to use Adderall. It has been noticed that Adderall use is widely popular in high school and college students where the stress of achieving the desired results and making it to one’s dream college is immense. According to National Center for Health Research, 75% of prescription stimulant abuse takes place in high school and college campuses where students refer to Adderall as a ‘study drug’ or ‘smart drug’ in the illusion that it improves cognition and performance overall. 

Contrary to popular belief abusing Adderall does not guarantee good grades or better performance as research has proven that Adderall does not improve cognitive ability. It is just a transient motivation and a boost of energy that comes with the use of stimulants such as Adderall that make people falsely assume that they will do better academically or at work when using the drug. 

However, people remain oblivious to the fact that using Adderall without any legitimate medical condition and the supervision of a medical professional, can have quite detrimental consequences and can even lead to addiction. 

Adderall is a stimulant prescription drug. It is a combination of two drugs which include amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Stimulants are those medications that are used to increase the alertness of the brain and helps an individual to focus and increases the ability to concentrate. The Food Drug and Administration has approved the use of Adderall for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Narcolepsy. 

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders seen in children in which a child may find it difficult to focus, and may have trouble paying attention. Children diagnosed with ADHD also find it hard to control their impulsive behavior as they tend to act without thinking and are hyperactive. People with ADHD have low dopamine levels in the brain which is the key hormone in the brain’s reward system and therefore they are always looking for stimulation and this makes them restless, irritable, and frustrated and this further contributes to having low mood swings and anger outbursts. According to the American Psychiatric Association, around 9 percent of children aged 9 to 17 and 2.5 percent of adults experience symptoms of ADHD. 

Adderall helps individuals with ADHD by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain as both these neurotransmitters are involved in improving the attention span and reduce the impulsiveness in behavior, thereby improving the symptoms associated with ADHD. Research has proven that children who use Adderall, have brain structures similar to that of normal individuals hinting at the inhibition in the progression of this disorder. According to Cleveland Clinic, stimulants like Adderall improve ADHD symptoms in up to 80 percent of children and 70 percent of adults. 

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological condition in which the sleep-wake cycle in the brain is altered such that an individual feels overwhelming drowsiness during the day. Narcolepsy also causes hallucinations and sleep paralysis. It is said that narcolepsy is due to the dysfunction of certain brain cells that are responsible for the release of a substance called hypocretin which regulates the sleep cycle. Adderall improves narcolepsy by increasing the release of norepinephrine which is known to promote wakefulness. 

Adderall comes in two formulations– an immediate-release tablet that has the duration of action for 4 to 6 hours, and an extended-release capsule that is effective for 10 to 12 hours after ingestion. These formulations come in the following doses:

  • Adderall Immediate-release tablet: 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg
  • Adderall Extended-release capsule (ER): 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, and 30mg

On the streets, Adderall is known as ‘addy’, ‘bennies’, ‘smart pills’, ‘study buddies’, and ‘wake-up’ among other names.  

It is unlikely to develop an addiction to Adderall when used under the supervision of a healthcare professional for a legitimate medical condition. However, when used for recreational purposes to achieve a ‘high’ or to experience the euphoric state associated with increased doses of Adderall one can become addicted to it. Moreover, using Adderall for other non-medical conditions such as to lose weight, improve grades, stay up all night for work, and to increase focus during exam season since Adderall is considered a performance enhancer drug and prolonged use of this drug can lead to the development of addiction. Adderall is known to decrease appetite and improve metabolism and people often use it to shed extra pounds oblivious to the damage this drug causes to their system.

Adderall is addictive due to its mechanism of action since it is a central nervous system stimulant and it acts by increasing the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain which include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter involved in the brain’s pleasure center and it is referred to as the ‘feel-good neurotransmitter. When a person abuses Adderall even when prescribed, it can lead to the development of physical dependence which soon paves way for addiction. 

Taking Adderall increases alertness, attention span, energy and improves mood. It also decreases drowsiness and fatigue and promotes wakefulness. So people often abuse the drug to get this effect for completing an assignment or to create a sense of euphoria that comes with the use of Adderall due to increased dopamine in the blood. 

Tolerance is usually the first step that can lead to addiction to Adderall. A person develops tolerance when he starts taking increased doses of Adderall to achieve the desired effect. After taking greater doses the body becomes physically dependent on the effects of Adderall such that a person may find it difficult to perform the routine task without taking the drug. Then addiction soon follows where a person tries all means to attain the drug and he experiences withdrawal episodes when Adderall is not administered. 

Addiction to Adderall is quite dangerous since the drug has a plethora of side effects on the body and mainly on the cardiovascular symptoms and if addiction is not treated, the consequences can be fatal. 

Adderall is classified as a Class II controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) similar to cocaine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. Being a class II schedule drug means that Adderall has significant potential for abuse and addiction. The manufacturing, distribution, and storage of Adderall are all strictly regulated to reduce the risk of addiction and abuse associated with it. It is illegal to possess Adderall without a legitimate prescription and anyone who is found to supply or purchase the drug illegally should be ready to face the music since the punishment for illegal possession of Adderall can be a hefty fine or imprisonment depending on the federal law.

It is said that the sense of euphoria and the rush that comes with abusing Adderall is similar to that seen in cocaine abuse. Adderall however, takes longer to cause the ecstatic effect, and the effect of cocaine kicks in sooner but the duration of effect is longer with Adderall use as compared to cocaine. Hence Adderall surpasses cocaine as people prefer to abuse Adderall over cocaine since the high last longer. This explains the reason Adderall is so widely abused. 

People often use methamphetamine which is an illegal drug to achieve the high similar to that which comes with Adderall abuse. In 2017, a survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 1.7 million people had abused amphetamine in the previous year.

The danger of Adderall abuse is that people often mix Adderall with other drugs when the ‘high’ caused by Adderall is not sufficient for them. This can lead to disastrous consequences and so Adderall abuse should be avoided at all costs.

Adderall dependence and Addiction are two different states. Dependence on Adderall or any other drug is a physiological response of the body as it gets adapted to the altered brain chemistry as seen with Adderall use due to an increase in the feel-good neurotransmitter- dopamine. During Adderall dependence, the person does not mentally craves the drug but becomes habitual of taking it. Adderall dependence can also develop in individuals who are taking the drug as per the doctor’s prescription hence strict monitoring is necessary and the physician should help the patient come off the medicine gradually lest they may not face the withdrawal episodes.

Adderall Addiction is referred to the state of the person when he mentally and physically craves the drug and feels a compulsion to continue taking the drug even after experiencing negative effects associated with Adderall use. Adderall addiction develops after prolong use or when taken in doses greater than prescribed. Individuals addicted to Adderall find it hard to maintain their normal routine without taking the drug and so they go to great lengths to acquire the drug even if they have to steal, lie or use illegal means to obtain the drug.

Prescriptions for Adderall have skyrocketed as nearly 50 million prescription stimulant drugs like Adderall were prescribed in 2011 to treat symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This highlights the number of individuals who are at risk of developing an addiction to Adderall if misuse of the drug takes place. 

As per experts’ opinion, the US is currently dealing with a Stimulant epidemic that is just as deadly and dangerous as the Opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths from both prescription stimulants like Adderall and illegal stimulants have increased by almost 30% between 2016 and 2017. The reason why the stimulant epidemic can prove to be dangerous than the opioid epidemic is that opioid overdose can be reversed when treated with medicine like Narcan, however, there is no drug to reverse the overdose caused by stimulant drugs such as Adderall. 

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According to the National Emerging Threat Initiative, the illicit use of Adderall was on a rise from 2014 to 2018, such that 15 kilograms of stimulants were seized for every kilogram of heroin. This rate is quite alarming as it reflects the surge in Adderall abuse in the US. 

In addition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders observed that people who were receiving treatment for Adderall addiction had started taking the drug when they were roughly 23 years of age. Moreover, data has revealed that it is not only students that abuse Adderall rather athletes also abuse the drug to enhance their performance. In 2012, National Football League had record-breaking drug-related suspensions due to Adderall abuse. 

Certain red flag signs that are associated with Adderall abuse can help you notice if your loved ones are abusing Adderall. The symptoms of Adderall abuse include the following:

  • Poor personal hygiene and grooming
  • Preoccupied with the thoughts of arranging and consuming the drug
  • Crushing and snorting Adderall 
  • Talking excessively
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Stealing money, or buying the drug off the street
  • Manipulating doctors that they have ADHD to get Adderall prescription
  • Appearing excessively happy
  • Difficulty sleeping and may stay up all night
  • Low mood and irritability when they run out of the drug
  • Become socially withdrawn and isolate themselves
  • Complaining of chest pain, anxiety, and headaches
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal 
  • They may be facing exhaustion
  • A sudden drop in weight
  • Having relationship issues
  • Being absent at work, college, or school
  • Having financial issues 

Adderall Abuse Psychological Symptoms

Long-term use of Adderall has a serious effect on the brain because levels of dopamine are higher than normal in these individuals leading to overstimulation of the brain which presents as psychosis. This happens in individuals who are using the medicine without a legitimate medical cause as these individuals have normal levels of dopamine and taking increased doses of the drugs heightens the release of dopamine to abnormal levels and hence psychosis ensue. 

Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, and Obsessive-Compulsive disorder can arise due to the disrupted brain chemistry after abusing Adderall for a long time. People who abuse Adderall also experience euphoria, anxiety, depression, mania, paranoia, and hallucinations. 

Adderall Use Disorder Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms associated with Adderall Use Disorder are quite deleterious to health. Some of the effects of Adderall abuse include slowed growth in children. In adults, Adderall use disorder may present as stroke, cardiac arrest, seizures. Prolonged abuse of Adderall causes irregular heartbeat, hypertension, tachycardia, cardiomyopathy, cardiac dysrhythmias (abnormal electrical conductivity of the heart), necrotizing vasculitis, and even death.

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