Adderall Addiction and Abuse

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant that produces effects similar to methamphetamine. Adderall increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the central nervous system. This boosts attention and reaction time and also makes the drug feel rewarding to take. The high levels of dopamine that Adderall creates make users want to take more of it. Adderall comes typically in tablet form in doses ranging from 5 to 30 milligrams. Adderall addicts may crush the tablets and snort them so they can feel the effects faster and get a better high. Over time this can lead to damage to the nasal and sinus cavities. Some even try injecting it to increase the effects. This can easily result in a fatal overdose, however.

Adderall Addiction and Abuse

Adderall Addiction

Regularly taking Adderall at unprescribed doses carries a high risk of addiction. People who are addicted to the drug often feel tired and mentally foggy without it and develop problems with alertness and productivity. People who abuse Adderall are more likely to start abusing other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Frequently an Adderall addiction will begin with someone seeking out the drug to perform better at work or school. They may pretend to have ADHD to get a prescription. People tend to underestimate Adderall because it is a doctor-prescribed drug. However, in severe cases, Adderall abuse can result in an overdose. 

While Adderall is often associated with high school and college students, many users begin taking it later in life. Athletes also abuse it. This is especially dangerous because the elevated blood pressure experienced during athletic activity can lead to heatstroke and cardiac arrest when combined with stimulants. Stimulants are banned from the Olympics for this reason. Adderall does not have the social stigma attached to it that harder drugs have, and friends of the addict may not see their Adderall use as warranting an intervention. Some people may combine Adderall with other medications to either enhance or minimize the stimulant’s effects. This increases the risk of an overdose and is a common cause of emergency room visits. Alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana are all drugs that are commonly mixed with Adderall. Alcohol is particularly dangerous because intoxicated people who are also abusing stimulants may feel as though they are not as intoxicated as they are. This can lead to excessive drinking and, potentially, alcohol poisoning.

Symptoms of Addiction

People who are addicted to Adderall often need to take larger and larger doses to continue feeling the effects of the drug. They may want to use less, but feel as though they can’t. Even if they are aware of the drug’s harmful effects, they will often continue to use it regardless. They may also neglect normal activities in favor of using drugs. Other symptoms include excessive talking, loss of appetite, giddiness, social withdrawal, financial problems due to overspending on drugs, aggression, oversleeping, exhaustion, weight loss, memory loss, the decline in hygiene, overworking, running out of prescriptions early, disorientation, mania, and impulsive behavior.

Adderall addiction comes with many unpleasant side effects. These may include convulsions, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, nausea, insomnia, hallucinations, sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, dry mouth, loss of strength, constipation, a false sense of well-being, frequent urination, headaches, dizziness, back pain, twitching, seizures, and peeling skin.

Withdrawal and Detox

Following prolonged Adderall use, people often become physically dependent on it. This happens because they have built up a tolerance to it and need to use higher dosages to get the same high. The higher the tolerance, the more severe the withdrawal. There are two types of Adderall, the regular type and Adderall XR. Regular Adderall only stays in the body for about six hours, whereas Adderall XR is designed for round-the-clock usage. Adderall XR builds up in the body and sticks around longer. With Adderall XR, the withdrawal symptoms start and end later than regular Adderall, sometimes weeks later. In 2005 the Canadian government banned sales of Adderall XR due to 20 deaths associated with the drug.

Commonly a detox method is used that involves slowly tapering down the amount of the drug the person is using. This helps minimize the withdrawal symptoms like depression and fatigue. When a person is going through withdrawal, the body is trying to recalibrate itself back to how it was before the addiction started. The withdrawal process can take as little as five days or as long as three weeks or more, depending on the seriousness and duration of the addiction. Withdrawal can involve intense symptoms such as irritability and nightmares. These symptoms often peak around the three to five-day mark and then fade afterward.

Treatment and Rehab

People who are addicted to Adderall need to re-learn how to function without it. It’s also essential to figure out why the person began using the drug, and also how to prevent relapses. Inpatient rehab provides a structured environment for stimulant addicts along with a daily routine to follow that often includes therapy. Inpatient rehab can last anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Treatment techniques vary, with some treatment centers adopting a more hard-nosed approach and others doing the opposite. One of the keys to successful treatment is to choose a rehab center that will fit the addicted person’s needs adequately. Rehab approaches can also include 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and holistic therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is especially useful, and research shows that significantly more people can continue sobriety compared to those who do not undergo CBT. 

From 2002 to 2013, there was a 58 percent increase in treatment admissions for stimulant addiction. Nearly 16 million prescriptions for stimulants such as Adderall were written in 2012. This is triple the amount written in 2008. This is part of the reason there have been more people going to rehab for stimulant addiction. Many rehab centers offer financing options to make treatment more affordable.