Adderall is a stimulant medication that doctors often prescribe to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants are known to lessen ADHD symptoms in 70% to 80% of people taking them.. However, Adderall is increasingly misused as a study aid among teenagers and college students. In the workforce, the potential for Adderall abuse is exceedingly high as more jobs demand rigorous schedules. The drug’s ongoing misuse leads many to ask the question: am I addicted to Adderall? Below, you’ll find vital information on this well-known psychostimulant, its uses, and the potential for abuse, plus signs of addiction. We’re also covering ways to prevent abuse and treatment programs that help address substance use disorders.
Adderall is a prescription medication that only slightly differs from methamphetamines. If used differently than prescribed or obtained illicitly, Adderall has a high risk of addiction. For more information on possible side effects, withdrawal, or treatment options, contact us 24/7 directly at 855-281-5588.
Adderall as a Prescription Medication
Adderall is the brand name of four different amphetamine salts mixed to create a three to one ratio of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine. To understand the uses of Adderall, it’s important first to look at the function of the brain.
How the Mind Functions
As the most important organ, the brain controls and coordinates actions and reactions, allows us to think and feel, and enables us to have memories and feelings.
The mind deploys various tasks at any given moment, one being referred to as the executive function. According to Very Well Mind, executive function is a set of cognitive skills needed for managing behaviors. The basic areas of executive function include:
- Attentional control – ability to focus attention and concentrate on something specific
- Cognitive flexibility – also referred to as mental flexibility that allows someone to switch from one mental task to another or to multitask
- Cognitive inhibition – ability to tune out irrelevant information
- Inhibitory control – ability to inhibit impulses or desire to engage in more appropriate or beneficial behavior
- Working memory – ability to solve problems or perform tasks while holding several facts or thoughts in mind
These functions allow individuals to do things such as follow directions, focus, control emotions, and attain goals.
The brain is wired to carry out such functions through its neural network. Neurons and their chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, fire off instructions for the body to perform various tasks. Any excess portion of neurotransmitters is then reabsorbed by the neuron that produced it. In individuals with ADHD, the neurotransmitter seems to reabsorb back into the neuron prematurely. When this occurs, that portion of the neural network can’t relay messages in an adequate and timely manner, resulting in loss of concentration, inability to control impulses, hyperactivity, and other symptoms corresponding with ADHD.
Learn more about the dangers of abusing Adderall and how this disruption in brain chemicals can cause long-term side effects, especially in those using the medication other than prescribed. If you’re asking, am I addicted to Adderall, take our quiz here:
The Function of Adderall and Stimulants
Medications like Adderall work by increasing the dopamine levels in the brain. It executes this by slowing down how much dopamine is reabsorbed back into the neural network. As a result, more neurotransmitters are held between neurons long enough to properly bind to the receptor, helping the brain more effectively transmit and receive instructional messages.
Dangers of Adderall
Adderall is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and is the most commonly prescribed amphetamine on the market. It is considered a schedule II controlled substance due to its strong potential for misuse and addiction. This prescription medication comes as an ingestible tablet with doses ranging from 5 to 30 milligrams.
Besides its application in treating ADHD symptoms, Adderall is also prescribed for narcolepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by the brain’s inability to control sleep/wakefulness cycles.
Though physicians prescribe it, Adderall is still a dangerous substance with severe side effects, especially when misused. For one, it gives users a euphoric feeling, and through increased concentration, plus its suppression of appetite, it has quickly risen in popularity, particularly among millennial and Gen Z populations.
Am I addicted to Adderall? Find more information here.
Adderall is in demand as America’s “study drug.” It can activate the body’s fight-or-flight response, therefore diverting energy from the digestive system to other major organs, allowing users to concentrate better.
In those abusing Adderall, many will seek a substantial effect by snorting the pill. Generally, Adderall’s side effects range from common, mild issues such as loss of appetite, nausea, and insomnia to more severe but rare issues, including seizure, heart attack, and psychiatric disorders. It has a high potential for abuse and, with continued misuse, can lead to cardiovascular events and sudden death.
Approximately 60% of nonmedical Adderall use is attributed to 18- to 25-year-olds. The majority of abuse stems from a whopping 30% of full-time college students. Of this group, more than 90% misuse it as a study aid. —The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Adderall’s Rise to Popularity
According to a study published at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, prescriptions for stimulant Adderall are mostly unchanged, but nonmedical use and emergency room visits among adults increased.
Adderall was introduced in 1996 by Richwood Pharmaceutical. In 2006, popular slow-release capsules called Adderall XR became available as an alternative to the original quick-release tablet. A survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Kids in 2014 reported that 20% of college students said they abused prescription stimulants.
Wondering, am I addicted to Adderall? Find drug rehab resources in your area.
As a study drug, Adderall is widely appealing to both students and individuals in the workforce because they claim the drug is used for “legitimate” reasons like academic success and not getting high. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reported that 56% of college students considered study drugs easy to obtain through friends and extended social networks.
However, the view that psychostimulants are harmless and even beneficial tools for academic and work performance leads to a greater potential for abuse and dependency. Although wakefulness, memory skills, and concentration can be increased with medications like Adderall, the benefits are often outweighed by the adverse effects such as:
- Disorganized thinking
- The “jitters”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that students who abuse study drugs actually tend to have lower GPAs than those who do not. Adderall abuse also contributes to long-term, detrimental health effects such as:
- Increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can cause cardiovascular problems, including stroke
- Decreased sleep
- Appetite suppression and unhealthy weight loss
- Overall decline in health
Chronic Adderall abuse can also cause paranoia and other mental disturbances in some users.
Short-Term Effects of Adderall
Students and other people looking for a “productive drug” may find Adderall and other stimulants appealing. For a quick boost in concentration and memory, what are the short-term consequences? According to a 2018 study by the National Library of Medicine, Adderall doesn’t always have much of an effect on people who don’t have ADHD. In fact, it may instead lead to memory impairment.
It can also cause other unwanted side effects for those prescribed this stimulant medication. Some short-term effects include:
- Appetite loss
- Digestive problems, including nausea and constipation
- Heart Palpitations or rapid heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes, including anxiety, agitation, and irritability
- Head paid
- Sleep issues
In rare cases, Adderall may cause issues like delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms of psychosis. Side effects may differ from person to person. After a week without use, side effects usually subside. If used as prescribed, this controlled substance may have little to no effect.
Long-Term Effects of Adderall
Because Adderall can make users feel more energized, focused, motivated, and productive, it can feel like an acceptable drug to use habitually. Over time, the experience can change, especially if higher doses and tolerance levels are considered. Users questioning, am I addicted to Adderall, may experience noticeable effects like:
- Extreme weight loss
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Heart problems and increase the risk for stroke
- Dependency and addiction
Does Adderall Permanently Change the Brain?
At high-doses, Adderall is known to cause a significant change in how the brain produces neurotransmitters. However, many of these side effects may be reversible once you stop taking Adderall. Experts are still studying the long-term effects of ongoing abuse of Adderall, much of what remains unknown.
Avoiding withdrawal and preventing abuse is critical for individuals currently prescribed stimulants when treating ADHD and other neurological conditions.
Am I Addicted to Adderall?
Are you addicted to Adderall? Substance dependency often carries many symptoms and signs. For stimulant abuse, individuals may feel a strong need to continue use despite harmful consequences. Symptoms of excessive use can also include:
- Difficulties with sleep
- Loss of concentration
- Dizzy spells
- Increased tolerance
- Severe headache
- Breathing difficulties
- Panic Attacks
- Weight loss
Dependency may also cause physical or psychological problems. Individuals may try to cut down use with little success, be exposed to hazardous use, experience violent mood swings, paranoia, and severe drowsiness.
Connection with Meth
Both Adderall and Methamphetamine stimulate the brain. According to Dr. Carl Hart, a Columbia University professor who focuses on the impacts of drugs on humans, Adderall and Methamphetamines are structurally different. However, they are similar in effect and potential for abuse. With extended use, both drugs can damage individuals physically and mentally and cause them to develop substance dependence.
Treating Adderall Misuse and Dependency
When used as prescribed, Adderall is usually considered safe for most people. However, if stimulant addiction occurs, it can create psychosis, mood disorders, and social, financial, and physical problems for users. Clients who suffer from substance use disorder may benefit from assistance through various addiction treatment programs.
Who is at risk for Adderall addiction?
While teens and young adults are most impacted by Adderall addiction, the workforce is also susceptible to abusing this prescription. Most people who misuse Adderall are looking for stimulation, sustained wakefulness, better concentration, more energy, or loss of weight. Groups who are most likely to develop Adderall addiction include:
- People with Eating Disorders
- People with stressful jobs
- People with a history of drug use
Treatment facilities can help ease withdrawal symptoms during detox. Additionally, some centers may help an individual to taper drug dosage to minimize short- and long-term effects.
AspenRidge Recovery: Adderall Addiction Treatment
If you find yourself asking, am I addicted to Adderall, it may be helpful to speak with a licensed drug abuse specialist. Treating Adderall addiction begins with an initial evaluation. The longer Adderall is abused, the stronger an addiction can become. Quitting is possible with treatment specialists like providers from AspenRidge Recovery.
It’s extremely common for individuals who suffer from Adderall addiction to also suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Individuals diagnosed with ADHD are at increased risk of developing a substance use disorder, including Adderall addiction.
Those with ADHD are almost three times as likely to experience substance use disorder. According to WebMD, among adults being treated for alcohol and substance abuse, the rate of ADHD is about 25%.
Treatment for Adderall addiction, therefore, should address dual diagnosis conditions. AspenRidge addresses substance misuse as well as underlying mental health concerns that may contribute to a substance use disorder. Our programs include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
There are many options available for treating stimulant addictions, such as therapy and intensive outpatient rehab. Contact our dedicated treatment providers at 855-281-5588 to find help in overcoming Adderall addiction today.