A prescribed medication, Adderall is a stimulant that is used primarily to treat the symptoms of Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Sometimes this potent drug is also prescribed for people with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or those suffering from depression. However, as with all prescription medications, Adderall should only be taken under the close supervision of a medical professional and only as prescribed.
What is Adderall?
Classified as a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and has a similar chemical makeup to methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA).
When it reaches the person’s brain, the following three chemical reactions take place.
- Epinephrine causes the person to have increased clarity, focus, and alertness as it triggers their fight-or-flight response.
- Dopamine affects the area of the brain that controls pleasure and reward, causing a rush to that area.
- Norepinephrine affects the communication among the brain’s neurons and makes their connection last longer than it normally would.
Adderall as a “Study Drug”
Adderall, like other stimulants, reduces the person’s need for sleeping and eating and improves their focus and concentration. For this reason, the medication has become popular for some college students as a “study drug.” It’s not uncommon for students facing intense academic pressure and workloads to turn to drugs such as Adderall without medical advice or a prescription. After all, the effects seem positive: the drug helps them focus, stay awake, and have more energy to complete large projects.
Adderall Abuse: How Does It Happen?
Stimulants are very addictive drugs. Just like all stimulants, Adderall can be addictive unless taken exactly as prescribed under the care of a doctor. Those who take Adderall as a study drug or as a recreational drug to achieve a stimulant high can move quickly to drug abuse and then to drug addiction.
Adderall abuse can occur in many different ways, including:
- Taking the drug for reasons that are non-medical, such as being more social, staying awake for long periods of time, or aiding weight loss
- Taking doses of the drug that are higher than prescribed
- Taking the drug more often than medically prescribed
- Taking medication that belongs to another person
- Taking the drug through a non-approved method, such as snorting or injecting
- Buying the drug from an illegal source for recreational use
Adderall Abuse: Signs and Symptoms
When a person moves from recreational use of Adderall to Adderall abuse they often experience physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms.
The physical signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse generally begin shortly after taking the drug. The user may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or have an irregular or very rapid heartbeat. They may get a headache and a dry mouth. An area of their body, such as a hand or leg, may shake uncontrollably. They may have circulatory problems including discoloration and numbness in their fingers. Peeling or blistering of their skin might occur.
Additional physical signs include:
- Hoarse or raspy voice
- Digestive problems, including diarrhea and constipation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss, reduced appetite, or malnutrition
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or vision changes
- Pain in their lower back or side
There are many behavioral signs of Adderall abuse. The person may go doctor-shopping to get multiple prescriptions. They may become very secretive and withdraw socially.
Additional behavioral signs of abuse include:
- Changes in sleeping habits or patterns
- Changes in sex drive
- Becoming unusually talkative
- Mood swings
- Nervousness or jitteriness
A person abusing Adderall may show signs of being very unsettled and agitated. They may be aggressive, impatient, or restless. As the substance abuse gets worse, paranoia may be evident.
Additional psychological signs of Adderall abuse include:
- Feeling worried and anxious
- Experiencing a false sense of well-being
- Hearing voices
The most severe signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction are life-threatening. Abusing the drug can cause cardiovascular damage and muscle deterioration. Extremely high blood pressure and cerebral hemorrhage are possible. The temperature of the body could become very high (hyperthermia), kidney failure could occur, or the person could have a seizure or stroke. The person can lose consciousness, go into a coma, and even die.
Getting Help for Adderall Abuse or Addiction
Regardless of age, anyone can develop an Adderall abuse or addiction problem. If you or a loved one is addicted to Adderall or any other drug, there is help available. English Mountain Recovery, located in the heart of the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, offers a full continuum of care to help you begin your journey to a clean and sober life.