How Adderall Abuse Can Lead to Harder Drugs and Addiction
Adderall is a prescription drug that is mainly used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) along with other conditions that cause severe lack of alertness such as narcolepsy. Because Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, it not only increases attention and focus but also has the propensity to cause addiction that has resulted in negative fallout surrounding the drug.
Adderall is now considered one of the most common medications leading to prescription drug addiction.
Many people who are prescribed Adderall for ADHD or narcolepsy find it very difficult to stop taking the drug, particularly because of its positive benefits in treating their symptoms. However, over time, prescription drug abuse can cause damage to the brain. A physical dependency on Adderall is often one of the telltale signs of addiction. If an addiction is present, the first step to a full recovery is safely detoxing from Adderall.
The Basics: What Is Adderall and Why Is It Addictive?
Adderall works by binding to norepinephrine and dopamine receptors at a neurological level and stimulating epinephrine receptors in the adrenal gland. The resulting feeling of euphoria is created by the increased volume of pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain, which also improves attention and focus. However, it is this ‘feel-good factor’ that makes Adderall addiction common and the reason why the drug is a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act.
To set Adderall in the context of more illicit street drugs, other substances in the same category include opium, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
What Are the Warning Signs of Adderall Abuse?
As with any kind of substance addiction, identifying abuse in the early stages can be difficult, particularly as abusers become very skilled at masking their behavior. Nevertheless, addiction is usually a family affair and it is usually another member of the family or a close friend who is first to urge someone who is abusing drugs to seek out prescription drug addiction recovery. Although most people don’t have the medical training to enable them to diagnose Adderall addiction, there are some distinct warning signs to look out for that can determine if it is occurring in a family member including the following:
Common Warning Signs of Adderall Addiction
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Appetite loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings and aggression
Rare Warning Signs of Adderall Addiction
- Convulsions and seizures
- Depression or panic attacks
- Cardiac arrest
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Aggressive and extreme mood swings
- Erratic behavior
When someone starts to use Adderall illicitly, it is referred to as going ‘off-label’ because the original tablets or capsules are crushed to produce greater doses. Once someone has gone ‘off-label’, they are at much higher risk of overdose.
Signs & Symptoms of Adderall Overdose
- Confusion and disorientation
- Slurred speech an vagueness
- Panic and anxiety attacks
- Extreme fatigue or restlessness
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations and tremors
- Gastrointestinal issues
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
As with other drugs, when someone stops taking Adderall or even reduce the dose they are used to, it can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Even when taking Adderall in exactly the way as prescribed and sticking religiously to doctor’s orders, Adderall can result in physical dependence. As soon as the body has become used to having Adderall in the system, more and more of the drug will be needed over time to achieve the desired effects.
Whether Adderall is prescribed or acquired illegally, this pattern of behavior almost inevitably results in full-blown addiction, requiring intensive treatment at a dual diagnosis treatment center. Because of this, detoxing from Adderall alone without outside help can be dangerous.
The withdrawal itself acts as a component of physical dependence in that people often use to eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms. It is important to note that there is a difference between someone who is physically dependent on drugs and someone who is addicted.
Someone who is addicted will expend a disproportionate amount of time, money and energy getting hold of and taking Adderall, usually letting their work, school or family obligations fall by the wayside in the process. Someone who is dependent will start to feel unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings of withdrawal when they are due a dose of Adderall although they are usually capable of meeting their responsibilities.
Although showing signs of withdrawal doesn’t indicate someone is abusing Adderall, it is always helpful to know what they are.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall include:
- Cravings to use
- Suicidal thoughts and irrational fears
- Difficult sleeping despite extreme fatigue
- Mood swings including panic and anxiety attacks
- Depression and phobia-type fears
- Inability to lighten their mood
- Extreme hunger
Although everyone is different and will suffer their own unique effects from Adderall abuse, the drug represents a significant threat to physical health and mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, Adderall is fairly accessible which means that the door is open for a person to self-escalate from treatment to abuse unless they seek a dual diagnosis treatment program at a meth treatment center.
Although there is adequate medical understanding and coverage of the harmful effects of Adderall abuse, there are still some misconceptions and dangerous myths about Adderall and each year more users are sucked into addiction. The only way Adderall addiction can be reduced is by improving consumer awareness of the drug’s dangers, particularly among the nation’s student population.
Adderall & Prescription Drug Abuse in America
Prescription drug abuse has become a significant problem in America and Adderall is a big factor behind the rising practice of adapting legal medications for illicit purposes.
Since 2000, the number of people being prescribed adderall has surged by around 3,000% and now there are more than 20 million prescriptions for Adderall in circulation.
Is Adderall a Gateway Drug?
Prescription drugs fall into three categories: sedatives, pain relievers and stimulants like Adderall.
For people who are prescribed Adderall, its potential to produce euphoric effects may not be very obvious but for someone who doesn’t need the drug to treat any specific symptoms, it can produce a high that very quickly leads to abusing it. It is this aspect of the prescription drug that makes it attractive for illicit sales.
However, because the Adderall tablet or capsule dose ranges 5 to 30mg, it is too low to produce a significant high and so people who are abusing the drug tend to crush and snort the stimulant or even add water and inject it with a syringe.
Unfortunately, Adderall has become known as enhancing academic performance despite there being no research to support this myth. This means that the drug has become popular among high school and college students eager to raise their grades. Although Adderall has been proven to improve the academic performance and cognitive functioning of sufferers of ADHD, it does not produce the same results in people who have no medical need for the drug.
According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), students who have abused Adderall or any other prescription stimulants get lower grades than those who do not abuse drugs.
Facts about Adderall
The number of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD has risen which has had an impact on the rate of Adderall abuse. Here are some sobering facts about the drug and its dangers when used illicitly or off-label:
- Between 2005 and 2011, emergency room visits for people between the ages of 18 and 34 seeking help for stimulant use (including Adderall) TRIPLED.
- The FDA has issued citations to all ADHD pharmaceutical firms including the makers of Adderall on the grounds of false and misleading advertising since 2000.
- A study of undergraduate college students found that just 2% considered Adderall to be ‘very dangerous’.
- In 2017 there were around 5.6 million prescriptions each month for ADHD for sufferers between the ages of 20 and 39. By 2012, this number had tripled to almost 16 million.
Possibly as a result of the widely held misconceptions about Adderall, it is the student demographic that appears to be at highest risk. This is partly as a result of Adderall being in the college environment where it becomes more accessible to others and partly because of the perception that the drug is somehow ‘safe’ because it is prescribed by a doctor.
Treatment for Adderall Addiction
Because Adderall is a prescription drug, some people who have developed addiction may have two co-occurring conditions to treat at the same time, known as dual-diagnosis. When there is a condition like ADHD and addiction present at the same time, treatment needs to be undertaken at a dual diagnosis rehab center as it is important to treat both conditions separately but simultaneously. Dual diagnosis rehab provides a specialist approach to the treatment of two conditions for a better chance of a successful life in recovery.
There are two main approaches to treating someone with Adderall addiction is through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and psychotherapy. However, before treatment can commence it is necessary to detox from the influence of Adderall in just the same way as in meth addiction rehab or cocaine addiction treatment. Some people prefer to keep detox in the same center that they will undergo rehab for meth addiction; some prefer an inpatient program and others outpatient. Ultimately, everyone has their own unique set of preferences and requirements and should seek treatment that’s most appropriate for them at a prescription drug rehab center.
Detoxing from Adderall
It is never recommended to abruptly stop taking drugs and that includes Adderall. According to research by Mental Health Daily, when people stop taking stimulants suddenly, the resulting ‘crash’ can be very severe and in some cases, life-threatening. People who have been using or abusing Adderall for some time, the symptoms of withdrawal are likely to be more extreme although in all cases, supervised medical detox at a prescription drug rehab center is required.
People who have developed an addiction to Adderall are often unable to determine the extent of their physical dependence on Aderall. This can make it impossible to know what to expect from withdrawal and so it is always best to have qualified medical professionals on-hand in the right environment for Adderall or heroin addiction treatment to deal with any distressing symptoms that may present during detox.
Once detox has been completed, the abstinence maintenance phase begins, where a patient:
- Goes through intake and assessment in order to formalize a unique and personalized Adderall or heroin addiction treatment program
- Participate in individual and group therapy sessions under the guidance of licensed therapists
- Learn coping strategies and tools for recovery through cognitive behavior therapy or CBT
The next step is to devise a strategy to implement post-treatment by:
- Entering a drug-free residential establishment
- Continue Adderall and cocaine treatment on an outpatient basis
- Participate in self-help groups
- Take part in individual and group therapy sessions
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Adderall Abuse
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT has been used in the treatment of alcohol abuse or rehab for meth addiction for many years although it was later adapted for the treatment of cocaine addiction. Cocaine is another stimulant that operates in the same way as Adderall and for that reason; CBT can play a pivotal role in both Adderall and cocaine treatment. CBT is effective in discovering why someone was motivated to use Adderall and then subsequently abuse it, whether they were prescribed the drug or not. CBT can either be used in individual or group psychotherapy to assist patients in developing new coping strategies and life skills they can learn to rely on to prevent relapse in recovery.
CBT is all about understanding as to why someone abuses drugs and provides insights on to how they can adopt behaviors for a more positive and healthy future. The therapy sets out to discover exactly what drives someone’s need to use and then puts strategies in place to prevent relapse in the future. Relearning behavior is an integral part of the effectiveness of CBT as it allows patients to replace negative patterns with positive practices for a happier life in sobriety.
Is Adderall the New Gateway Drug?
It is a shocking fact that Adderall is abused mostly by young adults and college students, with between 20-30% of the demographic now regularly abusing the drug. Consisting of almost 100% ‘speed’, Adderall has already picked up a range of street names including Beans, Black Beauties, Double Trouble and Christmas Trees and is becoming alarmingly commonplace among our younger generation. The myths surrounding Adderall including that it enhances academic performance, serve to make the drug somehow more acceptable, particularly in college environments and it is now a problem that has spiraled out of control.
For many years, marijuana was considered to be the most dangerous gateway drug, with the potential to act as a stepping stone to addiction.
These days, Adderall is known to be an even more dangerous gateway drug than marijuana not just because it is much more potent but also because its legitimate use as a prescription medication affords it some kind of acceptance.
Not only is Adderall much more powerful than marijuana, it is also much easier to obtain and even easier to conceal and this is a big factor behind the increasing numbers of young adults using and abusing it.
Although Adderall has its medical uses and is highly effective in the treatment of ADHD, the risk of developing addiction after prolonged use is very real. For this reason, it’s worth considering what other treatments options are available for young people with ADHD that don’t present the same risks of substance abuse and possible addiction. Seeking treatment at a specialist rehab center is recommended where there are any concerns that a loved one may be developing dependence on Adderall.