Adderall is a fixed-dose combination drug of amphetamine salts prescribed by doctors to people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. It is a stimulant that enhances a person’s alertness, concentration, cognitive control, and fatigue resistance.
In the 1990s, doctors diagnosed over 600,000 American children with ADHD, then prescribed drugs like Adderall as treatment. The number of people using the drug continued to increase, and by 2012, there were over 16 million prescriptions written for adults aged 20 to 39.
Adderall became more popular with college students, with or without a prescription, to help them with their studies. Some adults used Adderall to work more effectively and to stay up for long hours.
There is a notion that since doctors prescribe Adderall, it is immediately “safe.” However, Adderall abuse is common and might lead to addiction and even an overdose.
What Makes Adderall Addicting?
Adderall is like caffeine, only more powerful. It stimulates the central nervous system by increasing serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels in the brain. The drug causes emotional and physical effects like euphoria, unnatural wakefulness, faster reaction time, and increased muscle strength.
Adderall affects the part of the brain responsible for hyperactivity and urges. It gives the brain enhanced clarity and focus.
Since the effects of this drug eventually wear off, some people take more doses than needed or prescribed. Taking this substance frequently can cause a change in the chemistry of a person’s brain, forming a dependence and tolerance on the drug, making it hard to function normally without it.
According to clinical neuropsychologist Dr. De Ansin Parker, a lot of young people who start taking this drug without prescription are usually the ones who value focus and are driven by ambitions. He says that it’s important to be aware that these individuals might be drug addicts.
Individuals who commonly abuse Adderall include:
- Students: usually college students who need to stay up long hours to accomplish the school’s demands.
- Young professionals: working individuals who push themselves to keep up with their workload.
- Athletes: abuse Adderall to enhance performance and counter fatigue.
- People with eating disorders use Adderall because a few of its effects are loss of appetite and a faster metabolism.
What Adderall Does to Your Body
Effects of Adderall if taken as prescribed by the doctor bring positive results, especially if you are a person who suffers from ADHD or narcolepsy. However, individuals who take this drug illicitly and abuse can face dangerous mental and physical consequences.
These negative effects include:
- Sleeping problems
- Decrease in appetite
- Swelling of tongue, throat, or face
- High blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Irregular heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Numb fingers
- Constricted blood vessels
- Blurred vision
- Hair loss
- Dizziness and nausea
- Aggression and hostile behavior
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Slowed speech
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
Signs of Adderall Abuse
It may be hard to tell if someone is misusing Adderall because people who abuse this drug look motivated and alert; not necessarily something you’d look for when trying to spot a drug addict.
Taking more Adderall than prescribed is a type of drug misuse. An effective way to tell if a person is misusing a stimulant is to observe their current behaviors and compare them to their past behaviors.
A few signs of Adderall abuse include:
- Being overly talkative
- Unusual hyperactivity
- Social withdrawal
- Aggressive behavior
- Sleeping for long periods
- Weight loss
- Incomplete or incoherent thoughts
- Memory loss
- Unkempt personal hygiene
- Frequently taking pills
- Being disoriented
- Impulsive reactions
- Unable to work without taking pills
- Needing large doses of Adderall
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
Withdrawal from Adderall
There is a difference between Adderall dependence and Adderall addiction. Adderall dependence is a normal physiological response to the drug, even if it’s taken as prescribed by the doctor. But having a dependence doesn’t mean that it makes a person psychologically crave and take the mediation to reach a “high.”
An Adderall addiction refers to a physical and mental reliance on the drug, that includes specific behaviors that come with it. Addiction to Adderall makes people take larger and more frequent doses of the drug and mentally obsess about getting more.
Withdrawal syndrome is experienced by people who have Adderall dependence and Adderall addiction. Unlike other withdrawal symptoms, Adderall withdrawal does not cause dangerous medical problems. The withdrawal usually lasts from 3 days to several weeks, depending on how long a person has been taking the drug or the frequency of its intake.
Each withdrawal is different for everyone, and it can affect a person’s ability to do everyday tasks. In long-term use of the drug, the brain becomes accustomed to the increased activity of its neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.
Norepinephrine is to boost a person’s focus, alertness, and cognitive functions. Dopamine stimulates the reward system of the brain. When a person stops using Adderall, withdrawal symptoms reflect the sudden depressive state of the brain because of what it suddenly lacks.
Symptoms of this depression because of the withdrawal include:
- The feeling of emptiness and loneliness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Irritability and frustration
- Lack of energy
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- The feeling of guilt and regret
- Sense of worthlessness
- Trouble focusing, thinking, or making plans
- Eating too much or too little
- Suicidal thoughts
Adderall withdrawal symptoms are not only limited to depression. Since brain chemistry has changed during continuous use of Adderall, there have been studies that showed that the low levels of norepinephrine and dopamine make people more sensitive to stress and frustration.
Because they crave the drug or the feeling it gives, people also look for different ways to trigger their reward system, like overeating.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, other symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:
- Vivid or unpleasant dreams
- Increase in appetite
- Concentration problems
- Slow muscle movements and reactions
- Craving for more Adderall.
Relieving Withdrawal Symptoms
There is no specific treatment or medication recommended when experiencing a withdrawal from Adderall. However, some things can help people cope with the symptoms and reduce discomfort. One can consult with their doctor and consider the following medications:
- Anti-anxiety medications: these drugs are not recommended for long-term use, but they may help give relief during the first few days of withdrawal.
- OTC pain relievers: these are for symptoms like headaches and body pain.
- Sleep aids: these are for people who suddenly have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of withdrawal.
- Antidepressants: this may help prevent long post-withdrawal depression.
What Are The Next Steps?
Adderall is usually safe for home withdrawals. It is rare and unlikely to trigger medical problems when people experience withdrawal from this drug. However, it will help to ensure a safe withdrawal when a person:
- Seeks a trustworthy accountability partner, (sibling, parent, or friend) to check in on them from time to time during the withdrawal.
- Takes time to rest and breathe, relaxing from everyday duties.
- Prepares for drug cravings by cutting Adderall supply.
- Drinks a lot of fluids and consumes healthy food.
- Takes time to rest and breathe, relaxing from everyday duties.
- Prepares for a depressive mood by countering it with enjoyable things.
An Adderall withdrawal can be very unpredictable. It’s advisable to ask for help, especially from a professional to acquire short-term and long-term support if you are struggling with addiction to Adderall and planning to quit it for good. The primary risk of going through Adderall withdrawal on your own is that it is possible to experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, even if you had no history of depression.
If you have been a stimulant user for a long time and require a long-term treatment plan, behavioral therapy is recommended. Two types have proven effective, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).
In CBT, you will be able to identify and manage your drug triggers with the help of your therapist. For CM, your therapy involves recalibrating your reward system so that you will no longer crave Adderall.
To help yourself or a loved one through Adderall abuse or any kind of addiction at all, check out our addiction treatment blogs. You can also call us at 562-304-9592 or visit our clinic at 3939 Atlantic Ave #102, Long Beach, CA 90807.
Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not necessarily reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis.