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February 2019: Adderall Addiction

The Signs of Adderall Addiction

Adderall is a brand name drug that combines two stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is used to treat hyperactivity, distractability, inattention, and/or impulsivity, as well as any other symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). 

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that although most people take prescription medications responsibly, in 2017, an estimated 18 million people (more than 6 percent of those aged 12 and older) have misused such medications at least once in the past year. The survey further estimates 2 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 5,480 individuals per day. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports among youth ages 12 to 17, 4.9% reported non-medical use of prescription medications in 2017. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future survey of substance use and attitudes in teens found that about 6% of high school seniors reported past-year non-medical use of the prescription stimulant Adderall in 2017.

NIDA also cites several studies which have identified the association between prescription drug misuse and higher rates of cigarette smoking, alcohol use,  marijuana use, cocaine use, and the use of other illicit drug use among U.S. adolescents, young adults, and college students.  

How Does Adderall Work?

Our brains are comprised of a complex network of nerve cells. There are an estimated 100 billion nerve cells in the brain. These nerve cells are called neurons. Neurons are separated from each other by very small gaps called synapses which function like an intersection of information. Neurons communicate with each other by sending chemicals (neurotransmitters) across the synapse where they are accepted by the next neuron at its receptor. In this way, neurons can receive signals and relay that information to other neurons across the brain.

In order for these pathways to work effectively so that the message gets through, the neuron must produce and release enough of the neurotransmitter. The neurotransmitter must also stay in the synapse space long enough for it to bind to the receptor site. After the neurotransmitter is released, the excess or unused portion is then recaptured or reabsorbed by the original neuron that produced it. What sometimes seems to happen in individuals with ADHD is the neurotransmitter is prematurely reabsorbed back into the neuron. When this occurs, that portion of the neural network can’t relay messages in an adequate and timely way. – VeryWellMind
Adderall seems to make more neurotransmitters available in the brain, which increases communication and activity. 

Quick Facts on ADHD

The estimated prevalence of current adult ADHD was 4.4% in this U.S. study

A large body of evidence suggests that multiple neurotransmitters and brain structures play a role in ADHD (Purper-Ouakil et al., 2011; Cortese, 2012; Faraone et al., 2015)

A study found ADHD symptoms persist into adulthood in a majority of patients, and are associated with functional impairment and increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and antisocial behavior

The Signs of Adderall Abuse

Adderall abuse can be difficult to identify for parents, friends, or relatives if they aren’t aware of the side-effects and signs of abuse. While symptoms and affects can vary between people, common signs of Adderall abuse include:

  • Weight loss, the drug has the side effect of suppressing hunger. 
  • Disruption in sleep patterns or sleeping difficulties. You may notice your teen staying up throughout the night repeatedly. 
  • Sudden or gradual deterioration in self-care (showering, grooming, etc.) is an indication drug abuse may be occurring. 
  • Behavior changes, including theft, may occur to fund their continued use. You may also notice an increase in social isolation. 

If you or someone you love is suffering from an Adderall addiction, it’s important to get help. Adderall overdoses can cause a coma, brain damage, or death. Significant dosages not only affect the brain, but the body’s core temperature, and can lead to cardiovascular complications. An addiction treatment center can be effective for getting clean from Adderall. The initial decline in dopamine levels from cessation can be a big struggle for someone looking to come off of the drug. An experienced clinical team of psychologists can help offer the therapy, support, and education for them to overcome this challenge.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall Abuse

Mood or behavior changes as Adderall can alter the brain if misused over a long period

Drug-induced psychosis has been reported in 8%–46% of regular users of amphetamines (NCIB)

Heart disease and other cardiovascular complications 

Anxiety and increased aggression

Depression, paranoia, stroke, and seizures may occur in some cases

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Adderall addictive?

While stimulants have the potential for addiction, when used properly and monitored in coordination with a physician, there is minimum to no likelihood of becoming addicted to Adderall. It’s function, when used as directed, assists brain neurons in operating normally. When misused or used by individuals without a prescription, Adderall as with any other stimulant can be addictive. 

Can Adderall increase my intelligence?

TIME magazine’s article Adderall May Not Make You Smarter, But It Makes You Think You Are highlights a study on whether Adderall actually offered improvement on tests. The study’s results, not surprising from the title, indicated that students didn’t actually perform better on tests of cognitive function. The drug did however provide students with an inflated sense of productivity, likely from the increase in dopamine released in the brain by the drug. 

Do I have an Adderall addiction?

According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5), there are eleven criteria defining a substance use condition including: 

  • Taking more of the substance than prescribed or for longer than the prescription indicates
  • If you have cravings or urges to continue or overuse the substance
  • Continuing to use the drug, even when you know its having negative physical or psychological effects
  • The development of withdrawal symptoms when you cease taking the drug

If you think you may have an Adderall addiction, CONTACT US today and speak with our admission team to talk about how to get help. 

What are the side effects of Adderall use?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) large doses of stimulants can result in psychosis, seizures, and cardiovascular events. Additional potential risks include: anorexia, constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, headache, insomnia, jitteriness, irritability, nausea, and sexual disfunction. Misuse can also affect and raise the body’s temperature which can present additional cardiovascular risks for athletes misusing the drug. 

Adderall Addiction in College Students

The New York Times reports in their article Generation Adderall, by 2013, 3.5 million children were on stimulants, and in many cases, Ritalin had been replaced by Adderall, officially brought to market in 1996 as the new, upgraded choice for ADHD. Additionally, Adderall has become ubiquitous on college campuses, widely taken by students both with and without a prescription and in a published study in the journal of Brain and Behavior Adderall had come to represent the second most common illicit drug used in college by 2004 (second to Marijuana). 

Adderall has emerged as a college drug of choice. Across Universities in the United States, Adderall misuse as a study drug, or way to get an edge, has become a national problem. In Harvard on Speed a student talks about its use as a “performance enhancer”.  The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were twice as likely as their counterparts to have used Adderall non-medically in the past year (6.4% vs. 3.0% percent). Additionally, nearly 90% of full-time college students using Adderall non-medically in the past year were past month binge alcohol users. This is a staggering statistic that correlates the greater problem of Adderall abuse as an entry into alcohol and other drug abuse. 

This is a problem that  still continues nationally across colleges, and it may be much greater than we expect. Some studies suggest the misuse of Adderall by college students may in fact be between 5% and 35% of students.  If you or your child is struggling with Adderall abuse, call us today to learn more about how to get help. 

Adderall Misuse In College Students

Johns Hopkins researchers found that 60% of non-medical Adderall use for ages 12 and up was happening among 18- to 25-year-olds.

The number of people ages 18–29 seeking emergency care because of prescription stimulant misuse rose from 3,758 in 2004 to 20,532 in 2011 (Dawn, 2011)

By a student’s sophomore year in college, about half of their classmates would have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescribed drug (Arria, 2008)

Nearly 90% of full-time college students using Adderall non-medically in the past year were past month binge alcohol users (NSDUH Survey)

Study drugs seem to be more common at more selective Universities (FiveThirtyEight)

Get Help At One Of Our Locations

If you think you have an Adderall addiction, our experienced team can offer help at one of our modern locations in Colorado. Adderall addiction can be difficult to overcome by yourself. The first step is reaching out. We help people from across the United States get the help they need. Contact us today if you need help or would like more information. 

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