Adderall Addiction, Withdrawal and Treatment
- Adderal Addiction
- Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Abuse
- Adderall Withdrawal & Detox
- Treatment for Adderall Dependency
Adderall is a proprietary eponym for several prescription stimulants used mainly in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications are also used to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Common drug names for this stimulant include Adderall, Adderall XR, Benzedrine, and Mydayis. There are also generic formulations of the drug. They are commonly referred to by street names such as bennies, black beauties, crosses, hearts, LA Turnaround, truck drivers, uppers, Addys, pep pills, and speed.
Chemically, Adderall is a combination of the amphetamine salts dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate, and is used to stimulate the central nervous system. Formulations come in both tablet and capsule form. The tablets can be white, orange, or blue, with capsule color combinations including solid orange, orange/white, tan/orange, solid blue, clear/blue, and blue/white. It can be taken orally, crushed and snorted, smoked, or dissolved and injected. However, injecting Adderall is potentially dangerous if non-soluble content from the medication ends up in the bloodstream, which can lead to blood vessel blockages.
Global use and misuse of Adderall has been on the rise since the early 1990s. The prescription drugs Ritalin, Concerta, and the generic drug methylphenidate, while not amphetamines, are used to treat the same medical conditions, and are often abused for the same purposes as Adderall. Both sets of drugs work by blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Both sets of drugs are also DEA Schedule II drugs, meaning they have limited medical uses, and a high likelihood of being abused. Street value for Adderall is typically between $2 – $10 per pill depending on the dose and geographic location.
Non-medical use of Adderall is popular among high school and college students to enhance both academic and athletic performance by increasing energy, reducing the need to sleep, and increasing the ability to concentrate. Enhanced cognitive control is the primary reason for both prescribing and abusing Adderall for children and adults. Additional effects include feelings of euphoria and an enhanced sex drive. Student-athletes also often use the drug for its effects as a vasoconstrictor in order to increase strength and decrease fatigue. Adderall misuse in students has been frequently ignored by parents, administrators, and law enforcement, and is viewed as being no more harmful than caffeine. However, if caught buying or selling prescription drugs, students can face severe criminal penalties, including felony drug charges.
Though students are widely considered the most frequent recreational users, women have been known to abuse the drug for its appetite suppressing side effects to aid in weight loss and weight management. Similar stimulants can be found in a number of weight loss supplements. Adderall used as an appetite suppressor coupled with other weight loss efforts, such as strenuous exercise and limited food intake, can lead to serious health problems in the long term.
Signs & Symptoms of Abusing Adderall
The population with the highest risk of abusing this so-called “study drug” are disproportionately white students. Approximately one in 13 high school students report using Adderall without a prescription, while the number of college students abusing the drug is estimated between 7% – 30% with significant variation between schools. Those who feel pressured to achieve or perform may turn to Adderall even though they seem to exercise good judgment in other parts of their life.
It is also worth noting that students with a legitimate medical need are at risk of improper dosing from sharing, and extreme pressures to sell the drug to others. Adderall is most often illegally obtained by those who do not have a prescription through direct contact with someone who does, such as a friend, classmate, or relative. Those with a legitimate prescription can and do become addicted as well.
Individuals who are under the influence of Adderall or other amphetamines might be described as “tweaking” or “tweakers,” which is also a street term for being “high” on crystal meth or other types of amphetamines. The effects of all such stimulants are similar to some degree.
Signs that someone is potentially abusing Adderall include:
- Extreme focus
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Elevated blood sugar
- Elevated body temperature
Likewise, it is possible to overdose on Adderall. Using it without being under the supervision of a physician can lead to adverse health effects, drug interactions, and increase the risk of overdose.
Signs of overdose include:
- Tremors or muscle spasms
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Dizziness or fainting
While the risk of an overdose death from Adderall is lower than with other prescription or illegal drugs, there is an increased likelihood of abusing other drugs in conjunction with it. The progressive tolerance that occurs with Adderall use, and the muting effect it has on depressant use, affects the senses in a way that increases the possibility of alcohol poisoning and overdose from other drugs. It also increases the likelihood of amphetamine psychosis, which is commonly brought on by progressively higher doses and/or overdose and can result in permanent brain damage.
Amphetamine psychosis may result in behavior such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Violent actions
- Catatonic or non-responsive
- Poor hygiene
Other potentially life-threatening concerns include an elevated risk of a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, and dangerous interactions with other drugs. Medications that may interact with or be affected by Adderall include monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, blood thinners, blood pressure medication, cold and allergy medication, narcotics, weight loss supplements, or medications used to treat or prevent seizures.
Adderall Withdrawal & Detox
Adderall is a prescription drug deemed safe at therapeutic doses and is typically viewed as having no long-term effects. However, recreational use is almost never at the therapeutic dose, and long-term abuse of Adderall can lead to heart problems, hypertension, and eventually, psychosis.
Addiction to Adderall is both physical and emotional. Similar to other stimulant drugs, Adderall withdrawal typically causes a disruption to normal sleep patterns, depression, and extreme tiredness. Other symptoms may include vivid dreams, intense hunger, memory issues, and drug cravings. Long-term use, as well as short-term abuse at higher dosages, can extend the emotional withdrawal period significantly.
Detoxification and signs of withdrawal can begin as soon as the last dose that was taken wears off. Withdrawal can cause tremendous discomfort for the user, with physical symptoms lasting approximately one to two weeks on average. Those who have misused it in the long term or in high dosages may experience post-acute symptoms for up to one year following their last dose. The number and severity of post-acute symptoms will depend on how much of the drug was taken and how often.
Treatment for Adderall Dependency
As with other legal and illegal stimulants, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, there are no drugs approved in treating Adderall dependency. Recovery focuses on behavioral therapy techniques that include enhancing one’s sense of self-worth and removing the performance pressures that may have led to Adderall use in the first place. Antidepressants may be prescribed in conjunction with behavioral therapy to support emotional stability.
Typically, 12-step programs, group therapy or counseling, and contingency management techniques are used to aid recovery. Peer-to-peer support or therapeutic communities are also an option for those needing fellowship or separation from the surroundings where they most often use. While inpatient programs are as effective as outpatient programs in treating Adderall addiction, environmental disruption can be incredibly helpful, since classic conditioning is a factor in stimulant abuse. This means exposure to the same circumstances in the same environment is likely to lead to relapse, but changing these factors can increase the likelihood of the user maintaining sobriety.
It is also important for the user to evaluate the academic and athletic consequences, as well as long-term health concerns, of using Adderall without a prescription. Typically, the punishment (which can include jail time and a felony record) is more damaging for a student than doing poorly in a class, on an assignment or a test, in sports team practice, or during a game or performance. Rational evaluation of the purpose for using the drug can aid the user in long-term recovery efforts.
Parents of children or adults for whom Adderall has been prescribed may also find it helpful to seek alternative treatment for ADHD and narcolepsy to avoid the possibility of addiction. Monitoring diet, getting sufficient exercise, practicing stress management techniques, and participating in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are all alternatives to medication in the treatment of ADHD in particular. They may be used instead of or in conjunction with Adderall to minimize the dosage requirements and duration of usage.
- Commonly Abused Drugs Chart – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Vasoconstriction Effects on an Athlete – Livestrong.com
- Misuse of Prescription Drugs – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Drug Fact Sheet Amphetamines – US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Misuse of Prescription Drugs – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- “Study Drug” Abuse by College Students: What You Need to Know – National Center For Health Research
- Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine – US National Library of Medicine
- Treatments for Substance Use Disorders – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Therapeutic Communities – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)