What is Adderall?
For college students attempting to power through finals week or a person suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the word Adderall is a commonplace term. Going by the nicknames beans, Christmas trees, double trouble, black beauties and speed, Adderall is a readily available drug with potentially harmful side effects. A psychostimulant prescription drug, Adderall is a combination of amphetamines and dextroamphetamines.
Adderall works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system. Consisting of the brain and spinal cord, the central nervous system receives and coordinates activities throughout all parts of the body. Norepinephrine functions as the mobilizer of the body and brain. Norepinephrine controls how the brain pays attention and the speed at which it reacts to foreign stimuli.
Dopamine (sometimes referred to as the “feel good” chemical) enhances the feelings of pleasure. Through the assistance of Adderall, the natural dopamine created by the body accelerates and is much higher. As the body produces higher levels of dopamine, the feelings of pleasure increase and in turn, increasing the desire for more.
Available in instant release (IR) or extended release (ER) formulation, Adderall is recreationally used as a mechanism to help users achieve euphoria. Not every person who uses Adderall will develop an addiction, but those who engage in regular use, and at higher doses than prescribed, are at a major risk for developing an addiction.
A drug that should only be used when prescribed, addiction to Adderall may occur when those who do not need it begin to abuse it. Just like any other drug, an addiction to Adderall can stem from issues unknown to the user. Some issues that may contribute to Adderall addiction are psychological, biological and environmental in origin.
When referring to biological factors related to Adderall addiction, there could be genetic influences or hormone predispositions that make the user more susceptible to the effects of Adderall. Psychological issues that can attribute to the increased need for Adderall use would involve anxiety, feelings of depression or unresolved trauma. Due to the increased production of dopamine, Adderall can help a person find a temporary escape from the underlying issues that harm them.
Environmental factors refer to the the greater exposure a person may have to Adderall based on where they live, work, or attend school. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 6.5 percent of college students have used Adderall in a recreational manner. Due to the easy accessibility to Adderall in places like college campuses, the likelihood of addiction is much higher.
Adderall also has a tendency to be taken while an individual is using another substance. Especially on college campuses, strong correlations between Adderall and binge drinking were found. In the same study, roughly 90 percent of students who reportedly abused Adderall also took part in binge drinking.
Due to its high risk of misuse, Adderall is a federally controlled, Schedule II substance.
In most cases, a person who uses Adderall has no intention of becoming addicted. Sometimes the problem begins with the user wanting to increase their productivity while studying for a test or an athlete wanting to be able to focus throughout the entirety of a game. However as the user begins to feel the positive effects of having Adderall, it becomes harder for them to stop.
Many who suffer from Adderall abuse go through periods of “doctor shopping”. Doctor shopping is the process of making frequent trips to numerous doctors in the hope of attaining several prescriptions. Many addicts try to throw off the scent of those suspicious of their behavior by using more than one pharmacy to fill their prescriptions. Individuals that doctor shop may fake symptoms of ADHD in order to be prescribed Adderall in the first place.
There are other users who will attempt to purchase Adderall illegally from friends, family members or even drug dealers. There are some that may even attempt to purchase Adderall online as a last resort.
Although Adderall is meant to be taken orally, many abusers will either snort or inject the drug into their system to enhance the feeling of euphoria. The dangers of snorting Adderall (or any drug) is the severe damage that it can cause to nasal tissue. Injection can lead to the transmission of several dangerous diseases like Hepatitis B and C or HIV/AIDS.
As a person begins and then continues using Adderall, the excess stimulation throughout the brain and body leads to increased alertness, talkativeness, energy and overall high levels of attention. A person on Adderall may either take part in a specific activity (like writing a paper or playing a video game) for an extended period of time or move quickly from one task to the next. With either of these options, the user will appear to have endless amounts of energy and motivation.
An individual who is abusing Adderall is able stay up and function for prolonged periods of time, but will then sleep and refuel for a concerning length of time. Their sleep cycles will also occur at random times of the day, when most people are up and functional. The constant long hours of wakefulness, followed by unpredictable sleep patterns may eventually lead the user to develop chronic insomnia.
While Adderall may help a person keep up with their educational or work responsibilities at first, that sentiment may eventually backfire. As drug seeking becomes a higher priority in the user’s life, they will begin to ignore the same responsibilities which made them want to take Adderall in the first place. A person abusing Adderall may spend a lot of time talking about the drug, ignore standard self-care practices (showering or washing their clothes) or credit their success to their Adderall use.
Though all human bodies are different, the majority of users exhibit similar symptoms once they begin to abuse Adderall. Because Adderall stimulates the central nervous system, it can cause increases in blood pressure, temperature and breathing rates. If a user continues increasing their doses of Adderall, those levels will rise. A sudden rise in blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular damage or sudden death.
Other physical problems that a user may complain about are feelings of dizziness, vision impairments, loss of appetite and increased thirst. If a user is injecting Adderall into their system, examining the arm for puncture wounds is a telltale sign that abuse has and is continuing to happen.
Mental Symptoms of Adderall Use
As with any drug, the brain’s chemistry is altered and compromised. Through these changes, a person’s mood and overall cognitive functions misalign, leading to behavioral changes. Some of the mental effects of Adderall use are:
- Increased aggression
Any person that takes high doses of Adderall for an extended period of time runs a major risk of developing a physical dependence to the drug. As with alcohol, an Adderall abuser’s body will eventually build a tolerance for the current dose they’re taking. Through the development of a tolerance, abusers begin to feel that Adderall is not helping them concentrate or stay motivated for as long as it used to.
A fear of stopping begins to take place over their psyche as the user wonders if they can sustain their level of productivity once they stop taking the drug.
Adderall withdrawal is the body’s natural attempt to press the reset button as it tries to reprogram itself to function without the drug’s involvement. The symptoms of withdrawal (and its severity) is dependent on the length of time and the dosage the individual partakes in. Common Adderall withdrawal symptoms are: depression, fatigue, increase of appetite, headaches, anxiety and overall aches and pains.
There are users who express thoughts of suicide during the withdrawal process. If you ever hear of someone making remarks about ending their life, taking action and calling a professional to step in could prevent an irreversible outcome.
The duration of Adderall withdrawal is different for every single person. While some people may recover from their symptoms in a day or two, there are others that may take as long as a month. The duration of the withdrawal is directly correlated to dosage, the frequency of the dose and the time frame.
As previously mentioned, Adderall is available in two separate formulations: instant and extended release. Instant release Adderall enters the digestive tract and lasts for up to six hours, while extended release Adderall builds up in the body and is meant for around the clock use.
Due to these factors, people who use instant release Adderall tend to overcome their withdrawal symptoms faster than those who use extended release.
As with most other drugs, Adderall has several street names used to mask its true identity. The following are some of the most commonly used names:
- “The Study Drug”
- Christmas Trees
- Double Trouble
- Black Beauties
- Pep Pills
With Adderall there is no federally mandated medication to help someone overcome their addiction. Instead, Adderall treatment focuses on professional supervision of the individual as they go through the detoxing process. Going to a trusted doctor is incredibly important as they can help refer the individual to a reputable inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center.
Once in rehab, professionals will help the user through every step of their withdrawal journey and equip them with the tools they need to manage their symptoms and cravings. Quitting Adderall on one’s own or all at once is highly frowned upon because the likelihood of a relapse is incredibly high. Through the rehab and detox journey, the user will go through a process of tapering. Tapering is the gradual lowering of a dosage while under strict medical supervision.
As the rehab process continues, each user will undergo psychotherapy and an aftercare plan will be developed. These aftercare plans could include the mandatory attendance of group or individual therapy. The professionals at the rehab centers can help individuals understand their addiction and provide coping skills to live a healthy life without them.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an Adderall addiction, it is important to make the necessary arrangements to check into a rehabilitation center and begin therapy in order to prevent overdose and regain their health.