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Millions of people across the world suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), making them struggle with poor focus and concentration. Adderall has been introduced to the market as a miracle drug for these populations. The mixture of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine found in these pills offers symptomatic relief and makes it easier to concentrate and go through daily activities without much struggle.
Unfortunately, many people have eventually started using the focus-enhancing effects of Adderall as a reason to use this drug, even when there is no clinical indication. Because of the high potential of this to cause addiction, such people end up developing Adderall abuse which quickly takes over their lives, leading to various harmful side effects.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Adderall Abuse
Every substance, whether prescription-based, over-the-counter, or illicit, always has a lingering risk of adverse side effects. For most people taking Adderall in therapeutic doses as prescribed by the doctor, the risk of these side effects is minimal. However, those abusing it recreationally in higher doses or frequency are very likely to experience adverse effects.
Short-Term Side Effects
Following are the immediate side effects that a user may feel shortly after taking a high dose of Adderall:
- Dry mouth
- Change in libido
- Appetite loss
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Numbness in extremities
- Heart palpitations
Long-Term Side Effects
The long-term effects of Adderall abuse include the hallmarks of a substance use disorder. These problems are likely to occur when a person repeatedly uses the drug for a higher dose or more frequently than prescribed. This may potentially lead to the following issues:
- Tolerance: A phenomenon in which a person needs an increasing dosage of Adderall to feel the same effects. As the use increases, it may become impossible for tolerant individuals to recreate the initial high.
- Dependency: This indicates a state where the body becomes so dependent on Adderall that it functions sub-optimally without having it in the system.
- Addiction: This phenomenon refers to compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite acknowledging its side effects on life.
- Cardiovascular Damage: Because Adderall works as a stimulant, it puts the body at risk of various cardiovascular issues, especially following long-term abuse. These risks include raised blood pressure, dangerously high body temperatures, and chronically high heart rate. Together, these issues may lead to cardiac arrests or stroke.
- Overdose: People with Adderall abuse are very likely to take the drug in such a high amount that it triggers an overdose.
Why Do People Abuse Adderall?
There is more than one reason why someone may consider abusing Adderall. The issue is much higher in younger populations, especially in college or high school students. Let’s explore the common reasons why someone may consider indulging in Adderall abuse:
To improve focus and energy related to work
Adderall is notoriously famous among students for helping them focus more on their studies while keeping them awake. These rumors allowed students to borrow the medication from others who were using it for their underlying ADHD in addition to illegally sourcing them from local dealers. The aim is to pass an upcoming test or perform well on a paper due shortly. Similarly, office-goers or businesspersons may take this drug to perform well in their respective professional fields.
Staying Sharp During Exams and Presentations
Because Adderall works by stimulating the brain and improving focus and concentration, many people may take it on their big days, such as an essential office presentation or exam, to remain fully focused and attentive. Many abusers also believe that taking Adderall helps them avoid distractions and get through the exams on time.
Staying awake while partying
Younger populations are much more likely to attend parties where alcohol flows freely and drug use is widespread. These parties, especially the ones happening on college campuses, often continue throughout the night until early morning. The same holds true for events in nightclubs and bars. People who are fond of attending such events may take Adderall to stay awake long enough. Eventually, this becomes a habit, and Adderall abuse kicks in.
Countering the effects of other substances
Many people who abuse Adderall are also dependent on other substances, such as alcohol. Because of its depressant activity, heavy drinking can slow down body functions, making a person grow tired and exhausted fast enough and even pass out. Such people may consider abusing Adderall and their alcohol use to combat its depressant effects. However, this type of polysubstance abuse can be extremely dangerous, leading to devastating consequences.
What Does Adderall Abuse Look Like?
Adderall is a popular drug that many people misuse every day. This pharmaceutical drug is legally synthesized and prescribed to people with specific medical conditions, such as narcolepsy and ADHD. However, many people may continue abusing it without any need due to its psychoactive properties. Adderall abuse falls within the category of stimulant use disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).
Previously, experts used to differentiate physical dependence and addiction. However, newer guidelines have combined these concepts under the term “substance use disorders.” According to this new criterion, the following are the top Adderall addiction signs to look out for:
- Continuing to abuse Adderall even if it is causing psychological and physical symptoms
- The need to use more amounts of Adderall to get a similar high experience initially
- Neglecting everyday responsibilities and duties related to family, school, or work to abuse Adderall
- Neglecting personal hygiene and self-care
- Withdrawing from social life
- Experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms on stopping Adderall or reducing its dose
The group of people who abuse Adderall belongs to two distinct groups in general. The first category includes those who have been using the medication through a valid prescription and for a legitimate medical reason. Such people do not generally experience any significant medical effects but may become dependent on them due to the medication’s high abuse liability. The second group includes those who get Adderall sourced through illegal means to use it recreationally. Such people often tamper with the format of the pills to potentiate the high; for example, they may crush the pills and snort them to get high faster.
How to Treat Adderall Abuse and Addiction: Seeking Professional Help
Adderall abuse and addiction are pretty difficult to overcome, but it is possible, provided a person has the right support system. Joining a high-quality rehabilitation center can help such people quit Adderall and adopt a sober life without being dependent on amphetamines. While most addiction plans are individualized according to personal needs, some of their standard components to support a sober life may include the following:
This process is the very first step toward breaking the Adderall abuse and addiction cycle and involves abstaining from the medication till the point that it no longer exists in the body. Detox programs typically take place under strict supervision from medical professionals along with other support staff. Many people experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms during the process, and the medical staff can help manage them through medications.
Rehabilitation is crucial for a person fighting any type of substance use disorder as it helps them understand the issues behind their addiction. These rehabilitative programs also teach them helpful coping skills and strategies to manage addiction and deal with stressors without resorting to Adderall use. A good rehabilitation center creates a rehabilitation program for each patient after a thorough personal assessment to ensure that it best suits their needs and lifestyles. In general, there are different types of rehabilitation programs, such as the following:
- Inpatient programs are for people with severe, long-term Adderall abuse who require 24-hour supervision and a drug-free environment to recover. Such people stay on site until they are stable enough to return to their homes without risking relapse.
- Outpatient programs are for people with milder Adderall addictions who can continue living at home in a supportive environment. These programs allow patients to attend therapy during the day and return home at night.
Many people believe that addiction recovery finishes once they are out of rehab; however, this concept is untrue. The process of addiction recovery is lifelong, and many people require constant support from time to time to ensure that they do not fall off the recovery bandwagon. For such people, a good rehabilitation center offers aftercare services to reduce the risk of relapses in the future. These aftercare services are tailored to each individual’s needs, issues, and factors that work best with their lifestyle. Most aftercare programs involve ongoing therapy sessions and participation in support groups and 12-step programs.
Can you abuse Adderall?
People who take Adderall recreationally to feel a high are very likely to develop abuse and addiction. This risk exists because when a person takes higher doses of Adderall more frequently, the drug overstimulates the dopamine pathway in the brain. Dopamine is one of the natural neurochemicals in the brain that regulates mood and activates the reward center. As Adderall alters the way this neurochemical works, its long-term use may leave the body incapable of feeling any joy or pleasure unless it has this medication in the system.
At the same time, such people may also develop tolerance to Adderall, forcing them to take more of it to feel the same effects. As an individual switches to higher doses of Adderall, the body responds by producing more of a protein called ΔfosB. Also known as the master switch for addiction, this protein increases the severity of a person’s addiction behavior, forcing them to look for more drugs. When this happens, such people get sucked into a cycle of addiction where they keep taking Adderall to feel the pleasurable effects and fail to function normally in its absence.
Can people overdose on Adderall?
Overdoses with Adderall are very unlikely, but the possibility is always there. Whether a person swallows the pills, crushes and inhales them, or takes them in any other way, the risk of an Adderall overdose is rare, but cases have been reported. According to experts, the lethal dose for this medication is approximately 20 to 25 mg per kilogram of body weight. For instance, a person weighing 154 pounds would need to take 1400 mg of Adderall to experience a fatal overdose which is unlikely to happen as this dose is up to 25 times higher than the recommended dose.
That said, the chances of an overdose are particularly high in people who combine Adderall with other medications, especially the ones with similar stimulant properties. Some people also experiment by combining Adderall with alcohol which can lead to a life-threatening overdose. Following are some overdose symptoms to look out for in a person who has taken very high doses of Adderall or combined it with other substances:
- A very high body temperature
- Stomach pain
- Rapid breathing
- Heart attacks
How to choose the best treatment center for Adderall abuse?
It is imperative to understand that treatment centers for addiction can vary depending on the quality of services they offer. Hence, before joining a rehab, ensure that you get answers to the following questions:
- What type of treatments does it provide?
- How long will the treatment program run?
- What is the rehab’s philosophy about treatment?
- What are the levels of certification of different experts and team members?
- Are there any additional amenities it provides?
- What will be the cost of treatment, and will insurance cover it?
How to tell if someone is high on Adderall?
Look for the following symptoms in a person who you suspect is under an Adderall-induced high:
- Increased alertness
- Unusually heightened energy
- A false sense of wellbeing
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Mood swings