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Adderall is a prescription stimulant prescribed for the treatment of symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When used properly, patients with ADHD usually see an improvement in regular activities. When misused, people can suffer severe side effects that lead to addiction. Supervised treatment can help people with an Adderall abuse disorder recover.

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    Adderall Abuse

    The increase in diagnoses made Adderall much more widely available. Many people believe the drug improves learning ability. Young adults and college students often use the drug without a prescription to help study or stay awake.

    Although there is limited evidence that stimulants like Adderall improve focus in people without ADHD, research indicates people who abuse stimulants have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t abuse them. Abuse refers to using the drugs in higher doses than prescribed, in a different manner than prescribed or without a prescription.

    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, which can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

    Fortunately, addiction treatment centers can help people recover from Adderall addiction. Treatment can help individuals return to a normal life without the stimulant.

    Adderall Side Effects

    When used therapeutically, Adderall may cause various side effects. Health care professionals usually work with patients and caregivers to help them develop a regular routine for using Adderall so that it improves daily life, and it doesn’t inhibit it.

    Some common Adderall side effects include:

    • Nervousness
    • Restlessness
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Headache
    • Changes in libido
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea

    Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

    The benefits of Adderall usually outweigh the side effects in people with ADHD, but the risks outweigh the benefits in people who abuse the drug. People who acquire Adderall illegally usually take it in higher doses or more often than is safe. Adderall abuse can lead to side effects more damaging than those seen at therapeutic doses.

    People who use Adderall without a prescription may experiment with doses, which can lead to catastrophic events like overdose. Others use it in an attempt to maintain energy while using other substances like alcohol. The combination is dangerous, because Adderall can mask the effects of other drugs, leading to damaging consequences.

    Some athletes use Adderall to improve focus in sporting events, but the drug can increase body temperature, putting them at an increased risk for heart injury.

    Many people who use Adderall therapeutically increase the dose they take over time as their tolerance builds. People who abuse the drug may do the same thing, but long-term Adderall use can cause serious side effects.

    Side effects of abusing Adderall
    Hyperactivity Irregular heartbeat Rapid heartbeat
    Psychosis Seizure High blood pressure
    Increased body temperature Cardiovascular events Death
    Side effects of abusing Adderall
    Irregular heartbeat
    Rapid heartbeat
    High blood pressure
    Increased body temperature
    Cardiovascular events

    Long-term Side Effects

    Although doctors have prescribed stimulants to treat ADHD for decades, very few studies have examined their effects on people who take them for more than two years. The effects of long-term Adderall use are largely unknown.

    However, there is evidence that long-term Adderall use can lead to severe side effects like cardiomyopathy and necrotizing vasculitis. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart, and necrotizing vasculitis is an inflammation of blood vessel walls.

    Stimulants affect the pleasure system of the brain like most drugs that are used to achieve a “high.” Adderall abuse can lead to a rapid escalation of dopamine – a pleasure hormone – in the brain, which interrupts communication among nerves in the brain. The increase in dopamine contributes to Adderall’s addictive nature.

    Adderall Addiction

    People with ADHD rarely become addicted to Adderall when they use it as prescribed. Addiction almost always occurs when people abuse the drug. Students abuse it in attempts to do better in school, athletes abuse it to attempt to improve athletic performance, and some people abuse Adderall in an attempt to lose weight.

    Others abuse Adderall to get high. They may crush the pills and snort them or mix them with water and inject them. Doing so vastly increases the odds of addiction, overdose or other dangerous side effects.

    Young age groups are most likely to abuse Adderall. College students ages 18-22 reported abusing Adderall twice as much as people the same age who aren’t enrolled in school. An estimated 6.4 percent of full-time college students abuse the drug.

    There’s also evidence that people with Adderall prescriptions are pressured to give the drugs to their friends. Studies revealed more than half of college students with a stimulant prescription were asked to sell it, and about 29 percent gave their medication to others.

    The body adapts to long-term Adderall use, so people taking the drug for extended periods of time should consult a health care provider before quitting. Quitting abruptly can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms.

    Withdrawal Symptoms

    People who take Adderall in low doses are less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Those who take it regularly should take it at the same time of day. When a routine is disrupted, the body can go into withdrawal. People who use Adderall irregularly for “binge” study sessions or nights out often “crash” when the drug’s effects wear off.

    People who quit Adderall suddenly may have an intense craving for the drug. Health professionals at rehabilitation centers can effectively help with Adderall withdrawal and assist patients in recovery.

    Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:

    • Trouble sleeping
    • Extreme hunger
    • Anxiety and panic attacks
    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Phobia
    • Suicidal thoughts

    Treatment for Adderall Addiction

    There isn’t an effective medication that treats symptoms of stimulant withdrawal, but health care professions can help patients feel more comfortable by providing safe settings and supervised detoxification.

    Treatment for Adderall addiction tends to include contingency management plans and cognitive behavioral therapy. Contingency management helps patients avoid relapse and manage relapse effectively if it occurs. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people adjust to life without Adderall, and support groups also help patients during treatment.

    Health centers on college campuses and counselors in high school settings are beginning to learn more about signs of Adderall abuse. They can help students recognize addictive patterns and seek help if necessary.

    Adderall’s History

    The active ingredient in most stimulants, amphetamine, was first synthesized in 1927, and medical researchers knew about its addictive risks as early as the 1930s.

    The FDA approved Adderall, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, in 1996 to treat symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy. The drug was approved just as rates of ADHD diagnoses were dramatically increasing. From 1995 to 1999, more than 14 million American children ages 5-18 received treatment for ADHD. The rates of diagnoses grew from 2.5 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2010.

    What was once thought to be a childhood disorder is now appearing in adults too. An estimated 66 percent to 85 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to feel symptoms into adulthood. The number of people misusing drugs like Adderall grew too.

    In 2005:

    people visited emergency rooms after using prescription stimulants like Adderall

    In 2008:

    of college students were misusing prescription stimulants (estimated)

    In 2011:

    people were sent to the emergency room from misusing prescription stimulants

    Public health professionals are campaigning to spread the word that the drug is not safe when abused. Doctors and therapists are being urged to use caution when prescribing the drugs. The drugs work when used for people with ADHD, but they can quickly lead to addiction in people looking to misuse them.

    People with an Adderall addiction can find help at rehabilitation centers that specialize in treating people with prescription stimulant abuse disorders. Health professionals effectively treat individuals and rehabilitate them back to normal life.

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