Dangerous Dr. Feel Good: Recognizing Adderall Addiction Signs and Symptoms

adderall-addiction-signs

Worried about addiction in a loved one or yourself? Not sure if you’re reading the Adderall addiction signs right? You may be barking up the right tree because Adderall is a very addictive drug.

Many people think: Oh, it’s prescribed by the doctor, how can it be bad? But Adderall abuse is a dangerous, growing problem in the U.S. In fact, from 2006 to 2011, Adderall misuse increased 67 percent, and Adderall-attributed ER visits rose 156 percent, and that continues.

Some people misuse prescriptions unintentionally and become addicted. Others do Adderall for recreation, for the speedy feeling or to be more productive. Then, it gets out of control. And voila: addicted.

But how do you know if you or your loved one has a problem?

To answer your questions, we’ve put together information on the warning signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse and addiction.

Know that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel if you realize you or your loved one has a problem. Keep reading to find answers and solutions before it’s too late.

What Is Adderall?

Adderal is a powerful stimulant that sparks the central nervous system (CNS). It’s an amphetamine, just like methamphetamine, or “meth.”

Doctors prescribe Adderall for ADHD or if you can’t sleep. If you’re narcoleptic, it makes you feel less tired. And if you have ADHD, it gives you a calm-yet-sharp-and-attentive feeling.

As a prescription med, Adderall is in a group called schedule 2N controlled substances. This means it poses a high risk of abuse and dependence, physical and mental. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing here, other 2N stimulants include Dexedrine, also an amphetatmine, Ritalin, a methylphenidate; and Desoxyn, a methamphetamine.

The drug comes as a 5 to 30 ml tablet. It’s meant to be taken by mouth but people that want a quick fix smash it to powder and snort it. Some even inject it, which is a recipe for disaster as it can lead easily to a deadly overdose!

Nick-names on the street include pep pills, speed, black beauties, Addys, college crack, and uppers.

How Does Adderall Work?

Amphetamines increase the release of two chemicals that occur naturally in your body–norepinephrine and dopamine. This increases their levels in the CNS.

Norepinephrine impacts your brain’s response to outside activities, like how fast you respond to something you see or hear. It also affects how you pay attention to external activity.

Dopamine makes you feel good. It’s normally released as a “reward” in your body, This encourages you to keep you doing an activity that helps you thrive as a human. That’s why it’s called the “feel good” chemical in the body. And, just plain ‘ole Dr. Feelgood on the street.

The difference between what your body does naturally and the drug is that with Adderall, your body makes unusually large amounts of dopamine, much more than the natural amount that happens when you deserve a gold star. So users get a real feel-good bump and often return for more.

What Can Go Wrong?

To start, people think Adderall is harmless. After all, doctors prescribe it, and to kids no less. Who would let kids take something harmful or addictive?

Also, many people that take Adderall and like the effects are smart, active, busy, productive people, and Adderall heightens these great characteristics. They think: What could be wrong with that?

They want more. They start to abuse their prescription, taking it all at once, buying more on the street. And too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.

They start to think they need it to function and their bodies become dependent. Read: They get used to the high levels of dopamine, and feel bad physically when it’s not there. Agitation sets in. They can’t focus. And then they need more to get to the feel-good, calm, alert, not-fatigued state. They’re addicted.

This can happen when taken as prescribed too because the body develops a tolerance over time. The added stimulants are the new norm, and they can’t function without them without going through withdrawals. This is physical dependence. Not everyone that is physically dependent is addicted.

There are other things that can go wrong with Adderall, especially after long-term use. It can affect brain circuitry and lead to severe depression and other mental issues.

What’s the Difference Between Adderall Dependence and Addiction?

If you’re dependent on Adderall, your body physically needs the drug interaction that happens to function comfortably. You’re physically used to the high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, and if you were to stop taking Adderall, you’d experience withdrawal symptoms.

Physical dependence is expected when you take your meds as prescribed. If you want to get off, you probably need help detoxing. But you probably feel detox is doable with the help of professionals. If addicted, you probably think it’s impossible.

Addicts are physically dependent too but also experience psychological (emotional) dependence. If addicted, you might think you can’t survive without the help of Adderall. How will I focus? How will I feel calm or rested? How will I feel good at all?

You believe you need more and more to get to that natural state. You crave it when you don’t have enough and obsess. You chase the high. Withdrawal symptoms are bad.

If addicted, you feel your life could end if you don’t get more Adderall, and you do everything possible to get it. Adderall comes first, before everything, including family, friends, job, and your own well-being.

How Does Addiction Start and What Are Symptoms?

Adderall addiction starts with abuse. Often, Adderall abusers are ambitious, active people. Adderall gives them extra energy. They feel stronger and more confident. They can get much more done. They can stay up late. They don’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted.

And everyone else is doing it, right? It’s super popular on college campuses. And everywhere. Adults do it. Doctors prescribe it. Its approval rating is high.

So, when the Adderall runs out, they get more. When their body develops a tolerance and they need more, they get more.

They are now emotionally dependent. And they’re thinking thoughts like:

  • I gotta have it to do another awesome presentation and impress my boss
  • I gotta cram and ace this test and Adderall will make that happen
  • It’s the only way I can focus at work and there’s so much to do
  • It’s so much easier to talk to people when I take it
  • It’s the only way I feel rested
  • Look how skinny I am now

The Adderall use continues and often increases, as do the withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get a refill. The addiction cycle starts.

Feel Good Symptoms

You can’t always see what’s happening inside when someone takes Adderall. But there are definite feel-good benefits that can make people come back for more, even if they are illusions, and start on the abuse and addiction train.

Here’s what someone may feel when they take and abuse Adderall:

  • Energy to be productive
  • Love of work
  • Seeing major life truths on a grand scale
  • The semblance of well-being
  • The desire to socialize
  • The need to talk a lot
  • Feeling hyper and invincible
  • Being more in their head and analytical

You can see why these effects of Adderall are attractive. But they are fleeting and not sustainable. More and more Adderall is needed, and the negative side-effects set in both physically and emotionally.

Feel Bad Symptoms

When someone takes Adderall, they also experience negative feelings and physical side-effects, especially when the drug wears off. But the need to keep going and get that Adderall high is more powerful.

The negative symptoms of Adderall abuse and withdrawal start to be more obvious to family and friends and hard to hide:

  • Irritation and impatience
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Constant bad mood
  • Nightmares
  • Fear, paranoia, and nerves
  • Worry
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Total loss of energy
  • Loss of ability to do everyday tasks
  • Change in sexual interest

The symptoms go downhill as the abuse continues and can include mania, depression, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. At this point, addiction is in full swing.

What Are the Adderall Addiction Signs?

You really know there’s a problem when you or a loved one start to experience the more serious side-effects of Adderall abuse and keep using the drug. It doesn’t need to get this bad to be addicted, but when these warning signs and symptoms occur, the addiction starts to become obvious.

Severe Physical Signs of Adderall Abuse

Abuse of Adderall can lead to serious and life-threatening side-effects that will be obvious to family and friends.

Here are some severe physical Adderall abuse symptoms:

  • Racing and/or pounding heart
  • Blurry vision
  • Tingly or numb feeling in legs and arms
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Dizziness or feeling like you’re going to pass out
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Difficulty breathing and swollen tongue, throat, face
  • Scratchy, hoarse voice
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Jerky muscle movements/tics
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Skin issues — rashes, blisters, peeling, itching
  • Swollen eyes
  • Pain in the lower back or sides
  • Weight loss, sometimes to the point of malnutrition

Also, if someone is shooting or snorting Adderall, they may damage their nasal cavity or suffer collapsed veins. Shooting Adderall can cause blood pressure to spike and lead to death by cardiac arrest or heat stroke.

Severe Behavioral Signs of Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction causes many changes in behavior as the drug becomes the be all and end all of the addict’s life. The addict thinks life would be impossible without Adderall and needs ever more of the drug. It becomes harder to get and sustain the amount of drug needed and the addict becomes obsessed with it.

Here are behavioral Adderall addiction signs:

  • Cashing in and spending financial resources to pay for the drug — savings accounts, CDs, college funds, wages, pension plans
  • Racking up debt to pay for the drug
  • Poor grooming
  • Lack of self-care
  • Withdrawal from social activity
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Shame and denial
  • Secrecy
  • Moving to snorting or shooting up and overdose

The worse the abuse becomes the less the addict cares about hiding the addiction, and at some point, the secrecy disappears and the addict just doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Why Is This Happening to Me?

No one wants to be addicted to anything. No one does these things to hurt themselves or others on purpose. Everyone just wants to feel okay and feel good enough and productive. Adderall gives the illusion that everything is fine, amazing in fact, and becomes the magic fix until it’s not anymore.

Unfortunately, the emotional and physical dependence make it seem impossible for the addict to stop, even in light of all the terrible symptoms. The addict can’t think rationally and needs help. Family and friends can’t fix it for them either, but there is help and there are solutions available.

Where’s the Hope?

If you recognize that you or a loved one is addicted to Adderall, there is hope and recovery on the horizon for you through managed detox, rehabilitation, and ongoing sobriety support.

It’s best to deal with the physical dependence first through managed detox. It’s too hard to do it alone and not save to go cold turkey, but a professional detox program has your back. Once, the shakes and other withdrawal symptoms subside, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Next, recovery support through a community of professionals and others going through the same process brings relief to emotional dependence. You can find both the support and detox in the same treatment programs.

Once both physical and emotional dependence is addressed, the joy can come back to life. Doors open with ongoing support from the treatment program and other recovered addicts.

Remember: All it takes is a simple request for help at any stage of recovery. People will jump to help.

Help for Adderall Addiction is a Phone Call Away

The how and why of Adderall addiction can be cunning and baffling but there is hope and help available to you. So many Adderall addicts have found a solution through tried-and-true addiction treatment and ongoing recovery support. It’s right here, available and out in the open.

Do you recognize any of these Adderall addiction signs in yourself or a loved one?

You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. Contact us today, even if it’s just to suss it out or ask a few questions. We want you to feel the relief of recovery and sobriety so life can be amazing without Adderall.

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Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.