What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication that consists of a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is approved for use as a treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It is also used to treat a sleep disorder known as narcolepsy.
The Development of Tolerance, Dependence, and Abuse
This medication is considered a central nervous system stimulant. But it actually helps people with ADHD calm down and focus. Over time, you may notice that the Adderall no longer controls your ADHD symptoms. You might feel like you need to take more of the drug to feel the effects. This means that you’ve built a tolerance. You are on your way to dependence and addiction.
Some people misuse it on purpose to feel the blissful high. They may also use it to stay up all night to study or augment their mental performance. According to research in 2016, Adderall misuse is most common among people ages 18 to 25. A large portion of these users use it because they claim it makes them smarter or more able to stay alert for longer periods.
Adderall is prescribed in pill form but it is commonly snorted or injected to increase the effects. It is very dangerous to overuse or misuse Adderall. It can lead to withdrawal symptoms, heart problems, and even sudden death.
Due to the high risk of nonmedical use, Adderall is listed as a federally controlled, Schedule II substance. Some slang/street names are Addy’s, Uppers, Smart pills, and Christmas trees.
Typically, doctors prescribe Adderall at the lowest effective dosage possible. When taken as directed by your doctor, it has a low probability of dependency and addiction. Prescriptions for Adderall generally range from 5 to 60 milligrams (mg) total per day. Adolescents usually start at just 10mg per day. The dose may slowly be increased by the doctor until their ADHD or narcolepsy is suitably managed.
Addiction to Adderall can happen when someone takes Adderall:
- More than the prescribed dose
- For longer times than prescribed
- More frequently than prescribed
Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
The misuse of Adderall often causes feelings of euphoria after taking it. After a while, there is a need to take higher doses in order to feel good again. As it wears off, they begin to feel anxious, irritable, and depressed. People who misuse Adderall will start displaying “drug-seeking” behaviors. They include:
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Becoming withdrawn or secretive
- Diminished level of self-care or grooming
- Spending a substantial amount of time and money to get the drug
- “Doctor shopping” or going to several pharmacies to try to fill prescriptions for Adderall
- Crushing, altering, or snorting Adderall to increase speed up the effects
Unintended side effects:
- Skin issues
- Digestive issues
Withdrawal Symptoms and the “Crash”
The longer you misuse Adderall, the stronger the addiction becomes. If you use large, nonmedical doses of Adderall or go on binges (consecutive days of large doses), then you will experience the “Adderall crash.” The crash is similar to an intense mini-withdrawal. It usually begins within several hours of the last dose and may continue for one or two days.
Many people experience mental and physical exhaustion and a noticeable depressed mood. After a binge, you will probably be sleep-deprived and starving. You may sleep and eat a lot while recovering from the binge.
Withdrawal symptoms make it extremely difficult to quit on your own. Symptoms of withdrawal can last a few days to a few weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Fast heart rate
- Panic attacks
- Blurred vision
- High blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Suicidal thoughts
As is true of any drug, misusing Adderall can lead to increased tolerance. More and more of the drug is needed to feel its effects. This can cause a potentially deadly overdose. Signs of Adderall overdose include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
Adderall’s Effects on the Brain
Amphetamines like Adderall increase the activity of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in reinforcing rewarding behaviors. Norepinephrine affects blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing. When these chemicals are released in the brain, they increase the levels of arousal, attention, and motivation.
Dopamine is part of every experience that feels great, whether it is eating chocolate or having sex. That’s why it is a part of current addiction models. As the individual starts to overuse the drug, the brain tries to compensate for all the extra dopamine by shutting down its own dopamine receptors.
Now the person needs more and more of the substance to produce the euphoria it used to produce. The disappearing dopamine receptors also explain some of the pain of withdrawal. Without the drug, the person is left with a brain whose ability to experience reward and pleasure is way below its natural levels. Scientists still don’t know if every brain will return to its original functionality after quitting the drug.
Are You at Risk?
Anyone taking Adderall is at risk for addiction, but teens and young adults are most affected by Adderall addiction.
People who misuse Adderall are usually looking for stimulation, continuous wakefulness, improved concentration, energy, or to lose weight. These are the people more likely to develop an addiction to Adderall:
- People with stressful jobs
- People with a history of drug use
- Individuals who suffer from eating disorders (i.e. anorexia)
- Those who are trying to lose weight
Adderall can also have an effect on other medications. Your risk of developing an addiction to Adderall is greater is you also take any of these medications:
- Blood thinners
- Pain medications
- Antiseizure medications
- Blood pressure medications
Signs That You’re Struggling With Adderall Addiction
Have you noticed that your use of Adderall makes you need higher doses? Do you feel very bad when you stop taking it?
If you answered “yes” to those questions, then you need to see your doctor. The doctor will take your medical history and ask about your Adderall usage and what other drugs you may be taking. This includes over the counter. The medical professional may ask you about the symptoms you feel when the drug wears off. There might be a physical exam and a check of your heart rate and blood pressure.
If the doctor determines that you have an Adderall addiction, he or she may refer you to a rehab center or detox facility to help you recover. If you already know you’re dealing with an addiction, you can certainly contact a rehab on your own.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
Because there aren’t any approved medications to help treat Adderall addiction, treatment is concentrated on supervising the patient as they go through a detoxification process. Withdrawal from stimulants like Adderall can be intensely uncomfortable and stressful for the body. You may be referred to an inpatient, outpatient, or detox facility.
It is not wise to try to quit Adderall “cold turkey.” You need your dosage lowered slowly over time, with medical supervision. This is called tapering.
The steps for treating Adderall addiction include detox, treatment, therapy, and aftercare.
Enroll in a supervised detox or rehab program. In a medically supervised detox, you will have access to medical assistance to help you begin to taper off Adderall safely. You will also have 24-hour monitoring should any other withdrawal symptoms need to be addressed. Detox alone is not enough to make a full recovery. Detox prepares you for a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program.
Enter a rehab program. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you will want a residential, intensive outpatient, or outpatient program.
In residential treatment, you will live in the treatment facility. This provides you a safe, controlled, drug-free environment. You will not be subjected to the same pressures, temptation, and stress that might have created your addiction.
Patients in outpatient treatment can live at home and maintain their work or school activities. This is appropriate for patients who do not have long-term or severe addiction. It is best if you have a supportive family or social network.
Psychotherapy or behavioral therapy
Treatment facilities offer a wide variety of therapies that can be chosen according to your needs. You may have a co-occurring mental issue that needs to be explored. If that is the case, the addiction and the psychological issue must be dealt with at the same time. Common therapies are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and behavior by focusing on the thoughts, beliefs, images, and attitudes held. These are your cognitive processes. CBT helps you to recognize your distortions in thinking that are creating problems.
Group sessions typically include 5 to 15 patients and 2 therapists. Sessions allow people to receive support and encouragement from the other members. Members that are successfully coping with a problem, demonstrate that there is hope for recovery. The therapist can observe how each member responds to other people and can give feedback to each patient.
Dual diagnosis treatment
Individuals with an SUD frequently have a mental or emotional disorder. They use the drug as a method of self-medicating the underlying disorder. Both must be treated simultaneously.
Establish a plan for aftercare
Life long recovery is possible with an aftercare plan. This could be an ongoing group and individual therapy or attending 12-step or other peer support groups. It may last a few months to a lifetime. Studies have shown that the highest risk for relapse is in the first 90 days after the initial treatment. Continued therapy, peer groups, and education help build confidence and skill development.
You Don’t Have to Be Alone
If you recognize yourself or someone close to you, take action now. The alternative could be life-threatening. A person with ADHD who has become addicted needs treatment for addiction that also addresses the ADHD. Maybe you are using the high of Adderall to mask a deeper psychological condition. Or if the addiction started out as a way to increase productivity at school or work, it is no less serious.
Coastal Detox is a recovery facility that can develop a plan that keeps all these contingencies in mind. We have medically supervised detox and program options to suit your needs. We have an experienced staff of counselors that are always ready to answer questions and help you if you’re uncertain about what to do next. You should contact us. We will answer your questions about treatment, detox, insurance, and any other concerns.