In our competitive society, many of us feel driven to succeed in all areas of our lives. But how do you excel at school or work, keep up with your social life and still make time for recreation? A prescription stimulant called Adderall has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults who feel driven to do it all and still have fun. A combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, Adderall has become a drug of choice for overachievers or for recreational drug users in search of a stimulating high. Because Adderall can decrease appetite, the drug has also been abused by teens who are trying to lose weight.
Adderall is prescribed to help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stay mentally focused and manage impulsive behavior. It is also prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that interferes with natural cycles of sleeping and waking.
Many high school and college students take Adderall under a doctor’s supervision to improve their grades or juggle multiple extracurricular activities.
Following reports of a number of Adderall-related deaths among high school and college students, the New York Times warns that the medication is being overprescribed by doctors who don’t adequately assess, diagnose or monitor their patients. The medication has been linked to a number of overdose deaths and suicides among healthy teens and young adults — many of whom were taking the drug with a prescription. If you or a loved one is abusing Adderall, it’s important to understand the potentially life-threatening consequences of amphetamine addiction.
What Are the Effects?
Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, the active chemicals in Adderall, stimulate the central nervous system, accelerating mental activity and providing a boost of energy. When you take Adderall or Adderall XR, the extended-release form of this medication, the drug increases the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a naturally produced chemical that can cause feelings of joy, euphoria or power
Amphetamines also alter the brain’s regulation of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Norepinephrine naturally kicks in when you’re faced with a challenging or dangerous situation. Your heartbeat accelerates, your blood pressure rises, your pupils dilate, your mind focuses, and you feel a rush of energy. Adderall can make you feel the same way, especially when you take more than the recommended dose.
Is Adderall Addictive?
Like cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulants, Adderall is very addictive and has a high potential for abuse. Adderall and Adderall XR are manufactured for oral use. But recreational users who want to intensify their stimulant effects may snort the drug as a ground-up powder or inject it in liquid form. Misusing Adderall increases your chances of dependence and addiction significantly.
Parents and teens may not be aware that Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, along with prescription medications like methadone and hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. The brain quickly becomes tolerant to the effects of Adderall, which means that you need higher doses to get the same rush of energy and exhilaration.
Chemical dependence occurs when you need Adderall just to think clearly, to function normally or to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous:
- Cardiac arrhythmias
Dependence turns into addiction when your need for Adderall starts to consume your entire life. If you’re abusing Adderall in spite of its adverse consequences, look for these warning signs of addiction:
- An obsession with obtaining and using the drug
- Forging prescriptions or faking symptoms to get more Adderall
- Borrowing, buying or stealing the drug from others
- Stealing money or selling drugs to buy Adderall
- Repeated attempts to quit using the drug without success
If you try to quit taking Adderall on your own, the side effects of withdrawal may be more severe. Stopping use of the drug or reducing the dose too quickly can intensify cravings and increase your risk of a relapse. The best way to break free from Adderall addiction is to seek help from addiction treatment specialists who can guide you safely through detox and rehab.
What Are the Health Dangers?
According to Stanford University, Adderall is the most frequently prescribed medication for ADHD in the United States. In children and teens who have been accurately diagnosed with ADHD, Adderall can be an effective way to reduce distractibility and increase attention span.
But this psychiatric medication can cause a number of dangerous reactions:
- Abnormal movements
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight loss
- Upset stomach
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
In children with undetected heart problems, Adderall can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Even in healthy young people, amphetamines can overstimulate the cardiovascular system, causing hypertension, an irregular heartbeat and the risk of cardiac arrest.
How Does Adderall Affect the Mind?
Adderall is commonly known as “the study drug” or “the library drug” because it is often used to enhance academic performance. While this medication can sharpen your focus and help you study more effectively, it can also have adverse effects on your mental health. Adderall abuse may cause an increased risk of anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. Washington University cautions that amphetamine abuse can have long-term effects on the brain, causing hallucinations, delusions and aggressive impulses.
Taking large doses of Adderall or using the drug in unsafe ways can trigger stimulant psychosis — a condition associated with amphetamine abuse. The symptoms of stimulant psychosis — including paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, disordered thoughts and bizarre behavior — resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia, a severe psychiatric disorder that alters your perception of reality.
People who have a pre-existing diagnosis of schizophrenia are more vulnerable to psychotic symptoms after taking amphetamines. The British Journal of Psychiatry reports that after a single use of a stimulant drug, 50 to 70 percent of schizophrenics experience intensified psychosis.
Withdrawing from Adderall
If you’ve decided that it’s time to quit using Adderall, the first step is to seek help from qualified treatment specialists. Drug rehab programs offer comprehensive recovery plans for people who are struggling with prescription drug addiction. Withdrawing safely from Adderall starts with a period of detoxification, in which the stimulant gradually leaves your system.
Detox is followed by a rehabilitation phase, in which you acquire the skills and self-confidence to build a drug-free life.
When you enter a rehab center, your treatment team will design a personalized plan for your recovery. Your physical and psychiatric health should be thoroughly evaluated before you start the program. Your withdrawal timeline will be based on how long you’ve been using Adderall, how much of the drug you’ve been taking, and whether you’re abusing other substances. A plan for withdrawal and recovery should involve the following components:
- Physical and psychological assessment
- A gradual drug taper to wean you slowly off the medication
- Pharmaceutical therapy to address withdrawal symptoms
- Intensive individual counseling
- Peer group support meetings
- Family counseling for partners, parents or children
- Holistic therapies
- Aftercare services, including transitional living centers, support groups, counseling and alumni programs
How long does it take to cleanse your system of Adderall? The answer depends on your history of substance abuse. Casual users may taper off the drug within a matter of weeks, while heavy, long-term users may require a slower tapering schedule. Your timeline should be individualized to meet your specific needs and maximize your chances of a successful recovery.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
Recovering from stimulant abuse is extremely challenging. Your brain and body are used to operating at an accelerated pace, and it takes time to adjust to the rhythms of normal life. If you relied on Adderall to make you feel smarter, more self-confident, and more successful, giving up the drug may make you doubt your self-worth.
A holistic treatment plan for Adderall addiction can help you rebuild your sense of self on a stronger, more solid foundation.
Addiction isn’t just a disease of the body; it’s a disease of the mind and spirit. Many recovering Adderall addicts find that intensive exercise and therapy can replace the high of artificial stimulants with a natural endorphin rush. As part of a comprehensive recovery program, you should have access to the following rehab services:
- Individual psychotherapy using evidence-based strategies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
- Holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, massage, creative therapy and adventure therapy
- 12-Step facilitation programs and peer group support meetings
- Behavioral modification therapy to teach you new coping skills and replace destructive thought patterns with positive, self-affirming beliefs
- Nutritional counseling and supplementation to help you recover your physical health
At Black Bear Lodge, we offer personalized Adderall treatment plans in a secluded forest setting that will inspire and motivate you. With a full range of therapeutic services, we can help you find joy and excitement in the activities of daily life. Call our admissions coordinators today to find out how we can help you heal your body, mind and spirit.