An Overview of Adderall: Side Effects, Abuse, and Withdrawal
Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is a combination drug that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are stimulants.
Like other stimulant drugs, Adderall works by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine activity in the brain and stimulating the nervous system. It increases the user’s focus, concentration, alertness, and motivation.
Adderall comes in tablet or capsule form and the dosage may vary depending on the assessed need of the user by a doctor. It is a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and addiction.
When the recommended dose is taken, Adderall is generally effective and safe. However, many people abuse the drug, taking more frequent doses of it or using it recreationally to increase their performance at school or work. Abusing Adderall in this way can lead to severe consequences.
The following terms are street names or slang for Adderall:
- Pep Pills
- Study buddies
- Smart pills
Vyvanse and Adderall are similar drugs in many ways, but they are also different. The primary difference is Adderall contains amphetamine salts and Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, which must be chemically converted by the body before it is activated. This reduces the intensity of the drug’s side effects.
Additionally, the effects of the immediate-release form of Adderall last about four to six hours while the effects of the extended-release form last about 12 hours. The effects of Vyvanse generally last about 10 to 13 hours.
In terms of cost, Adderall can be purchased in a generic form, which is often less expensive than Vyvanse, which is the only available brand of that drug.
Otherwise, these two drugs have many similarities. For example, both Adderall and Vyvanse are stimulants that are used to treat ADHD. They also have similar side effects, including anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and digestive problems. In addition, both drugs have the potential to cause withdrawal, dependence, and addiction if they are misused.
Yes, Adderall can be very addictive. Abusing Adderall for an extended period of time can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, not to mention many harmful side effects that can linger for years.
Adderall has a reputation for being safe because it is prescribed by doctors. Although it is a prescription medication, if Adderall is used in ways it was not intended, it can be just as dangerous as illegal stimulants like cocaine.
Additionally, when the pills are crushed, snorted, or dissolved in water and injected, an Adderall user can easily overdose, especially if they are already addicted to amphetamines.
People who abuse Adderall typically aren’t typically looking to get high, although when it is taken in large doses, Adderall does cause powerful feelings of euphoria. Most often, people who abuse Adderall are using it to increase their wakefulness, energy, and concentration, or to lose weight.
Many of the people abusing Adderall are:
- High school or college students
- Professionals who have high-stress jobs
- People who have previously struggled with substance abuse
- Professional or college athletes
- People who are trying to lose weight
If you think a friend or a loved one is abusing Adderall, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction and abuse:
- Rapid weight loss with no explanation
- Staying awake for days at a time
- Taking larger or more frequent doses of Adderall than prescribed
- Taking Adderall recreationally or without a prescription
- Taking Adderall by snorting or smoking it
- Extreme hyperactivity, dilated pupils, restlessness, and headaches
- Using Adderall with other stimulant drugs or alcohol
Short-term effects of Adderall abuse may include:
- Intense euphoria
- Increased body temperature
- Irregular or increased heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Increased activity/wakefulness
- Heightened alertness and increased energy
- Increased respiration
- Muscle tremors/twitching
- Unrealistic emotions (feeling extremely smart or very powerful)
Long-term effects of Adderall abuse may include:
- Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
- Mental illness
- Problems breathing
- Behavioral disorders
- Mood swings
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Skin disorders
- Loss of coordination
Adderall is the most commonly prescribed stimulant in the U.S. Although teens and young adults have the highest risk of becoming addicted, anyone taking Adderall may develop an addiction over time.
In 2016, 2.6 million people started using stimulant drugs to get high for the first time and 4.3 million people said they used stimulant drugs to get high within the last month. Overdose deaths due to stimulant abuse also increased by 30 percent in 2017, with a total of 7,663 stimulant overdose deaths, up from 5,992 in 2016.
Although it is clearly physically addicting, Adderall can also be just as psychologically addicting. Many adolescents and young adults who abused Adderall throughout high school and college are continuing to abuse it in the workplace as young professionals because they view it as a major contributing factor to their success. Without it, they feel unable to compete with their peers in the workplace.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s not uncommon for teens, young adults, and even parents to view Adderall as a “safe” medication simply because it is prescribed by a doctor. This is a very dangerous view of the drug, especially because many people who become addicted to Adderall first got it from a friend, not a doctor.
- 20 percent of college students abuse prescription stimulants.
- 74 percent of college students got their prescription stimulants from a friend.
- In 2012, roughly 16 million Adderall prescriptions were written for adults between the ages of 20 and 39.
- In 2015, about 7.5% of American high school seniors used Adderall, with only 20% of these kids getting it from their doctors.
- About 42% of high schoolers say it’s easy to obtain Adderall or similar stimulants like amphetamines.
- Adderall abuse leads to almost 1,500 emergency room visits every year.
- Compared to students who do not abuse Adderall, users skip class twice as much, have lower GPAs, and spend less time studying.
- Over the last 20 years, prescription stimulant consumption in the U.S. has risen by 800%.
If a person develops an Adderall addiction, he or she may develop a tolerance and start to feel symptoms of withdrawal when the effects of the drug wear off. This may also be referred to as the “comedown” from Adderall.
Common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal are:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sleep problems/insomnia
- Extreme hunger
- Stomach ache
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Suicidal thoughts and/or behavior
Although Adderall withdrawal isn’t always extremely intense, the duration and intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary based on the person’s dependency level. For example, people who crush and snort Adderall pills, or dissolve the powder and inject it will likely have a more intense withdrawal experience.
Regardless of the intensity or duration of Adderall withdrawal, a medical detox program can provide the necessary medical care a person needs to be comfortable and safe throughout the detox experience. Individual counseling during medical detox can also help people manage the psychological symptoms of withdrawal, such as depression and anxiety.
Adderall withdrawal may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the person’s drug abuse history, how often they used Adderall, and how much Adderall they took per dose.
Although Adderall withdrawal will be different for every person, here is a general timeline of what you can expect during Adderall detox:
|1-3 days after the last dose:||Extreme hunger, insomnia, headache, and immense fatigue are common during the first few days of Adderall withdrawal.|
|4-7 days after the last dose:||Many of the physical symptoms of Adderall withdrawal will subside, but the psychological symptoms may begin. Many people experience panic attacks, depression, and mood swings.|
|2 weeks after the last dose:||Many people experience strong cravings during this time. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability are also common.|
|3-4 weeks after the last dose:||Although the bulk of the withdrawal symptoms will have subsided by now, depression and mood swings may persist for several more weeks or months.|
Adderall addiction may be difficult to overcome, but it’s not impossible. A comprehensive, long-term addiction treatment program can address the physical, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of addiction and provide the peer support needed to sustain long-term sobriety.
An Adderall detox program is the first step in a comprehensive treatment program, but detox alone will not keep a person sober. After detox, enrolling in a long-term rehab program will provide the in-depth treatment needed to make permanent behavioral changes and fully overcome the addiction.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction treatment that lasts less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness. This means addiction treatment that lasts 90 days or longer is more likely to yield positive results.
A full 90-day rehab program provides ample time for people to objectively assess their behaviors, learn how to implement healthier ones, and spend time practicing those behaviors and life skills. It also provides more time to work through emotional issues like trauma, anxiety, PTSD, or other behavioral and psychological disorders.
While a person is enrolled in drug rehab, they will work with various addiction treatment professionals to achieve the following goals:
- Work through the 12-step program
- Learn about chemical dependency and the disease of addiction
- Implement relapse prevention techniques and strategies
- Gain essential life skills
- Spend an extended amount of time in a sober, supportive environment
There are two main types of drug rehab for Adderall addiction: residential inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Each type of program provides its own advantages for clients in various stages of recovery and treatment.
Residential inpatient rehab requires that clients live onsite at the rehab center, which provides more accountability and structure. Residential clients abide by a daily schedule that consists of individual and group therapy, process groups, 12-step groups, meal time, exercise time, personal reflection time, and free time. Clients typically have a curfew and are awarded day and overnight passes for good behavior and progress.
Outpatient drug rehab programs are less structured, but still provide peer support, chemical dependency education, and the high-quality behavioral and psychological treatment a person needs to achieve sustained sobriety. The main advantage to enrolling in an outpatient program is that they allow greater flexibility for clients who work, attend school, or have children to care for.
Neither inpatient nor outpatient treatment is better than the other. However, the most effective form of treatment will depend on your specific needs.
How you pay for drug rehab may also vary, depending on your health insurance benefits or any other form of payment you choose to use, such as:
- Employee Assistance Program benefits
- Healthcare loans
- Out-of-pocket payments
Overcoming Adderall addiction is a long-term process that will require continued work, even after drug detox and rehab are over. There are a few types of aftercare programs that may help recovering addicts stay accountable to their sobriety goals and sustain their recovery.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program is a form of continued treatment for recovering addicts. It provides safe, sober, and supportive group housing with additional recovery support services, like clinical counseling, employment/education assistance, regular drug testing, and tiered recovery programming for all residents.
The primary goals of a sober living home are to:
- Provide a supportive and sober living environment for people in recovery.
- Give recovering addicts time to adjust to a lifestyle of sobriety.
- Encourage continued personal growth and life skills.
- Provide opportunities for healthy relationship-building with peers in recovery.
- Establish a healthy daily routine in sobriety before returning to a home environment.
The cost of a sober living program will vary, depending on the location of the home, the type of accommodations and amenities, and the additional recovery support services offered. However, payment at sober living homes is often collected on a monthly basis, just like rent.
Enrolling in an aftercare program for recovering Adderall addicts is a great way to stay accountable in sobriety. Aftercare is designed for rehab alumni in all stages of recovery; whether they’ve been sober for three months or three years.
Aftercare programs consist of weekly meetings that serve as “check-ins” for clients in recovery. Each group meeting is facilitated by an addiction treatment professional and is designed to be a supportive environment where each client can feel safe and be heard.
Adderall addiction and abuse are extremely common in the U.S., but you don’t have to live with your addiction any longer. Call Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about our rehab program and continuum of care that carries clients all the way from detox to sober living and beyond.
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