More than 16 million people over the age of 18 are using prescription medication like Adderall in the United States alone, according to a report by The Washington Post. Prescription medication is all too common in today’s society, and while many prescription drugs are legally prescribed by a doctor and cause little to no harm for most, addiction to these drugs can easily occur, and they can be as harmful as more stigmatized drugs like cocaine, heroin and alcohol.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is an addictive prescription stimulant with effects similar to methamphetamine. It is a drug used to increase alertness and productivity and is most often used by students looking to ‘get ahead’, young professionals trying to climb a career ladder, and workers who are required to maintain a high volume of hours (like lawyers, finance workers and even doctors).
Adderall is a potent stimulant, and unfortunately, it can be difficult to recognize when someone is abusing the drug. At unprescribed doses, there is a high risk of someone becoming addicted to the drug and developing an unhealthy habit that could have disastrous consequences.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall is a stimulant (like cocaine or caffeine) and works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the central nervous system. In short, norepinephrine affects the speed at which a person reacts to outside stimuli – it speeds up the brain’s response time to external events that occur around a user.
Dopamine, on the other hand, is the body’s ‘feel good’ chemical, which generates a sense of reward when active. Although a natural chemical in everyone’s body, Adderall often produces unusually high levels of dopamine, giving a user a sense of satisfied relief beyond what they might normally experience. Unfortunately, this can cause a user to come back for more.
Common signs of Adderall addiction
Adderall addiction is a tricky thing to spot in a person. There are fewer physical symptoms than, say, meth or heroin addiction, but there are similar signs that are experienced by the user. Some common personal signs include:
- Needing a larger dose to feel the drug’s effects.
- Not being able to finish work (or a single task) without the help of Adderall.
- Spending a lot of time getting money to buy Adderall, and a lot of time recovering from an ‘Adderall high’.
- Feeling unusually fatigued, tired and sluggish when not using the drug.
- Neglecting other ‘normal’ activities in favor of using Adderall.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Uncontrollable shaking.
- Changes in sexual interest.
Some common signs of Adderall addiction that others might be able to spot include:
- Being overly talkative and having too much energy in regular scenarios.
- Loss of appetite.
- Financial troubles.
- Memory loss
- Relationship problems.
- Social withdrawal.
- Excessive weight loss.
- Impulsive behaviors.
There are, of course, many more side effects of Adderall addiction. In severe cases, an overdose might occur, which could lead to hospitalization or worse, death. Heart attacks, liver failures and strokes are also extreme (but unfortunately all too common) side effects of Adderall addiction, too.
Mental health issues can also occur in an addicted person. Because Adderall releases high levels of dopamine into the body, it can cause the body to stop naturally producing this chemical. When a person comes off Adderall, then, they can experience extreme bouts of depression and a sense of lowness.
Because Adderall changes the makeup of a person’s central nervous system, it can also change a person’s brain neurochemistry, especially if an addiction extends across a lengthy period of time. Other mental disorders – like severe anxiety, stress and even more severe illnesses like bi-polar disorder – can also occur.
Adderall dependence vs Adderall addiction
Adderall dependence is a naturally occurring physiological response to the drug. Like all drugs, the more frequently you take them, the less effect they have on the body because you build a tolerance to the chemicals ingested. As a consequence, it’s likely that a user’s tolerance level will increase over time, requiring them to consume more Adderall to achieve a similar ‘high’. This is how dependence can occur. However, an addiction to the drug usually comes with a sincere craving for it, which may result in more rash or erratic behavior to acquire it (like breaking the law).
Adderall withdrawal symptoms
There are many withdrawal symptoms when coming off Adderall, including:
- Low energy
- Dry mouth and dehydration
- Body aches
- Mood swings
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Short-term memory loss
While there is no medication to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of Adderall addiction, some doctors may prescribe medications that counteract specific side effects. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, for example, will help deal with some of the onset mental health issues that might occur when coming off Adderall.
In more extreme cases, doctors may recommend a step-down approach to detox from Adderall, reducing the dosage a small percentage at a time until Adderall is no longer needed.
Recognizing an Adderall addiction
Between 2002 and 2012, prescriptions for Adderall increased nearly five-fold. It is, unfortunately, an all-too-common addiction across America and the rest of the world. But, because it is a legal substance and is often prescribed by doctors, it doesn’t carry the same stigma as other drugs, but it does carry similar ramifications and side effects, and an intervention like rehab is essential to ‘ween’ off of Adderall once and for all.
Of course, not everyone who uses Adderall has an addiction. While it’s use can be a slippery slope, there’s a fine line between needing Adderall to function normally and using it once in a while to help increase productivity. As a consequence, spotting when someone has an addiction to the substance can be difficult.
The key to recognizing an Adderall addiction is to spot certain behavior changes. Oftentimes, drug addicts display similar changes in their behavior and prioritize using and obtaining the drug over everything else. Sexual desires can diminish, and moods can swing quite suddenly. It’s also common to witness bursts of aggression.
Adderall addiction: intervention and next steps
An intervention is a great way for friends and family to persuade someone who’s addicted to Adderall to get help. Staging an intervention for someone addicted to Adderall may sound like a drastic measure, but it could save their life and help them achieve sobriety, greater happiness and better health. It could also improve the lives of those around the addicted person.
It’s important to catch and treat an Adderall addiction as early as possible before the addict reaches stages that can cause long-term harm or extreme health concerns.
A trusted, professional and tailored rehabilitation program, then, may just be the thing needed to help someone overcome their Adderall addiction. At Tikvah Lake, we concentrate on helping those suffering from an Adderall addiction get the necessary care they need (and aftercare they need), ensuring that, when they leave, they leave with lessons they can carry forward into the future.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective therapy to help an Adderall addict. This form of therapy helps to change a person’s drug use expectations and behaviors’, and also helps to manage triggers and stress to prevent future drug use.
Personalized treatment, then, is a necessity to overcoming Adderall addiction, and here at Tikvah Lake, that’s exactly what we offer.