Understanding the Risks and Consequences
Far too many teens and adults become dependent on Adderall or Adderall XR, which is a drug made of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that’s used to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy. It’s a popular Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant drug overprescribed by doctors and misused by many as a non-prescription way to achieve a meth-like high. In recent years, it has become one of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States both in terms of unnecessary prescriptions and illegal usage.
Read on to learn more about this powerful medication’s adverse impact on New Jersey residents and non-residents and methods for addressing and preventing addiction.
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Adderall and Its Mechanism of Action
Pharmaceutical companies formulate Adderall to work in primarily two ways. A patient can take the drug for an immediate effect that lasts approximately four to six hours by ingesting it. They can also ingest a version that offers a 12-hour extended release of the active ingredients, which reduces the number of times they must take it throughout their day.
Adderall’s active ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, benefit ADHD sufferers by increasing alertness and focus. It releases neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine) into the CNS and Peripheral Nervous System. The result of this release of chemicals is a reduction in overstimulation and hyperactive impulses in the brain. Dopamine is known to stimulate pleasure and reward centers in the brain. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are known to activate the “flight or fight” areas.
Since chemical imbalance in the brain is often the primary source of problems for ADHD and Narcolepsy sufferers, the drug positively enhances cognitive function. It helps turn brain fog or problems with attention and decision making around so that a person can focus better. Initially, without any type of long-term tolerance, it also improves their general feelings of motivation. People who have Narcolepsy benefit from the drug because it makes them more alert during the day when they would normally feel extreme fatigue, sluggishness and demotivation.
Factors Contributing to Adderall Addiction
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance because it’s an amphetamine known for causing severe dependence at psychological and physical levels. It’s also known for its attractiveness as a non-prescribed source of recreational use and abuse. When abused, it is ingested, inhaled or even injected by the user with the latter two methods of delivery often creating more intense and sudden side effects.
People whose brains function normally without any type of imbalance abuse the drug for a variety of reasons. They might initially feel like it increases their energy levels, which makes them feel like they’re more focused and productive at school or work. Academic and professional pressures might make them think that the drug is a safe way to enhance their performance.
People can experience a sensation of intense euphoria that makes the drug attractive to anyone who suffers from depression or other mental heath conditions that cause negative thoughts. They might self-medicate to treat other types of mental health issues as well. Some people use the drug with a prescription to treat ADHD or Narcolepsy and have a genetic or psychological predisposition toward addictive behaviors and actions.
In many cases, a person sees how the drug positively benefits a family member or friend who uses it with a prescription and then either asks their loved one to allow them to “try” the drug or takes “just one” from a prescription bottle. Students who abuse it to improve attention, energy and focus, especially before and during important exams, often acquire the drug from peers who sell it to them.
Signs of Adderall Addiction
Anyone who uses Adderall for any reason can build up a tolerance to it in their brain over time. People who abuse the drug experience this side effect faster, which makes them even more dependent on higher and more frequent doses to replicate what they consider the positive effects of the drug. Adderall addiction is a Substance Use Disorder. When a person experiences SUD from Adderall, they neglect their home, school and work responsibilities or experience serious health problems that adversely impact their life. The drug makes chemical changes to their brain that can cause severe and potentially dangerous side effects at emotional and physical levels:
- Psychological symptoms include increased aggressiveness, anxiety, irritability, mood swings and depression.
- Physical symptoms include appetite changes, weight loss, insomnia and sleep disturbances.
- Behavioral changes include acting in increasingly isolated and secretive ways and neglecting responsibilities.
This type of addiction can cause a long list of symptoms that adversely impact every aspect of a person’s life. Additional symptoms of long-term misuse and addiction include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal Pain
- Blurred Vision
- Bowel Changes
- Brain Damage
- Dry Mouth
- Enlarged Heart
- Excessive Fatigue
- Hair Loss
- Heart Attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Increased/Irregular Heartbeat
- Kidney Damage
- Lack of Motivation
- Panic Attacks
- Paranoid Delusions
- Reduced Circulation
- Reduced Libido
- Skin Problems
- Speech Changes
- Spacey Feeling
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Unpleasant Taste Sensations
Consequences of Adderall Addiction
Addiction to Adderall from prescription or non-prescription abuse leads to the same outcomes. It can cause permanent chemical changes to the brain that eventually result in neurological damage. Since it can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate, it can also damage the heart and cardiovascular system and cause related health problems.
On its own at high doses, Adderall reverses all positive effects. It can cause a person to be unable to pay attention or handle distractions. It can cause a heightened false sense of awareness and rapid or racing thoughts. It can make a person feel that they’re extremely well or healthy even if their life is in danger. With more energy, it can cause excitability, restlessness and repetitive, obsessive or compulsive behaviors. It can even cause hostile, manic and psychotic behaviors.
Any type of drug interactions exacerbate these problems. Many people also take it while taking over-the-counter or other prescription medications known to cause drug interactions, such as allergy, antacid, blood pressure and cold medicines. They either don’t know about the risk of life-threatening interactions or hope to create a different type of euphoric or cognitive experience. They sometimes also mix it with alcohol or other recreational drugs.
Overdose and interactions can cause symptoms that can send them to an emergency room, such as sudden or severe fever, hallucinations, headache, heart attack, rapid breathing, tremors and vomiting. It can even cause death.
Adderall addiction also comes with serious social and professional repercussions. It can place a strain on relationships with family members, friends and coworkers. Since the drug doesn’t actually make a person’s level of intelligence improve and can cause them to experience changes in their mind that results in them ignoring their obligations, they can fail academically or lose a promotion or even their job. They can suffer financial ruin and homelessness. From a legal perspective, it can result in criminal charges related to possession or distribution of a controlled substance without a prescription.
Preventing and Addressing Adderall Addiction
The best way to prevent addiction to this powerful stimulant is by promoting physician safe practices and community awareness. On a personal level, a patient can prevent it by monitoring their usage and following up with healthcare providers regularly.
Anyone who uses Adderall for an undiagnosed mental health concern should speak with a doctor about their condition so that they can receive a proper diagnosis and the best treatment plan possible. Education and awareness are also critical. In addition to community-level awareness and diagnosis and treatment programs, patients need to make time to learn more about the risks. They need to ask their doctor about healthy strategies for coping with mental or physical health problems.
For those already struggling with addiction, a medical detoxification and therapy plan offers the best strategy for helping them take back their life. Professional medical supervision is necessary because withdrawal can cause a variety of difficult and even harmful symptoms that a doctor and therapist can help the patient deal with until withdrawal passes, including:
- Brain Fog
- Body Aches
- Crying Uncontrollably
- Dry Mouth
- Excessive Sweating
- Flu-Like Symptoms
- Lack of Focus
- Low Energy
- Memory Loss
- Mood Swings
- Panic Attacks
- Weight Gain
We understand how difficult it can be to take the first step to address an addiction, especially one that might have started with a prescription or a genuine desire to fix an undiagnosed mental health or other medical condition. Yet, Adderall addiction doesn’t simply go away on its own. Given the drug’s ability to cause fast dependence and lasting mental and physical damage, it’s important to deal with this addiction early through responsible usage, education and treatment.
If you’re struggling with Adderall addiction or desire to help a loved one or someone else in your life receive assistance, NJ Addiction Resources is here to help you take that first step. Call or message our caring team for more information.