From Focus to Addiction: The Dark Side of Adderall Abuse

April 4, 2023

Adderall is a prescription medication that contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It's commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Adderall works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which are neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating mood, attention, and motivation.

To put it simply, Adderall can make you feel high, which is a big reason why many people eventually become addicted to it.

When taken as prescribed, Adderall can help people with ADHD to focus better and improve their overall functioning, and it can help people with narcolepsy stay awake.

However, when taken in high doses or without a prescription, it can lead to serious health consequences, including addiction.

What Is Adderall Used for?

Adderall is a controlled substance and is illegal to possess without a prescription, but that hasn’t stopped millions of people without either of these disorders from using this substance.

There are many reasons why people use Adderall illegally — in fact, it’s very common for people NOT to use Adderall to get high, but rather to use it for other reasons.

For example, many people use Adderall in college both to stay awake late when cramming for an exam and to concentrate better while studying.

It’s also becoming more common for young professionals to abuse Adderall, and for the same reasons — they can concentrate better at work, get more done in less time, and stay up late when they need to get more work done.

Yet another reason people use Adderall is to lose weight. Adderall accelerates your metabolism, but it also reduces (and sometimes even eliminates) hunger. Even people who abuse Adderall for other reasons often lose weight — they’re just not hungry.

Finally, Adderall can be used to improve athletic performance across a variety of sports. This is particularly dangerous given that Adderall already heavily increases your heart rate.

When combined with extremely rigorous exercise, you can cause serious damage to your heart, if not induce a heart attack outright. It can also cause you to have a seizure.

And of course, there are definitely people who abuse Adderall just for the high, because they’re addicted to it, or both. Adderall is similar in many ways to methamphetamine but can be viewed as “safer” because it’s prescribed by a doctor, which means people feel safer abusing it.

While using Adderall to stay awake, lose weight, and be more productive sounds great, the potential consequences are rarely worth it.

How Addictive Is Adderall?

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. 

According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 5 million Americans misused prescription stimulants like Adderall in 2020.

Adderall can be physically and psychologically addictive, particularly when taken in high doses or for a prolonged period.

Long-term use of Adderall can lead to changes in the brain's reward system, making it difficult to stop using the drug even when you want to.

While Adderall might seem like it’s “less dangerous” than other drugs, like heroin or cocaine, the reality is that this drug has serious consequences that can land you in jail, rehab, or worse.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction can manifest in a variety of ways, depending on the individual and the severity of the addiction. Some common signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction include:

If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs and symptoms, it's important to seek help as soon as possible.

Risks and Dangers of Adderall Abuse

Adderall abuse has many risks, both in the short-term and the long-term. Some of the short-term risks of Adderall abuse include:

Long-term Adderall abuse can lead to even more serious health consequences, including:

As you can see, Adderall abuse is extremely dangerous.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall Abuse

The long-term effects of Adderall abuse can be devastating, both physically and mentally. 

Chronic Adderall abuse can lead to permanent changes in the brain's chemistry and structure, which can have a lasting impact on your emotional and cognitive functioning.

Some of the long-term effects of Adderall abuse include:

Adderall Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, there are a variety of treatment options available. The first step in treating Adderall addiction is to seek professional help.

A doctor or addiction specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan.

Some common treatment options for Adderall addiction include:

Adderall can be a useful medication when used as prescribed, but it can quickly turn into a dangerous addiction when misused. If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, it's important to seek help as soon as possible. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.

Remember, addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. You are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking help. By taking action today, you can start your journey towards a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

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Cristal Clark, LPC-S, is the Medical Reviewer for ASIC Recovery Services. She reviews all website content for quality and medical accuracy. She is a master’s level Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and graduated from Liberty University in 2011. She has worked in the behavioral and mental health field for over 12 years and has a passion for helping others. She has been clinical director and CEO of a 200 plus bed facility, PHP, and IOP, with experience managing a team of counselors, individual/group/and family therapy, and coordinating continuum of care. Cristal is trained in EMDR and certified in non-violent intervention. She is a member of American Counseling Association and American Association of Christian Counselors.

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