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Perhaps the most well-known amphetamine on the market, Adderall has risen to prominence as the go-to medication in treating ADHD symptoms. It has a high risk of addiction — especially among college students misusing it — but dependency is treatable.

  • Drug Name Adderall
  • Addiction Liability High
  • Scientific Name Dextroamphetamine, Levoamphetamine
  • Street Names Addys, Beans, Pep Pills, Dexies, Black Beauties
  • How It's Used Swallowed, Snorted
  • Side Effects Rapid Heartbeat, Slurred Speech, Drowsiness, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Headache
  • Psychological Dependence Very High
  • Physical Dependence Very High

Adderall Addiction

One small pill of Adderall packs a major punch. The medication — a combination amphetatmine and dextroamphetmine — originally hit the market in 2002 as a focus-increasing supplement for people with ADD and ADHD. It didn’t take long for people searching for a pick-me-up to discover Adderall’s stimulating power.

Graph of alcohol and adderall use in college students

89.5% of college students taking Adderall also binge drink.

Students, office workers and long-haul drivers embrace the drug in a big way. They say it helps them endure long hours and increases their productivity. Colleges especially like it. Its effects are ideal for a long night of cramming or a marathon essay writing session.

This increased focus — even if only perceived in some cases — can be addictive if you seek to maintain it for long periods of time.

More and more of our young people are using these drugs to help them work. They’ve got their laptop, their iPhone, and their Adderall. This rising generation of workers and leaders may have a subtly different style of thinking and working, because they’re using these drugs or because they learned to work using these drugs.

Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

For its intended purposes, Adderall carries a positive reputation among many parents of children diagnosed with attention disorders, and some adults with the same problems. As a recent hip drug, though — resold illegally to thousands of young adults — the pill is now borderline illicit for the ease at which people obtain it and the harm it causes.

Select users of Adderall are drawn to it as a diet tool, as the medication is known to decrease appetite and boost metabolism. Some dependencies can form this way as a shortcut to weight loss.

Addiction Process and Withdrawal

While doctors consider small doses of Adderall as effective and harmless, abuse experts say it’s rare that someone who takes the medication — even if it is prescribed — can remain satiated by a small dose. They desire more and lose an ability to function without it.

The problem escalates in short order. Regular Adderall takers fall victim to withdrawal symptoms the moment they stop. Even moderate users find themselves prone to withdrawal symptoms: fatigue, sluggishness and insomnia chief among them.

Heavy abusers risk major withdrawal, including a crash, when they stop. Symptoms of Adderall abuse include:

Adderall Risks and Fatalities

A number of users prescribed Adderall will go on to sell the drug for a profit, quickly selling out and refilling the prescription. People dependent on Adderall will sometimes lie to a doctor about needing it for ADHD, and in some tragic cases doctors will oblige and prescribe them the potentially lethal drug.

In 2011, a man named Richard Fee hanged himself after a two-year battle with Adderall addiction. He received prescriptions from various doctors though he was never officially diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

It got to the point where he’d say he couldn’t get anything done if he didn’t have the Adderall

Ryan Sykes, a friend of Richard

Richard eventually suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalized, after which his prescriptions were cut off. He ended his life shortly thereafter.

“People have to know that kids are out there getting these drugs and getting addicted to them,” said Rick Fee, Richard’s father. “And doctors are helping them do it.”

Serious Side Effects of Adderall

Doctors detail a number of serious side effects among Adderall users. They associate most with heavy doses. Unlike the minor side effects, these require medical attention and should be handled immediately.

Some of these include:

Among children who experience a sudden death, they are 7.4 times more likely than not to have been taking a stimulant medication like Adderall at the time.
Although typically swallowed in pill form, grinding Adderall down and snorting it is a popular method of usage in some circles, as it is known to intensify the high and activate the effects sooner. Snorting the drug puts the taker at risk for increased side effects, such as damage to the nasal cavity and respiratory problems. People who snort Adderall put themselves in line for severe risks over time: irregular heartbeats, problems with circulation and developmental brain problems.

Psychosis is a major risk of regular abusers of Adderall, and premature birth is possible in pregnant women using the drug. Death has been reported in several cases of Adderall use.

Other Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

As a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall impacts the body’s mainframe and opens the doorway for multiple side effects. These can include, but are not limited to:

Accidentally Creating Addicts

The FDA draws some criticism for its approach towards Adderall, following the spread of addiction and its role in several deaths. Rather than pull the drug or attempt to alter its formula, the drug remains as legal and popular as ever. “Prescription speed,” as some call it, creates addicts every day, many of whom are misdiagnosed by doctors and get a prescription handed to them.

We have a significant travesty with how the [ADHD] diagnosis is being made and the meds are being administered. I think it’s an abnegation of trust. The public needs to say this is totally unacceptable and walk out.

Dr. Charles Parker, a Virginia Beach psychiatrist

Adderall Addiction Treatment Options

Quitting Adderall is no easy task — and the fact that such a hazardous pill remains legal will continue to draw criticism. Educate yourself and your family on the dangers of Adderall and don’t become another statistic.

Traditional rehab clinics and addiction treatment centers across the country accept new patients all the time. Clinics create a personalized treatment plans for abusers to help cleanse their system and get them in good health. Therapists and counselors provide various methods of therapy to reshape a user’s attitude toward the drug, and work through the pains of withdrawal.

Community support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous offer recovering addicts a place to meet people dealing with similar struggles. Becoming a part of these groups is a proven way for survivors of addiction to make friends and learn together how to live a happy, drug-free life.

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