Students on college campuses across the U.S. stay up late studying, writing papers, or partying. And some of them will pop a smart pill, Adderall, to make sure their focus and endurance can keep up with the long hours. What they may not know, however, is Adderall is a dangerous drug outside of its prescribed limits, and that can hurt them. Adderall, a stimulant, is addictive when used recreationally. Abuse can lead to an addiction that can derail even the brightest futures.
Adderall is a brand-name potent prescription medication used to treat Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is a combination of the stimulant drugs amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and when taken, it affects the central nervous system and elevates a person’s mood when it is used as prescribed. According to Medical Daily, Adderall’s chemical makeup is similar to methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy).
The medication helps people with ADHD improve their attention span during long periods when it is used at prescribed therapeutic doses. Doses can range between 5 milligrams and 30 milligrams, depending on the person, and they can be taken once or twice a day.
Adderall is also abused recreationally for its effects such as increased energy and alertness. Abuse includes taking the medication without a prescription, taking more of the pills than prescribed, and crushing up the pills and snorting the contents, which causes euphoric highs. On the streets, Adderall is known as addys, beanies, beans, blackbeauties, dexies, speed, uppers, peppills, and doubletrouble.
Adderall, a Schedule II drug, often is regarded as a “smart drug” or “study drug” among recreational users, a group that largely includes high-school and college students who don’t have ADHD or narcolepsy. Some students take the drug to feel motivated and improve their academic performance. They also pop Adderall to endure long hours of studying and writing research papers. Athletes use it to keep fatigue at bay and help them improve their athletic performance, and people with eating disorders also take the drug to suppress their appetites.
Despite its popularity, Adderall is a dangerous drug when taken improperly. Regular use can be habit-forming and chronic users can develop an addiction.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has warned that the medication should be treated with the same scrutiny as prescription pain medications. Chronic users may find that over time, they may have a hard time functioning without it. People who abuse Adderall have been known to do so with alcohol, which further increases their chances of harm, permanent injury, or death.
People with Adderall addiction come to depend on the drug to stimulate them to be alert and productive. When the drug isn’t in their systems, they will feel lethargic and mentally foggy. Common signs of Adderall addiction include:
Once Adderall addiction has started, it can be difficult for users to stop and end their dependence on it. At this point, it’s important, and perhaps necessary, to seek help at a professional treatment center. Many people instinctively want to abruptly stop using drugs after long-term use when they have decided to stop. This is not a good idea. The body has come to rely on the drug heavily, so suddenly stopping use can have dire consequences.
Effective Adderall addiction treatment starts with a residential stay at an accredited facility, but using Adderall alongside more dangerous substances such as alcohol will likely require a 24-hour monitored medical detox. This procedure is the safest way to gradually taper off and avoid relapse. This process happens under the supervision of health care professionals and addiction treatment specialists who understand what you’re going through. They also know what to do to keep you comfortable during the withdrawal process.
After detox ends and medical stability has been achieved, which can happen over the course of three to seven days, the next step is to enter a recovery program that allows the time and space to address Adderall addiction with behavioral therapy and strategies that promote full-time sobriety. Treatment looks different for different people, so this treatment setting depends on several factors that are specific to one’s situation.
Common options include inpatient treatment, residential treatment, and outpatient treatment. Residential treatment requires at least a 30-day stay and therefore requires more commitment than an outpatient program. While there is no one way to do treatment, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that recovery takes place in the treatment environment for at least 90 days or three months. Longer periods in a recovery setting can increase the chances of stopping drug use.
Also, according to NIDA, the Matrix Model, a form of intense behavioral therapy, has been found particularly effective in the treatment of stimulant use disorders. This model helps develop a close relationship between the patient and therapist and includes:
Even after successfully completing inpatient or outpatient treatment, it’s important for the person to realize treatment doesn’t end because managing addiction doesn’t end. Former Adderall users may find they have post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Depression, Adderall cravings, and other symptoms can happen during this period. An inpatient or outpatient treatment program can help users figure out how to best manage PAWS as they move forward.
Recovering stimulant users are encouraged to use aftercare services, which include joining a 12-step program, attending support group meetings, and aligning themselves with people in a treatment alumni group or joining a sober living facility as they transition back into the real world.
Adderall is highly addictive and long-term misuse and abuse can lead to physical and psychological damage. People who are addicted to it find that they experience the “Adderall crash,” which is the comedown period or withdrawal from amphetamine use. How long this crash period lasts depends on how long the drugs are in the system. Adderall-related headaches are also common among regular or heavy users. These headaches can range from mild to serious, and users who have headaches should seek medical attention if the headaches:
Medical attention is also advised for a thunderclap headache that comes on suddenly and gets worse within seconds or minutes. Adderall’s dangers only grow when the drug is mixed with alcohol. Adderall is a stimulant while alcohol is a depressant, and do not cancel each other out, according to Healthline. Instead, they compete with each other. Also, according to Healthline, Adderall can dull symptoms of alcohol intoxication, so a person who takes it and drinks, too, risks not knowing how much alcohol they actually have drank. Over-drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. Research also has shown that drug combinations can adversely affect the cardiovascular system.
People who abuse the two substances together are at risk for a number of things, including overdose, a cardiac event, such as arrhythmia, fevers, muscle tremors, malnutrition, and more. There are people who abuse this drug with cocaine, another stimulant, and marijuana.
Professional drug treatment can also help recovering Adderall users who are dependent on more than one substance. Alcohol rehab also can help Adderall users who are struggling to control their drinking.
Maryland House Detox understands Adderall addiction recovery, and we know how tough and frightening withdrawal can be. We view detox as a critical part of recovery from substance abuse and addiction, so we offer a 24-hour medically supervised drug rehabilitation program that can help you or your loved one recover from addiction.