Adderall is a pharmaceutical drug that is commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as well as narcolepsy. The active ingredient in Adderall is a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts, which give the drug its effect as a stimulant. Other names for Adderrall include:
Although the drug is officially approved to treat only two conditions in the United States, Adderall is also prescribed off-label to treat other conditions such as obesity and depression. However, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists does not recommend the use of Adderall to treat obesity. The drug is available in extended release and immediate release formulas. Generic versions are also now available. In 2011, 14 million monthly prescriptions were written for Adderall compared to just 5.6 million prescriptions in 2007. With the increased availability of Adderall has come an increase in cases of Adderall abuse. Patients who are legally prescribed Adderall should only use the drug as directed and under close supervision of their prescribing physician.
Adderall is prescribed for individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD or narcolepsy because it triggers the release of adrenaline, which increases the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Those who use Adderall generally report an increase in focus and concentration. Some users also report feelings of euphoria. After the initial effects of Adderall have worn off, users may feel irritable, tired, and even depressed.
Similar to the effect of Adderall on ADHD patients, the drug can also improve performance in people who do not exhibit symptoms of ADHD when working on memory tasks. Because the drug enhances memory and overall arousal, some college students and workers abuse Adderall as it enhances their performance in tedious tasks and well as tasks that require a substantial amount of effort. In addition, athletes who use Adderall for its stimulant effect while competing in sports events have been found at the high school, college, and professional levels. Anti-doping regulations prohibit the use of the drug as an athletic performance enhancer.
Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug in the United States, and it is considered to have a high potential for misuse and high liability for dependence. People who abuse the drug typically ingest the drug while it is in pill form, though it may be crushed and snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Injection can be particularly dangerous as insoluble fillers contained in the pills may block smaller blood vessels. Recreational use of Adderall is dangerous, especially when used in large doses. Lab studies using rats have suggested that Adderall abuse may lead to cognitive impairment that may be permanent, though not necessarily irreversible. When the drug is consumed in extremely high doses, rapid breakdown of muscle tissue, repetitive behaviors, catecholaminergic/adrenergic storm, or coma may result. Adderall overdose is rarely fatal when the drug user receives the appropriate medical attention.
Adderall users may develop psychological or physical dependence. Using the drug may become psychologically habitual when a person becomes accustomed to taking Adderall as part of a routine. The person may come to believe he or she needs the drug, and sweating, headaches, and other signs of stress may appear if he or she is denied access to the drug. Physical dependence may result when a person adapts to the increased levels of dopamine the drug produces in his or her brain. If a person attempts to suddenly stop using the drug after physical dependence has occurred, he or she may experience withdrawal symptoms including tiredness, depression, and abnormal sleeping pattern, which may consist of sleeping to much or chronic insomnia.
The road to addiction to Adderall often begins when the drug is used illegally or for purposes other than those for which it was prescribed. Like other addictions, Adderall addiction may be associated with a variety of underlying physical, emotional, and environmental factors. People who have a hormonal or chemical imbalance in their brain may be more likely to develop an addiction. Adderall abusers often turn to the drug during times of anxiety, depression, or when they have unresolved emotional trauma. Those who are exposed to external factors like crime, poverty, or rampant drug abuse in their surroundings may have a greater likelihood of developing an addiction. Adderall addiction may also develop alongside other drug addictions as well as eating disorders or mood disorders.
Adderall abuse is often characterized by signs and symptoms, some of which may be observed by the drug user’s friends, family members, or coworkers in addition to the drug user. Signs that a person may be abusing Adderall include:
In more severe cases in which a person has become addicted to Adderall, he or she may experience more serious side effects. Signs that may point to Adderall addiction are:
For people who have become dependent or addicted to Adderall, withdrawal symptoms are generally unpleasant, and some users may resort to resuming drug use to remedy the symptoms. As the body attempts to recover from the state of imbalance Adderall abuse may induce, the recovering drug user may experience:
Depending on the individual and the extent to which he or she has developed Adderall dependency, withdrawal symptoms may last for as little as two or three days to as long as one or two months. Adderall users should consult a medical professional to discuss the potential of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms when deciding to stop using the drug suddenly or “cold turkey.”
Adderall addiction can be treated in several different ways. Inpatient care, which requires the patient to live onsite at a treatment facility in the early stages of overcoming addiction, is generally a preferable option. Patients who undergo treatment at an inpatient facility are able to be monitored by staff around the clock, which is helpful when withdrawal symptoms occur. Residing at the facility enables the patient to be removed from external factors that may have initially triggered drug use. Inpatient care also enables patients to be removed from the supply of drugs that may exist outside the facility. Overall, receiving inpatient treatment allows the patient to focus more on getting clean and overcoming the addiction as he or she is subjected to a controlled environment with the support of multiple staff members who are usually each trained to focus on treating different aspects of addiction.
People who are unable to take time away from work or school may also choose outpatient treatment. When undergoing outpatient care, the patient remains in his or her home environment and commits to regularly attending appointments at a treatment facility and typically therapy sessions. The risks of outpatient treatment include continued exposure to external triggers and other factors that may encourage drug use, the potential of the patient readily obtaining drugs due to lack of supervision, and the necessity of traveling to a medical facility to seek medical attention in the event that severe withdrawal symptoms occur. Outpatient care requires a substantial amount of commitment and discipline as the patient is generally responsible for getting him or herself to all appointments.
One-on-one and group therapy sessions are typically included in Adderall addiction treatment plans, whether the patient chooses an inpatient program or outpatient care. Attending therapy sessions helps patients address the underlying issues that led to initial drug use as well as factors that contributed to the patient’s continued drug abuse. Counselors and therapists also help patients learn healthier, more effective ways of managing stressful situations in the interest of avoiding relapse and living a healthier lifestyle.
Cost is generally an important factor as patients consider enrolling in a treatment program. Although inpatient facilities may be more expensive, there are several means by which a patient may cover his or her drug treatment costs. Many facilities accept insurance plans, and some are even willing to arrange more flexible payment plans for their patients. There are also non-profit organizations, which offer assistance to people who are in need of drug rehabilitation, but are unable to afford the cost of attending a program.
Adderall abuse and addiction can lead to severe cognitive impairment and serious side effects. People who suspect that they or someone they know might be abusing or becoming addicted to Adderall should consult a healthcare or addiction professional immediately. Early intervention can mean avoiding the more severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms, and it can also mean getting the person back on track before serious emotional turmoil takes place.
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