Adderall Abuse, Addiction & Recovery
On This Page:
Need addiction treatment?
We’re here 24/7.
What is the history of Adderall?
Adderall was introduced in 1996 by Richwood Pharmaceuticals, which later merged with Shire Pharmaceuticals. In 2001, a slow-release capsule called Adderall XR became available as an alternative to the original quick-release tablet.
The original quick-release version was marketed as a “patented blend of amphetamine salts” to treat attention deficit disorder or ADD (note the “Add” in the drug’s name), which was typically associated with school-aged children—but Adderall XR became popular with college students and night shift workers who needed to stay awake and alert for long periods of time.
It is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II substance, a designation for medications that have an accepted medical use, but also a high potential for abuse and dependence, and the potential for severe addiction.
What is the chemistry of Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant medication in the amphetamine class. It contains 75 percent dextroamphetamine and 25 percent levoamphetamine. These drugs increase activity of two primary neurotransmitters in the brain: norepinephrine (referred to as the “stress hormone,” it increases heart rate and blood pressure) and dopamine (responsible for pleasurable sensations and motivation).
This has the effect of simultaneously stimulating the central and peripheral nervous systems. Adderall can make a person more alert and attentive, easing the task of staying focused for long periods. Notwithstanding popular rumor, however, the drug does not raise actual intelligence levels and has some serious side effects.
What are the side effects of Adderall?
Unlike its “street drug” sibling, methamphetamine, Adderall is rarely associated with psychotic episodes—though there are various risks to its use, especially when it is not taken as prescribed. Common side effects include insomnia, dry mouth, loss of appetite, frequent restlessness or agitation, headaches, anxiety, body tremors, and digestive difficulties. Some people have experienced sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure, or heart palpitations.
Adderall is not prescribed to pregnant or nursing mothers because of possible risks to children under age three. The drug can also react adversely with other medications, including those prescribed for hypertension and allergies.
How was Adderall intended to be used?
Besides being an effective medication for those struggling with ADD/ADHD, Adderall is also prescribed for narcolepsy a neurological disorder characterized by the brain’s inability to control sleep/wakefulness cycles leaving individuals to fall asleep suddenly despite where they are or what they are doing, and other conditions that may affect people’s ability to stay awake and alert. Depending on the specific version prescribed and the patient’s needs, it may be taken one, two, or three times a day.
People who rely Adderall for daily functioning risk developing tolerance and physical as well as psychological dependence.
How is Adderall abused?
Like more traditional amphetamines, Adderall is frequently used without prescription by people who think it enhances their athletic performance, want to stay awake for long periods (as when studying for college exams), lose weight, or just get a dose of euphoria. People for whom it is prescribed may take additional (nonprescribed) doses on their own for the same reasons.
Those without prescriptions (or who feel their prescription doesn’t cover all their needs) may buy or steal Adderall pills from others: on some college campuses where a large number of students have prescriptions, the Adderall “black market” thrives.
Additionally, it’s important to note that pills bought on the street, even from other students, may not be Adderall at all, but made in non-regulated street labs with no control over the ingredients or dosage. Some users, not satisfied with the results they get from swallowing pills whole, will crush Adderall for snorting or injecting.
What are the signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse?
Symptoms of excessive use can include sleep difficulties, loss of concentration, dizzy spells, irritability, increased tolerance for the drug, severe headaches, breathing difficulties, panic attacks, and weight loss.
Symptoms of addiction can include excessive use despite physical or psychological problems from use, repeated attempts to quit or cut down use with little success, hazardous use, using larger amounts over a longer period and using in a non-prescribed manner such as snorting or injecting the medication.
Symptoms of withdrawal can include violent mood swings, paranoia, anxiety, and severe drowsiness.
Symptoms of overdose can include chest pain, vomiting, shallow breathing, violent shaking, fever, and loss of consciousness. If you’ve been taking Adderall and experience withdrawal or overdose symptoms, call for medical help immediately. Once stabilized, ask about getting detox and extended treatment.
How does Recovery Centers of America treat Adderall addiction?
Depending on the patient, the first steps in treating Adderall addiction may be to taper the drug dosage to ease withdrawal symptoms during detoxification.
Currently there are no FDA-approved medications to treat Adderall addiction beyond detoxification, however there are behavioral treatments and treatment for issues specific to recovery from amphetamines. At intake, RCA staff administer the assessment in a focused and nonrepetitive way as patient’s dependent on Adderall will likely be irritated by lengthy assessments and repetitive questioning.
RCA provides a clear orientation to the treatment process, program rules, and expectations for participation. This is especially important for individual’s dependent on Adderall or other stimulants to help dispel their concerns, fears or anxieties about withdrawal or treatment.
It’s also very important to involve significant others. During the initial assessment and intake processes, RCA identifies family members or significant others who will support the patient and their treatment goals and gets them involved immediately.
With patient’s dependent on Adderall, we don’t use challenging strategies, like those designed to break through the denial process, as these are often counterproductive with stimulant users. Rather, our counselors work to cultivate patients’ motivation, self-esteem, and ability to change and grow. To initiate AND maintain recovery RCA teaches patients to examine the circumstances, situations, thoughts, and feelings that increase the likelihood that they will return to stimulant use.
RCA also provides education on how to identify high-risk situations and relapse warning signs. Patients often focus on the initial, pleasurable feeling they got from Adderall, so staff teach them to counteract this “euphoric recall” with specific behavioral techniques that review the negative and often delayed consequences of stimulant use.
Through wellness seminars, life skills workshops, and various therapies, RCA helps patients develop the life they want, from healthy eating, exercise and sleeping habits to building a supportive social network – RCA is ready to help folks get started on the road to long-term recovery.