Adderall is most commonly prescribed as part of a treatment plan for adolescents and teenagers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But more teens-turned-young adults have discovered a new use for the “smart drug” – a term used to describe Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Vyvanse and more stimulants that are misused as study aids by high school and college students.1
The underlying message here is a need or desire for increased focus and alertness in order to improve academic performance. But the average, well-intentioned student doesn’t know the real risks associated with Adderall abuse. And as a parent, if you don’t know the risks, how can you educate and protect your child?
We know that young people are drawn to Adderall for reasons related to studying, learning and performance in school. In fact, the demographic most susceptible to Adderall abuse and addiction is students between the ages of 18 and 22.2 Many of these young adults initially turn to the stimulant drug as a study aid because it can help improve focus and boost alertness. Some of these same students will go on to use the drug outside of academia, eventually spiraling into addiction.
Those addicted to Adderall should never abruptly stop taking the medication—known as going “cold turkey.” The rapid withdrawal causes extreme discomfort and brings on a handful of potentially dangerous effects—even hallucinations have been reported.3 Most people need professional help to beat an Adderall addiction. When looking for an appropriate rehab center, you’ll want to choose one that offers a medically supervised detoxification program.
Is Adderall the Drug of Choice for Students?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health notes that 6.4% of all full-time college students have used Adderall recreationally within the past year.2 Nearly 90% of those students also admitted to binge drinking during the previous month; more than 51% admitted they were heavy alcohol users.4
Some of these same students will go on to use [Adderall] outside of academia, eventually spiraling into addiction.
The Dangers of Adderall Abuse
Students who abuse Adderall are often unaware of the drug’s dangers. Negative side effects seen with Adderall abuse include anxiety, dizziness, headaches and restlessness. In some cases, users also experience increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as irregular heart palpitations.
According to statistics, Adderall is being abused at an alarmingly high rate.5
Facts of particular concern are:
- Between 2008 and 2012, use of Adderall and other ADHD meds increased by 35%.
- The biggest increase was seen among women between the ages of 19 and 25.
- Boys between the ages of 12 and 18 were the top consumers of this ADHD medication.6
Adderall Trends: It’s Not Just for Teens
Between 2007 and 2012, the number of adults with prescriptions for ADHD medications tripled. In 2007, there were 5.6 million monthly ADHD prescriptions for people aged 20 to 39. By 2012, that number had grown close to 16 million.  The number of adults who have an ADHD prescription is now rising faster than the number of children and teens getting the same drugs.
The number of adults who have an ADHD prescription is now rising faster than the number of children and teens getting the same drugs.
Is Adderall Dangerous for Everyone?
Adderall affects people very differently, depending on whether or not they have a medical need for it. For people diagnosed with ADHD who are prescribed Adderall in a legitimate, legal manner, the drug helps them to focus on tasks without becoming endlessly distracted. Here’s the difference: People who use Adderall without a medical need for it will experience a much stronger effect—a supercharged focus and motivation for tasks at school and beyond.
Quitting Adderall: What to Expect
The rapid withdrawal causes extreme discomfort and brings on a handful of potentially dangerous effects—even hallucinations have been reported.
The detox process involves a progressive decrease in Adderall dosage that takes place under the supervision of trained medical staff. Eventually, the dosage will become so low that the patient can completely stop taking it without experiencing the effects of withdrawal.
Once detox is completed, a customized behavioral therapy program is implemented. The personalized plan will address cravings for the drug and any underlying issues behind the drug use. This typically involves attending group and one-on-one sessions with a drug counselor.8
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.
3. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2016). Drug Fact Sheet: Amphetamines.
4. Drug War Facts. (2014). Drug Use Estimates.
5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Prescription Drug Abuse.
6. Express Scripts. (2014). Turning Attention to ADHD: U.S. Medication Trends for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
7. Business Insider. (2014). 21 Startling Facts That Everyone Should Know About Adderall.
8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Treating prescription drug addiction.