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Adderall Abuse Signs, Symptoms, and Addiction Treatment


What Is Adderall Used For?

Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that is used primarily to treat the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It has benefits for sleep disorders and reported off-label utility in managing some forms of severe depression, as well.

This drug is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, which means it speeds up and heightens certain bodily processes. Adderall is an oral medication prescribed by a physician, who will normally start a patient on a low dose to avoid unwanted side effects, gradually increasing the dose as necessary.

Adderall abuse occurs in several ways, including by:

  • Taking a higher dose of the substance than prescribed.
  • Taking the medicine through a non-approved method like snorting Adderall.
  • Taking the drug for reasons other than medical need, such as to stay awake for long periods of time.
  • Taking the medication more frequently than prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s medication.
  • Purchasing the drug from an illicit source for recreational use.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

Even medically approved use of Adderall can cause side effects; abusing the drug, however, can cause side effects to occur with higher frequency and intensity. Common symptoms of Adderall abuse include:

  • Headache.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Nausea.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Digestive issues.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Pounding or fast heartbeat.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Difficulty sleeping and staying asleep.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Changes in sex drive.

Continued use can lead to more severe effects. With long-term abuse or abuse that involves high doses of Adderall, the symptoms can compound one another and lead to even more dangerous effects. These effects include:

  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slowed or difficult speech.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hives or rash.
  • Blistering or peeling skin.
  • Changes in vision.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Paranoia.
  • Mania.
  • Seizures.

If you notice any of the above in yourself or someone else, seek help or consult a doctor immediately.

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall’s side effects vary widely, depending on the individual. The effects of Adderall on the body’s heart rate can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as:3,4

  • Disrupted heart rhythm.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Users may also experience loss of appetite, which can lead to malnutrition, excessive weight loss, and related issues.3,4

Other potential side effects of Adderall use include:4

  • Headaches.
  • Dryness of the mouth.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Tremors/twitching.
  • Decreased inhibitions.
  • Paranoia.

Adderall Overdose Symptoms

Overdosing on a stimulant medication like Adderall can lead to grave health consequences. If you suspect an Adderall overdose, call 911 or your local emergency services. Some Adderall overdose symptoms include:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Hyperventilation.
  • Cardiac rhythm abnormalities.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Uncontrollable tremors.
  • Profound confusion or delirium.
  • Vertigo.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall Use

Long-term Adderall use can lead to the hallmark signs of a substance use disorder. These problems are most likely to occur when the drug is taken above and beyond prescribed parameters. Some of the most concerning issues that may arise are:

  • Tolerance, which means needing more of the drug to obtain the same result. Often, as use increases, it becomes impossible to ever recreate the initial high.
  • Dependency, which means that after some time your body will function sub-optimally without the drug present in your system.
  • Addiction, which means that compulsive drug-seeking behavior and persistent drug use continue despite full knowledge of the risks and negative life consequences that have developed.

Patients are more likely to overdose and cause harm to their bodies when this drug is misused. A major concern for many people who abuse Adderall over extended periods is the risk of cardiovascular issues. Since Adderall is a stimulant, it plays a major role in:

  • Increasing your blood pressure.
  • Increasing your heart rate.
  • Increasing your body temperature to dangerous levels.

These factors combined are linked to serious medical issues like strokes and/or cardiac arrests.

Adderall Abuse Treatment

Knowing the facts about Adderall can help prevent addiction and mitigate the need for treatment.

Preventative treatment for Adderall abuse includes:

  • Educating yourself and those around you about the risks of Adderall use.
  • Tracking and monitoring Adderall use in your home.
  • Keeping medication in a safe place so it cannot be abused by others.

However, if you or someone you know needs treatment for Adderall addiction, rehab centers can help.

Rehabilitation centers can help by providing detoxification services and will aid in treating patients for psychological and physical addictions.

Professional services that offer inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment are often necessary for those struggling with Adderall abuse. Excessive stimulant exposure over time—and the resultant increase in dopamine activity—can cause subtle brain changes that reinforce drug behavior to the point of being quite difficult to reverse on one’s own.

Once the patient stops abusing Adderall, the brain will experience a strong desire for more dopamine, leading to Adderall cravings.

Other common Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

Addiction treatment options will vary according to the level of substance abuse present. Inpatient, outpatient, and long-term residential programs offer a combination of individual counseling and group therapy to treat the addiction and underlying mental health issues.

It’s important to note that treatment centers and their services can vary widely, so it’s essential to interview a facility to find out:

  • How long the stay will be (e.g. 28 days, 90 days, etc.), if inpatient.
  • The treatment center’s philosophy about treatment.
  • Which types of treatment are provided (e.g. contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.) and what these treatment modalities will entail.
  • Any additional desired amenities or facility location preferences.
  • Levels of certification for the addiction treatment team.

Teen Adderall Abuse

Adderall abuse among teens and young adults is common because stress and time management issues at college make the perceived effects of the drug more appealing. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, or NSDUH, in 2015, 425,000 teens and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported misusing prescription amphetamine products like Adderall. This number jumped to approximately 2.5 million among young adults aged 18 to 25, which is almost 5 times higher.

Per SAMHSA’s 2009 NSHUH Report, young adults using Adderall for recreational purposes have also been recognized as being:

  • 3 times more likely to have used marijuana.
  • 5 times more likely to have misused prescription pain relievers.
  • 8 times more likely to have used cocaine or prescription tranquilizers like Xanax and Klonopin recreationally.

According to the Monitoring the Future Study, Adderall use rates among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders are not significantly different from 2014. The trend among 8th graders seems to show steady reduction in use rates since 2012, while use among 10th graders seems to be slowly increasing. 12th grade use rates are the highest among these groups and have fluctuated around 7% since 2012.

Preventing Teen Adderall Abuse

If you help your child learn about the dangers of Adderall abuse and better ways to manage time, activities, homework, and other school-related items, he or she will be less likely to need the drug to stave off sleep.

A crucial part of prevention is to inform young adults that there is no association documented between Adderall abuse and increased study abilities or intelligence. In actuality, reports show that students who abuse Adderall are more likely to have lower grades than students who do not abuse the substance.

Remember, the more you speak with your child about the dangers of drug use, the less likely he or she will be to abuse drugs. It’s especially important to emphasize the dangers of prescription drugs. Many teens feel that these drugs are not as dangerous as illicit drugs and take them without as much concern.

Credit: CBS

Adderall Statistics

  • According to the 2015 NSDUH, more than 42% of people aged 12 and older who used prescription amphetamine products like Adderall in 2015 were using them without a prescription.
  • In 2006 and 2007, the NSDUH reported that students going to school full-time between the ages of 18 and 22 were 2 times more likely to have used Adderall recreationally than those in the same age who did not go to school full time.
  • 7% of college students reported non-medical use of Adderall in 2015, the highest prevalence rate in recent years.
  • Among 19 to 30-year-olds in 2015, 9.3% of males and 5.3% of females reported Adderall misuse, with the highest rate of nonmedical use among 21 to 22-year-olds at nearly 11%.

To learn more, visit our article, History and Statistics of “Study Drugs”.

Find Adderall Addiction Treatment

Seeking help for addiction is the first step toward recovery. Professional treatment can start anyone battling a substance use disorder on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted facilities across the country. To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options with AAC, please contact one of our caring admissions navigators free at .

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