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Adderall Addiction Treatment
Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are potent neurostimulants. It is usually prescribed to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Dependency on Adderall is also an increasingly common form of drug addiction.
What is Adderall?
Adderall restores the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain and works by triggering the release of adrenaline and dopamine. These neurotransmitters increase the heart rate and blood flow in muscles, making the person feel energetic and rejuvenated. The drug also improves alertness, concentration and memory.
For many years, it was estimated that about 3-5 percent of children were affected by ADHD, but today, one child in seven receives an ADHD diagnosis by the age of 18. In 1990, 600,000 children were treated with medication such as Adderall for ADHD. By 2013, almost one in five boys in high school and 11 percent of all school-age children had received a diagnosis of ADHD, and the number on medication had reached 3.5 million, according to the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The only long-term condition diagnosed more frequently in children is asthma.
Meanwhile, ADHD is no longer seen as a childhood condition. Almost 16 million prescriptions for ADHD were written in 2012 for people between the ages of 20 and 39, almost triple the number written five years earlier. Between 2002 and 2010, there was a 750 percent increase in prescriptions of Adderall written for women between the ages of 26 and 39. Anecdotal stories indicate that many of these older users have learned what to tell a physician to get a prescription for a drug that helps them cope with stress, gives them energy, improves focus – and causes addiction.
How Adderall is Addictive
Due to its neurostimulating properties, Adderall, sometimes referred to as a smart drug, a brain drug or a study drug, is often abused by college students. Ambitious high school and college students often take Adderall to improve their concentration and focus, whether they have ADHD or not.
Athletes and mothers striving to be “super moms” also experience Adderall abuse. It helps them to overcome stress and temporarily gives them the feeling of confidence and coolness. Some people also abuse Adderall for weight loss. However, Adderall affects the brain in much the same way as cocaine, creating a feeling of euphoria by increasing dopamine levels. Prolonged or excessive use can cause mental or physical dependence.
Even if prescribed Adderall by a doctor for the treatment of ADHD or narcolepsy, adults may develop an Adderall addiction, especially those who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
Adderall abuse symptoms include:
- Craving for the drug
- Mood swings
- An urge to increase the dose in order to achieve desired effects on the mind and body
Adderall withdrawal symptoms may include tiredness, tremors, panic attacks, crankiness, extreme hunger, depression and nightmares. Sudden cessation of Adderall may cause extreme fatigue, depression and even suicidal thoughts. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, the drug should be gradually discontinued under medical supervision.
What are the Potential Side-Effects of Adderall?
Misuse or abuse of Adderall is associated with several side-effects, which may be cardiovascular, neurological, gastro-intestinal, endocrinal or allergic in nature. Potential Adderall side-effects include:
- Restlessness and tiredness
- Speech problems
- Loss of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dilated pupils
Certain serious long-term or overdose effects of Adderall which need immediate medical attention are:
- Palpitations, throbbing or irregular heartbeats
- Chest pain and breathlessness
- Seizures or tremors
- Changes in vision
- Skin allergy
- Hysteric or aggressive behavior
- Damage to serotonin containing brain cells which regulate mood, appetite and sleep
- Reduced natural level of dopamine, resulting in Parkinson's-like symptoms
- Damage to nerve cells, leading to stroke
- Cardiovascular collapse
Effects of Adderall on the Brain and Personality
Adderall stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain, so it can have a profound impact on a person’s neurological functioning and behavior. In chronic users, one of the most serious potential neurologic effects is psychosis, which means the person loses contact with reality, experiencing delusions and hallucinations.
Amphetamines, which are active constituents of Adderall, have also been linked to a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease by researchers. These compounds affect the release and uptake of dopamine, which is the key neurotransmitter involved in Parkinson's disease.
Acute administration of Adderall may provoke an array of dose-dependent behavioral changes like increased arousal or wakefulness, anorexia, hyperactivity and a state of rapture and excitement. These after-effects of the drug often lead to its abuse.
Although regular use of Adderall in ADHD helps improve focus and attention span, it is also associated with social withdrawal, difficulty in communicating with people, irritability, depression, nervousness and insomnia. Moreover, it can also impair a person’s decision-making ability.
Contraindications of Adderall
Adderall has a high potential for abuse. Individuals who are susceptible to abuse of alcohol or drugs, or those with a history of addiction, should avoid taking this medication. Adderall may also worsen the symptoms of certain diseases; therefore, sharing detailed medical history with the doctor is extremely important.
Adderall may cause side effects or adverse reactions when taken with medications or for conditions such as:
- Anti-depressants like monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors
- Alpha blockers, beta blockers and medications for high blood pressure
- Antacids and other medications for heartburn or ulcers
- Anticoagulants or blood thinners
- Antihistamines for cold and allergies
- Allergy to amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
- Defects like irregular heartbeat, hardening of the arteries, heart or blood vessel disease
- Bipolar disorder
- Severe anxiety or agitation
Apart from these conditions, Adderall may also interfere with the performance of certain activities which require alertness and physical co-ordination like driving, swimming or operating machinery.
Adderall Addiction Treatment at DTRC
Drug Treatment and Rehab Centers (DTRC) offers addiction treatment programs that help people recover from dependencies on Adderall and other drugs or alcohol. Patients are screened and treated for all underlying and co-occurring conditions in order to reduce the risk of relapse. Through customized programming that combines individual and group psychotherapy and complementary alternative therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, equine therapy, and music therapy, the programs at DTRC provide balanced, holistic treatment for the person, not the disorder. Call our Admissions team at (415) 366-6922 to learn more.