Adderall is a stimulant that can be prescribed to treat narcolepsy. However, it is more commonly used to treat those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a neurobehavioral condition. While children are most likely to be diagnosed, adults can also have this condition. The symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsive and destructive behavior, and having a hard time focusing on tasks or paying attention in a classroom setting.
At one point, Ritalin was commonly prescribed for children with ADHD, but Adderall has proven to be more effective and longer-lasting. It contains a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
There are several brand-name variants that have this combination. They are Adderall (immediate-release), Adderall XR (extended-release), and Mydayis (also extended-release). While the ones that are immediately released come in pill form, the extended-release variants come in capsules. While Adderall lasts four to six hours per dose, Adderall XR typically lasts all day, so it only needs to be administered in the morning, making it more convenient.
Adderall is one of the most widely prescribed treatments for ADHD. Other treatment options include Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine. The CDC reports that millions of children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. According to a national survey, in 2016, 9.4% of U.S. children had been diagnosed with this condition. Boys are more likely to suffer than girls. Additionally, many adults also suffer from ADHD. In fact, in 2017, it was reported that 12.7 million people over the age of 12 were taking some form of ADHD medication.
When properly used, Adderall can be life-changing for those diagnosed with ADHD. Studies indicate that between 75-80% of those with ADHD will see improvements when taking the drug. They will experience a better ability to focus and are less likely to exhibit destructive and impulsive behaviors.
Unfortunately, despite being a prescription medication, Adderall can be abused. Its misuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and other significant adverse effects. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke as well as kidney and liver damage. Loss of appetite can also result from Adderall abuse. Taken to the extreme, this can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Additionally, there are negative mental health consequences of abuse – depression and suicidal thoughts can occur, as well as aggressive or hostile behavior.
Why Is Adderall Abused?
In 2017, there were 5.2 million people over the age of 12 who misused Adderall. It is easy for someone to abuse Adderall. Because so many people have legitimate prescriptions, and because Adderall is not viewed as a dangerous substance the way heroin or cocaine are, it’s not uncommon for friends to “loan” each other pills. There is also a black market where people can buy Adderall illegally.
Another reason that Adderall abuse is so insidious is that many people have “normal” reasons to take the drug. They are not looking to get high; they simply want to do better on an upcoming exam, perform better at work, or improve their memories. Some people may also use Adderall as a convenient weight-loss tool.
The idea is often that the person will take a few doses just to “get over the hump” and then stop. Unfortunately, Adderall can be extremely addictive.
Why Is Adderall So Addictive?
Adderall’s active ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, are nervous system stimulants. These have the same effects on the brain as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which are naturally occurring neurotransmitters.
Dopamine is released by the brain when someone engages in pleasurable activities like hugging a loved one or eating a delicious meal. Meanwhile, epinephrine (also called adrenaline) ramps up the sympathetic nervous system. This activity triggers feelings of alertness, clarity, and focus. Norepinephrine helps to enhance the effects of epinephrine and increases focus even further.
When someone misuses a powerful substance such as Adderall, it sets up a vicious cycle as the brain attempts to achieve homeostasis. When the brain is flooded with dopamine, it attempts to re-establish a dopamine balance. To do this, the number of dopamine receptors may be reduced.
When a reduction in dopamine receptors occurs, the addict requires ever-larger doses of his drug of choice in order to experience the desired euphoria. An unfortunate side effect is that the brain can no longer supply the same rewards it used to be able to. This leads to the addict experiencing painful withdrawal if he can’t get the drug since his brain is now unable to even provide the normal, natural levels of dopamine it used to.
How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?
Adderall is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. It is then either deactivated by the liver or eliminated in the urine. Approximately 20-25% is typically converted into metabolites such as hippuric and benzoic acids.
The rate at which Adderall is eliminated from a person’s body is affected by the pH of the person’s urine, as well as other factors. A person with urine that is of low pH will tend to eliminate the drug more quickly whereas someone whose urine has a higher pH will eliminate it more slowly.
Other factors that affect how quickly Adderall is eliminated include:
- How often you take Adderall
- What dose you take
- When you last took it
- Your weight
- Whether or not your kidney and/or liver function have been impaired
Typically, Adderall will be detectable in urine up to 96 hours after the last use and in the blood up to 46 hours later. It can be present in saliva for up to 50 hours and in hair follicles for up to three months.
Because Adderall will show up in urine and blood tests as well as hair follicle and saliva tests, it is important, if you are taking the medication under a doctor’s orders, that you let prospective employers know about this before you take such tests.
Not only prospective employers, but also law enforcement, medical professionals, and sports organizations may test for amphetamines. Since these tests do not distinguish between Adderall and other stimulants, it is important to be proactive if you have a legitimate reason for taking this medication.
Signs of Adderall Addiction
When Adderall is abused, it can lead to addiction. This can cause problems in many areas of life, from affecting health to relationships as well as the ability to work or to do schoolwork. Ironically, while people often take Adderall as a “one-time” pill for help completing a difficult task, if they continue to abuse this medication, then they will find it will actually hamper their overall productivity in the long term.
Signs of Adderall addiction:
- Taking ever larger doses of the medication
- Being unable to stop
- Spending large amounts of time trying to acquire Adderall and recovering from its use
- Craving the next dose
- Not being able to manage responsibilities at work, school or home
- Continuing to use the drug regardless of interpersonal conflicts caused by its use
- No longer finding enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities
- Using Adderall in dangerous situations
- Having withdrawal symptoms when not using Adderall
In addition to the potentially serious side effects of addiction, those who develop a tolerance for Adderall are more likely to suffer an overdose since they will keep increasing the amount they take chasing their former “high.”
The signs that someone is experiencing an overdose include:
- High fever
- Abdominal cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
- High or low blood pressure
- Circulatory collapse
Due to the severity of these symptoms, it is imperative that if you or someone you love is abusing Adderall that they quit. However, it can be difficult to do this without help because the withdrawal symptoms can be so harsh.
Potential Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have only taken a few doses of Adderall, then you can probably stop without experiencing too many symptoms. Your brain chemistry has not yet changed in response to the powerful stimulants in this prescription medication.
However, if you have been chronically misusing this drug, then you may find yourself experiencing a painful withdrawal. Some of the symptoms you may experience include:
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Sleep issues
- Increased appetite
- Vivid dreams
- Feeling like you’re in a mental fog
- Suicidal thoughts
- Slowed heartbeat
You will generally begin to feel the symptoms of withdrawal within a few hours up to several days after your last dose of Adderall, and withdrawal can last for up to three weeks.
Because Adderall modifies the brain’s neurochemistry, relapse is common among those who try to quit on their own. For this reason, if you are suffering from Adderall addiction, it is really important that you seek help and that you do not try to do it on your own.
Adderall is a very useful and even life-changing medication for those who suffer from conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy. These people need the medication, and their bodies process it differently from those who do not need it. When you abuse Adderall, you are taking your life in your hands. Adderall is considered a Schedule II controlled substance that is highly likely to cause addiction. When used without medical supervision, it can lead to behavioral issues, depression, and even death.
For this reason, if you are dealing with an addiction to Adderall, it’s important to consult experts who can help you recover rather than try to do it on your own. The good news is that, with the right treatment options, you can recover. The most important thing is that you reach out for help. Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed or guilty.
The reality is that if you have been taking Adderall for a prolonged period of time, your brain chemistry has changed in response to the drug. It’s not your fault that you don’t have the willpower to quit on your own – your brain’s cravings are incredibly powerful thanks to neurological changes.
What can make it even more difficult is that you may find yourself in a mental fog when you stop taking Adderall, making it tougher to make decisions or to think clearly and to function normally. You may experience depression and suicidal thoughts.
This can be incredibly frightening.
It’s therefore imperative that you have a support system in place to help guide you through the process of withdrawal and to help you as your body recalibrates so you can once again function normally without the drug.
Professional Treatment Options Can Help You Succeed
With the Granite Recovery Centers’ detox program, you will be aided and supported by experienced and compassionate professionals such as doctors, therapists, holistic practitioners, and others. Not only will you be given the help you need while you are in the process of detoxification, but you will also be given ongoing guidance to make sure you don’t relapse.
Granite Recovery Centers provides a safe and hopeful place where people can recover. For those who have been taking Adderall for a long period of time and who are suffering from deep depression and suicidal thoughts, having opportunities for ongoing care may be critical to making a full and long-lasting recovery.
For these individuals, intensive outpatient options are available. These provide a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, education, and other services that the client may need.
These are just some of the many options that are available at Granite Recovery Centers. Programs are tailored for each individual, and all are administered with compassion and understanding. If you are dealing with an Adderall addiction, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out for the help you need so you can get your life back.