Like any prescription medication, Adderall comes with benefits and side effects. As the warning label on the medication states, the drug has a high potential for misuse. Used over a long period of time, even when taken as prescribed, Adderall can lead to dependence. Accordingly, it is recommended that Adderall be prescribed sparingly and with extreme caution.
Adderall can be a very helpful medication when taken as prescribed. However, it is often sold as a street drug without a prescription to people seeking a high or to those who are trying to enhance their studying abilities during finals and other stressful times at school.
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder that involves Adderall or any other prescription medication, it is important to know that there is always help available. Granite Recovery Center’s drug rehab program is on call 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall has several generic names, including amphetamine aspartate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, and amphetamine salts. It is used primarily to treat one of three disorders: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. It is also occasionally used for disorders that involve impulse control difficulties. Adderall is prescribed in both instant and extended-release forms.
Adderall is classified as a stimulant and is listed as a Schedule II non-narcotic drug. That means it is safe for medical use but carries a high risk for misuse due to physical and psychological dependence.
Trends in Adderall Misuse
Adderall use, either with or without a prescription, occurs across most age demographics. While it is most commonly prescribed to school-age children, adults also take it; ADHD is among the most frequently diagnosed disorders in both children and adults. When Adderall is not taken as prescribed, it is likely being misused.
Over the past two decades, stimulants like Adderall have gained a reputation as “study drugs.” This is because they are said to increase attention and memory while causing persistent wakefulness. While Adderall has gained notoriety as a nootropic substance, which is a compound that enhances brain activity, these claims to brain-boosting are largely untrue. A 2018 study revealed that up to 20% of college students have misused a stimulant, and most of those cases involved students using drugs that are not prescribed to them. The same study states that the highest risk category among college students is males in the fraternity system. Misuse of Adderall, largely for the same reasons as above, has also been on a steady rise among high school students since 2010.
Non-prescription Adderall use among student athletes is also becoming increasingly common. Because it raises energy levels through increased heart rate and respiration, it is considered a performance enhancer. Both the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency have labeled Adderall and similar stimulants as performance-enhancing drugs. The NCAA and most professional sports commissions and teams have banned its use, with only youth and college students who have a medical need for the drug being exempt.
Another emerging trend with Adderall on college campuses is its use as a party drug. This misuse takes the form of mixing the drug with alcohol. This type of misuse supposedly heightens the feelings of euphoria that Adderall can sometimes produce. However, it is also highly dangerous, increasing the side effects discussed below.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, street names or common slang terms for Adderall and other stimulants include “bennies,” “black beauties,” “crank,” “speed” and “uppers.” According to a study by Indiana University, other common names for Adderall and related stimulants include “beans,” “Christmas trees,” “dexies,” “double trouble,” “pep pills,” and “ice.”
If you are a high school student, a college student or an adult who feels dependent on a stimulant like Adderall, there is both help and hope. A substance use treatment program can be only a phone call or a mouse click away. Initial contact is always confidential, and helpful resources are available to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Side Effects of Adderall
No matter how effective and helpful a medication is, there is always the chance that there will be side effects. Side effects are typically divided into three categories: common side effects, less common or rare side effects, and overdose effects. These first two categories can occur even when the medication is prescribed and used as directed. Most of the time, these side effects are nothing to worry about, and they will pass with time. However, if they persist, you should contact your physician.
Common side effects of Adderall can include:
- Agitation, irritation, or anger
- Diarrhea or loose stools
- Dizziness or vertigo, which is a sense of being “off balance” usually accompanied by nausea
- Dry mouth
- Slight hypertension or elevated blood pressure
- Reduced appetite
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sleep disturbances ranging from periodic trouble sleeping to insomnia
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Upset stomach or nausea
- Weight loss
If these or other symptoms persist for more than three days, it is important to contact your physician for guidance. Due to its stimulant effects, taking Adderall while drinking coffee, caffeinated tea, or caffeinated soda can worsen the above side effects. If you find this to be the case, consider switching to decaffeinated beverages.
Less common side effects that are deemed serious include:
- Abnormal thoughts, feelings, or dreams
- Severe or sudden aggression, agitation, or other mood swings
- Uncontrolled chewing motions or teeth grinding
- A feeling of coldness, numbness, tingling, or color change in your fingers or toes, which may indicate problems with blood flow
- Changes in libido and sexual desire or changes in ability to attain orgasm
- Prolonged or overly frequent erections in males
- Sudden, uncontrolled movement, or motor tics
- Sudden, uncontrolled outbursts of words or sounds such as vocal tics or ataxic aphasia
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Unexplained chaffing, abrasions, or wounds on the fingers or toes, which may indicate numbness
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor immediately or to consider going to the nearest emergency room.
Less common side effects that are deemed very serious include:
- Anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction
- Sudden or severe spikes in blood pressure
- Blurry vision
- Confusion, disorientation, or a feeling of being in a dream-like state
- Fainting or lapses in consciousness
- A feeling that your heart is pounding
- Severe headaches, migraines, or headaches accompanied by vision changes
- Hives, which may be indicative of an allergic reaction to the medication
- Lack of impulse control or needlessly putting oneself in dangerous situations
- Irregular heartbeat or heart arrhythmia
- Pain in the chest, jaw, or left arm, possibly indicative of heart attack
- Rapid heart rate, tachycardia, or a “racing heart” feeling
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the feet or ankles
- Extreme tiredness, overall weakness, or sleepiness
- Trouble speaking, slurred speech, or nonsensical speech, possibly indicative of stroke
- Weakness on one side of the body, possibly indicative of stroke
If any of these symptoms should occur, it is vital to call 911 or to go to an emergency room immediately. If you are currently under the care of a substance use specialist, it is important to contact him or her immediately as well.
Side Effects of Overdose
If you or a loved one uses this drug, it’s important to know the signs of Adderall overdose. The most important and dangerous factor is that there is little difference between the effects of an overdose and the severe side effects of normal, prescribed Adderall use. That is why it is so vitally important to watch out for any of the following symptoms:
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Extreme agitation, aggression, or violent actions
- Diarrhea, especially if it is sudden
- Dilated pupils
- Severe hyperactivity
- Sudden or severe increased in body temperature
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscular pains
- Severe nausea and vomiting
- Overactive reflexes or overreaction to outside stimuli, such as loud noises
- Panic attacks
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Shaking, tremors, seizures, or convulsions
Calling 911 immediately if these symptoms occur could potentially save a life. Once the emergency has passed, seeking treatment for a substance use disorder can also save a life. Many treatment centers and programs have both inpatient and intensive outpatient services.
What Types of Treatments Exist for Adderall Misuse and Substance Use Disorders?
Treatment options range from part-time to full-time, outpatient to inpatient, and one-on-one to group-oriented.
While it is important to stop using a substance in order to become free of it, it is also crucial to understand that withdrawal symptoms can be difficult or even dangerous to deal with alone. Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can include:
- Cold or flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty sleeping
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden changes in mood
- Stomach aches and cramping
These withdrawal symptoms may seem intimidating. However, there is no reason to despair. Medical detoxification, sometimes simply called “detox,” takes place in a hospital or clinical setting in which you are under the care of a doctor or other licensed medical professional. Your vital signs will be monitored, and you may be prescribed medications to help ease the symptoms of Adderall withdrawal. At the same time, you will be monitored and cared for 24 hours a day until the substance is completely out of your system. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Once you have gone through detox, there are many ongoing treatment options available to you. The most common of these are 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. While there are meetings in nearly every community in the United States, there are also AA and NA groups in many hospitals and substance use treatment centers. Support groups are often used in tandem with other courses of treatment.
A residential rehabilitation facility is also another option. At a rehab facility, you will receive full-time, comprehensive treatment that combines many approaches and is custom-designed for your situation and needs. Stays in rehab range between two weeks and 60 days. While this stay may seem time-consuming and expensive, remember that many insurance companies cover at least part of rehab. Also, the Family and Medical Leave Act is a law that states you cannot be terminated from your job while you are seeking treatment.
Other treatments include hospital stays, private counseling, and part-time or “intensive outpatient” therapies that allow you to keep working while you receive treatment. Regardless of your choice of care, it is possible that your treatment may be covered by your insurance. Check with your provider, or ask the rehab center of your choice to check your coverage.
Help Is Only a Phone Call Away
Whether you have a substance use disorder, have a physical or psychological dependence on Adderall, or are simply concerned about your Adderall use, there are places you can call. Hotlines and programs are discreet and confidential. They can do as little as provide basic information about signs of substance use disorder or as much as put you in touch with a drug rehabilitation center.
You can contact Granite Recovery Centers at 855-712-7784. This line is open to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you decide to enter treatment with Granite Recovery, your privacy and information with be safeguarded with the utmost discretion.