Adderall Addiction & Abuse March 29th, 2022 Orlando Recovery Center
Drug Addiction Resources Adderall Addiction & Abuse

Adderall Addiction: Signs, Causes, Statistics and Treatment

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Adderall is a prescription medication that acts as a stimulant. This brand-name drug is a combination of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine, the drug’s active ingredient. Adderall is available in immediate-release and time-release versions. It is primarily prescribed to children and adults to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In rarer cases, Adderall may be prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy. 

Table of Contents

What Is Adderall?

Adderall stimulates the central nervous system and increases the level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. If someone has ADHD and uses Adderall as prescribed, it calms them and helps them focus.

There are certain health risks associated with the use of Adderall, particularly if it’s used in ways other than prescribed. For example, Adderall can lead to stroke, high blood pressure and heart problems. 

If someone has a pre-existing heart condition, taking Adderall can be especially risky. If someone has certain mental health problems, such as depression or bipolar disorder, Adderall can exacerbate their symptoms.

Is Adderall Addictive?

Adderall is an addictive drug, and people who develop an Adderall addiction have often used it without a prescription or in a way other than how it’s prescribed. When some people use Adderall, it can cause a euphoric high — especially if they don’t have ADHD.

A person may have different reasons for abusing Adderall. One of the most common reasons is to increase performance, particularly in school or work. Others will take it because it gives them energy and pleasurable feelings.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means the drug requires a prescription from a doctor and also carries a high potential for abuse. Adderall abuse can lead to both psychological and physical dependence.

Controlled substances like Adderall have extra steps that health care providers must follow when prescribing. Schedule II controlled substances have the highest potential for abuse while still being legal, so Adderall has more steps than many other drugs.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted to Adderall?

When taken correctly, there is a relatively low risk of addiction to Adderall. In this case, someone can take Adderall safely for many years without becoming addicted. However, the risk of addiction greatly increases when someone abuses Adderall.

The amount of time it takes to become addicted is different for everyone, and the timeline can vary from weeks to months. It should be noted that addiction does not happen overnight, and it requires consistent drug abuse for it to develop. One of the reasons that Adderall is so addictive is because it directly affects dopamine receptors, and dopamine is the main chemical messenger responsible for addiction.

After a few weeks or months of continuous usage, dependence develops. If a person is dependent on Adderall, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Adderall withdrawal symptoms are a major contributor to addictive behavior.

Adderall Addiction and Abuse Statistics

Notable Adderall addiction statistics regarding the prescribing, use and abuse of this drug include:

  • According to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, emergency room visits and abuse related to Adderall have increased among young adults, although the number of prescriptions hasn’t.
  • Research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that Adderall misuse is highest among adults ages 18 to 25. Most of the people who reported abusing Adderall obtained it from friends or family and did not have a prescription for the drug.
  • Hopkins researchers found that 60% of people who used Adderall for nonmedical purposes were between 18 and 25 years old.
  • From 2006 to 2011, the illegal use of Adderall among young adults went up by 67%, while emergency room visits went up by 156%.
  • In 2020, an estimated five million people abused prescription stimulants.
  • In 2012, there were around 16 million prescriptions for Adderall written for adults aged 20 to 39.

Adderall Abuse in Teens

When someone abuses Adderall, it can create euphoria and improve concentration, motivation and feelings of confidence. Adderall can help people stay awake for long periods of time, which has contributed to its reputation as a “study drug.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Adderall misuse has been increasing between 2015 to 2020. It’s estimated that up to 2.7% of eighth-graders misused Adderall in 2020. 

Adderall Abuse in Florida

In 2009, Florida established a prescription drug monitoring program to track the prescribing and usage of different controlled substances, including Adderall. In 2016, the University of Florida used this data in a study to determine patterns of use. They found that 88% of teenagers who abused Adderall in the last 30 days had obtained it from a friend. The study also found that among Florida teenagers, about 7% had misused a prescription stimulant like Adderall in the last 30 days.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

An Adderall addiction is a neurological disorder that causes people to use the drug compulsively. People addicted to Adderall seek and use the substance despite the negative consequences, which may include health, social and legal problems.

Addiction usually includes physical, mental and behavioral signs of addiction. The physical and mental signs are usually a result of side effects or withdrawal from Adderall. Behavioral changes are symptoms of addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD).

Mental and physical signs and symptoms of addiction to Adderall include:

  • Agitation
  • Appetite changes
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Depression
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Memory loss
  • Mood problems
  • Restlessness
  • Skin sores
  • Sleep problems
  • Stroke
  • Suicide
  • Tooth decay (meth mouth)
  • Tremors
  • Violent behavior
  • Weight loss

Behavioral symptoms of addiction can include:

  • Increased tolerance of the drug
  • Intense urges for the drug
  • Failed attempts to stop using the drug
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug
  • Neglecting work and school responsibilities
  • Spending too much money and time getting or using the drug
  • Using the drug regularly, sometimes several times per day

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What Causes Adderall Addiction? 

When someone uses Adderall, dopamine is released at abnormally high levels. Other neurotransmitters that can increase include serotonin and norepinephrine.

Dopamine is in the central nervous system, and it is what creates the sense of euphoria. It is mostly released into different parts of the brain and can activate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Norepinephrine and epinephrine are what increase focus and alertness. 

Any drug that affects feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine has the potential to become addictive because it activates reward centers in the brain. The activation of those reward centers can trigger the brain to compulsively seek out the stimulus that led to that activation, which is Adderall in this case.

People at the highest risk of Adderall addiction are those that abuse it, meaning they use it without a prescription or in ways other than prescribed. Large amounts of Adderall create a sense of well-being that greatly increases the risk of addiction.

Adderall Addiction Risk Factors

Examples of people who may be at a higher risk of addiction can include:

  • People with mental health disorders
  • Teenagers (school pressures and high access through friends)
  • Those with high-stress jobs

Adderall is also commonly abused among young professionals, particularly those who work in high-stress or competitive environments. Some of the signs of Adderall abuse can include seeming very talkative, excitability or unusual energy levels. In some people, signs can also include aggression and irritability.

If someone takes Adderall without a prescription or uses it outside of how it’s intended to be used, they’re at risk of becoming addicted. For example, people sometimes crush it or empty the capsules to snort the drug. This gives a more rapid and powerful high but also leads to addiction more quickly. Individuals might also dissolve the drug to inject it, and the results are similar.

With extended-release versions of Adderall, abuse through snorting or injecting the drug is particularly risky. When snorting or injecting Adderall, the effects of the drug occur in a short period of time rather than over a period of 12 hours as intended.

People with a history of mood (depression, bipolar) or thought disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective) are at a high risk of addiction. Many people with mental health disorders will initially feel “better” when abusing substances, but ultimately, the substance will make their symptoms worse.

Adderall Side Effects

Like all prescription medications, Adderall comes with possible side effects. The risk of side effects is lower when Adderall is taken as prescribed, but they can still happen. Side effects can occur because Adderall affects other parts of the body besides the desired targets that treat attention issues. Abusing Adderall will typically worsen the associated side effects.

Common physical side effects of this drug include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low appetite
  • Nausea
  • Photosensitivity
  • Sweating
  • Teeth clenching

Psychological side effects can include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Emotional changes
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping

Adderall Side Effects in Women

The effects of Adderall may vary during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Since estrogen plays a major role in mood and well-being, Adderall may impact that. Adderall can also affect the libido of women. It may increase or decrease sex drive, depending on the dose taken and whether the drug is being abused. Adderall may also have an impact on the development of a fetus during pregnancy. It is important to seek guidance from your doctor if you take Adderall and are currently pregnant or planning to be.

Adderall Side Effects in Men

Adderall can impact libido in men. At smaller doses, it may increase sex drive. However, there are no noticeable effects at normal dosages in some men. When a man abuses Adderall, it can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), which is the inability to get or maintain an erection. ED is usually temporary and goes away after stopping Adderall. 

Long-Term Effects of Adderall

Adderall can also have many serious health effects, particularly with long-term use. For example, Adderall can trigger or worsen psychological symptoms and can lead to cardiac problems, especially in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Using Adderall in ways other than prescribed can also increase a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to the prescription stimulant. Long-term health effects include:

  • Addiction
  • Diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Sexual problems
  • Psychiatric problems

Can You Overdose on Adderall?

It’s possible to overdose on stimulants like Adderall. Taking too much of the drug can cause serious side effects and even lead to death. Common overdose symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Panic
  • Restlessness
  • Tremor

If you suspect that you or someone else is overdosing on a stimulant, call 911 immediately for emergency services.

Adderall Withdrawal

Unfortunately, because Adderall is a prescription medication, people often don’t understand the consequences of misusing it. However, Adderall dependence and addiction can occur. It’s also possible for people addicted to Adderall to experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit the drug.

Withdrawal is a set of symptoms that occur when someone tries to stop taking a drug they have become dependent on. Dependence is when long-term abuse has changed the chemistry of the body so much that withdrawal symptoms occur when someone tries to quit. For example, Adderall increases dopamine, so the body responds by decreasing the amount of dopamine receptors. Withdrawal symptoms arise when there is not enough dopamine signaling in the body.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Adderall withdrawal symptoms are similar to symptoms that occur when quitting other stimulants, such as methamphetamine or cocaine. Common stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • High appetite
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Somnolence (excessive sleepiness)

Adderall Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal symptoms happen fairly quickly after stopping Adderall — as soon as 24 hours after the last dosage. Withdrawal symptoms often last for as long as three to five days in most people. 

Adderall Addiction Treatment

Adderall addiction can be a debilitating and life-changing condition. In some cases, people with Adderall addiction end up seeking illicit drugs like methamphetamine because they no longer have access to their Adderall prescription. When stimulant drugs are involved, treatment is extremely important. 

When entering treatment, a trained addiction professional will evaluate the severity of the addiction. Based on what they find, they will recommend different levels of treatment, including outpatient, intensive outpatient (IOP) or inpatient care. Inpatient is the highest level of care and involves hospitalization in a residential facility.

Those with the most severe addictions may undergo medical detox. Detox is when the drug is leaving the body, and the body is working to heal itself. Withdrawal symptoms usually happen during this stage. Detox can be dangerous, so doing it in a treatment facility will lead to the best outcomes.

Adderall Addiction Help in Orlando, Florida

There are many professional treatment facilities located throughout Florida, including Orlando Recovery Center. Our full-service drug and alcohol rehab center is staffed by trained addiction specialists who can help you begin the path toward lifelong recovery. The 90-bed facility also provides a relaxing, supportive environment and a wide range of amenities, including a pool and fitness center.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, help is available at Orlando Recovery Center. Contact us today to learn more about Adderall addiction treatment programs that can work well for you.

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Addiction can be challenging to overcome, especially without professional help. The Orlando Recovery Center provides comprehensive rehab programs that can help you achieve long-term recovery.

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.