Adderall is most commonly used to manage symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and works as a stimulant with the central nervous system. It works very well as an aid to help children focus at school and to organize tasks.
However, as with many prescription drugs, it is also commonly abused.
In 2016, 5.2% of children with a diagnosis of ADHD were taking some form of medication and 9.2% of children between the ages of 2 and 17. This amounts to approximately 6.1 million children.
With figures like this, it’s surprising that Adderall abuse is more prevalent in the 18 to 25 year old age bracket. Many college students use it as a study drug, along with Ritalin and a few others, to help them stay awake through long study periods.
What Is Adderall and How Does It Work?
Adderall is the generic name for Dextroamphetamine-Amphetamine and it works by making changes to the levels of chemicals in the brain, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine.
It’s a stimulant that increases your ability to focus, organize tasks, and can improve your listening skills. For these reasons, it’s extremely effective for children with ADHD who need to focus in class.
The most common side effect of Adderall is loss of appetite which is one of the reasons it’s so popular among dieters. Other side effects can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, anxiety, fear, and fever.
An Adderall high can produce feelings of euphoria and self-confidence, can increase your energy levels, and can increase your ability to focus. However, these are also the reasons why the drug is so addictive if you are taking it recreationally.
How long an Adderall high lasts depends on several factors. The effects of a fast-releasing dose will hit quicker but won’t last as long as a slow-releasing dose. Other factors include the length of recreational use, if it’s taken with other drugs or alcohol and whether it’s snorted or taken in tablet form.
How Bad Is America’s Adderall Abuse Problem?
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted research in 2016 that found over 60% of people who were using non-prescription Adderall were between the ages of 18 to 25 years.
Between the years 2006 and 2011 Adderall abuse rose by 67%. Even more worrying, the rate of emergency room visits due to Adderall abuse rose by 156% during the same period. But, there was no rise in the overall prescription rate.
What does this mean? The 18 to 25-year-old range is typically the college years and many students are taking Adderall to stay awake while studying. Students have reported that increased concentration has allowed them to focus on their work and need less sleep than usual.
Unfortunately, these students aren’t always aware of the risks associated with this kind of behavior.
How Is Adderall Abuse Treated?
Treatment for Adderall abuse and addiction can be conducted at home or in a rehabilitation center. Outpatient treatment means the person can go home every evening and spend time with their families, but this does have its risks.
Inpatient treatment doesn’t focus solely on abstaining from use but also helps patients to develop the skills necessary for maintaining sobriety. The Matrix Model has been found to be particularly effective in treating Adderall addiction.
The Matrix Model is a mix of several different types of therapies and treatment usually lasts for 16 weeks, although this can be extended if it’s deemed necessary. The treatment is extensive, but the patients can go home every night.
The Matrix Model focuses on the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is a talking therapy that involves teaching the patient to reframe their thoughts and self-talk from the negative to the positive.
- Motivational Interviewing. This is a counselling method that works with a patient to resolve ambivalence and find internal motivation to change behavior.
- Behaviorism. This is the psychological approach that takes an experimental stance. It’s concerned with cause and effect.
- Supportive and person-centered. Treatment is focused on guiding the patient to find their own inner answers rather than just following a clinical approach.
- Family, couples, and/or marriage therapy. Practitioners of the model recognize that recovery can only occur with the support of other healthy relationships.
- Group therapy. Promotes understanding of others and reinforces to the patient that they are not alone in their recovery.
- 12-Step groups and meetings. Possibly the most well-known form of treatment that was originally developed to help people suffering from alcohol dependence.
Follow-up care is an important element of treating Adderall addiction and abuse and inpatients care is often followed with 12-step meetings, support groups, and sober living facilities if needed.
What Are the Signs of Adderall Abuse?
If you suspect that someone you love is struggling with Adderall abuse, approaching them can be difficult. If you are able, bringing in professional help as soon as possible can make that approach easier.
Here are some of the signs you may notice from someone who is abusing Adderall:
- They may develop a rash
- They may be awake at very late hours or they may get up earlier in the morning
- They seem to be more thirsty than normal
- They seem to have no, or little, appetite
- Their behavior has become erratic with severe mood swings
- They may become hyperactive and/or restless
- You may notice that they often take more than the prescribed dose or that they take an extra dose having forgotten that they’ve already taken it.
- They may be visiting the Doctor often for prescriptions or visiting several Doctors.
Keep in mind that the above can also be symptoms of other conditions so it’s important to ascertain that the problem is, in fact, Adderall abuse.
Long-term Adderall abuse can lead to the development of more serious symptoms and conditions including extreme weight loss, stunted growth, failure to gain weight despite efforts, and an increased risk of cardiac problems.
Periods of Depression and anger can be associated with withdrawal symptoms including excess sleeping, irritability, anxiety, and paranoia.
If My Child Is Taking Adderall for ADHD Will They Become Addicted to It?
Addiction is a condition that occurs when a substance is used to achieve an effect, usually a high, and often there is a mental health diagnosis that comes with it. There is some disagreement among professionals as to whether conditions like depression develop because of addiction or depression contributes to an addiction forming.
If you, or a loved one, is suffering from ADHD, or narcolepsy – there is no reason to assume and addiction will develop, or Adderall abuse will occur. If you need the drug to treat genuine symptoms, then there’s very little likelihood of you getting high from it.
If someone in your home is taking Adderall – make sure that they don’t share their prescription or tablets with anyone else, and that they don’t give away, or sell, their prescriptions. Rates of Adderall abuse will lessen if people who do not need it are not able to obtain it.
Talk to your children and adolescents about the dangers of Adderall abuse. We know that young people are susceptible to peer pressure but making sure that they’re aware of what could happen to them if they indulge in Adderall abuse may give them pause for thought if the situation arises.
Ensure that your teenager or college student has alternative strategies to deal with exam stress and a heavy school workload. Most schools have systems in place to help young people who are becoming overwhelmed.
Ensuring that your children are eating properly, getting appropriate exercise and developing healthy relationships is also important in lessening the risk of Adderall abuse, or any other abuse for that matter. Achieving this with teenagers is not always easy but keeping the lines of communication open will help.
Seek professional help. If you suspect someone you love is struggling with Adderall abuse you need to get them help. The problem will not go away on its own and the sooner you get help the sooner the person you love can get treatment.