Considering the hectic and stressful pace with which the world moves today, it is no wonder some are drawn to substances just to be able to cope with daily life.
There are those who end up being so highly strung that they need narcotics or depressants just to relax, while others try to keep up with the breakneck pace by taking something to boost their energy levels and focus.
Adderall is one such booster. How addictive is Adderall? As a stimulant, it increases focus, provides a brief surge of energy, enhances stamina, provides mental clarity, and soon enough, becomes a habit for those taking it.
How Prevalent is Adderall Abuse?
As of 2021, the percentage of 12th grade students that had tried Adderall within the past year was around 1.8 percent. The prevalence of 12th-grade students using Adderall has generally decreased since 2012 when usage was more prevalent. Nearly 1 in 10 children suffer from ADHD in the United States.
In the year 2021, 614, 000 teens aged 12–17 have admitted to using the drug for nonmedical reasons at some point. Abuse of the drug leads to almost 1,500 emergency room visits every year, and serious side effects can include insomnia and stroke.
What is Adderall and Why is it Abused?
Adderall is a synthesis of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are both central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. A central nervous system stimulant is a drug or medication that does all of these things:
- Increase alertness
- Enhance attention
- Briefly boost energy
- Promote better physical activity
- Elevate blood pressure
- Increase heart rate
- Promote rapid breathing
As Adderall does all of these things, it is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as this condition minimizes a person’s ability to focus and concentrate, and also narcolepsy, a long-term neurological disorder that disrupts the sleep-wake cycles.
The cognitive enhancement that Adderall gives allows people to concentrate much better when it is needed, such as in studying and in certain aspects of work.
- Elevate blood pressure
- increases heart rate
- Promotes rapid breathing
- Boost athletic performance
This drug is also used in the treatment of obesity as it also suppresses appetite. Based on these things alone, it answers the question of why people abuse Adderall.
Why Do People Abuse Adderall?
Here are the types of people who are most likely to abuse Adderall.
People Looking to Get Ahead in School or in Work
With so many distractions present at any given time, it is immensely difficult to study, memorize, and fully comprehend lessons and learn skills needed in school and work. Many find the enhancements offered by stimulants such as Adderall quite beneficial in these instances.
People Looking to Enhance Their Physical Capabilities
The human body could be made to exert itself in amazing ways, often to the point of exhaustion. This is when fatigue sets in, as the body needs to just hold back before it strains itself to the point of injury.
Some people, however, prefer to push the body beyond this point just to exceed personal or established physical limits, such as in sports. Stimulants help in this by giving a slight boost in energy and stamina.
As this is an artificial enhancement, not only is it illegal in established sports, it is also dangerous. Many suffer torn ligaments, sprains, and damage to muscle tissue from overexertion this way.
People Looking to Lose Weight Fast
Many people who prefer the shortcut to weight loss employ appetite stimulants to help things along faster. Unless prescribed by a physician for this purpose, however, this could prove to be unsafe.
The body needs the nutrients from food to keep on functioning. Hunger causes a person to seek and consume food for this purpose. Suppressing the appetite causes a person to go on functioning with lessened food intake.
Just as a car would stop running without fuel, so will the body stop functioning without any nutrients in it. This is why people die from organ failure brought about by malnutrition.
What are the Withdrawal Symptoms and Long-term Effects of Adderall Addiction?
Many who have a dependence on Adderall don’t even consider it an addiction. This is because these people actually prefer the version of themselves on Adderall compared to what they usually are without it.
Many have justified abusing Adderall as creating a “better version” of themselves, which many believe not to be a bad thing. This type of justifying the means by the perceived end is difficult to point out to those abusing it because they actually see the results or enhancement given by the stimulant.
As with any kind of addiction, many of the side effects are put off or mitigated simply by taking even more of the substance. This is why the long-term effects of Adderall abuse are inextricably connected with the withdrawal symptoms.
Depression and Irritation
Having more energy to do more and the mental clarity to go with it is sure to create a bright outlook and personality. Take away the only thing that promotes this and the opposite behavior is sure to manifest quite quickly.
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal and also one of the more lasting ones, as the person begins to believe they are less of a person because they cannot do more.
The lack of energy and inability to focus clouds a person’s ability to work out of the depressive slump that they are in during withdrawal. Trying to explain to them also becomes a challenge as they either lack the attention span to listen, or even comprehend fully what is being said to them.
This inability to understand and do more will, of course, eventually lead to resentment. People going through Adderall withdrawal will definitely be irritable, highly strung, and emotionally sensitive.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns
Adderall could directly affect the sleep-wake cycle, which is why it is used to treat narcolepsy. Chronic use will, of course, create a great imbalance in the rest cycle of the body. This could prove to be quite difficult to fix and will require therapy to bring back to normal.
The disruption in sleep patterns will have a huge impact on the person, as this will compound the confusion, lack of mental clarity, and a general feeling of weariness and fatigue felt by those going through Adderall withdrawal.
People who lack sleep are also highly irritable, which will add to the aberrant behavior that comes with withdrawal. Insomnia is not uncommon in these instances and using other medications to counter this is not a common practice as it is so easy to exchange one addiction with another while in this phase.
Fatigue and Lethargy
The energy and vitality that Adderall abusers enjoyed will definitely be missed during withdrawal. This is replaced by a constant feeling of fatigue and general lethargy.
This further complicates the rehabilitation process because one of the goals is to show a former Adderall abuser that physical activity is still possible without it. Without the energy or willingness to move or do anything, convincing the person to move and engage in the activity is next to impossible.
This fatigue will also add to the oppressive feeling of depression, which is why many going through withdrawal are often found lying down and curled up in the fetal position, not wanting to do anything anymore.
Nausea, Vomiting, and Stomach Cramps
As the accumulated toxins left by substance abuse are cleared out of the body, stomach pains and a general feeling of being ill start to come in. This is something that most substance abusers experience during withdrawal, regardless of whatever substance they abuse.
This is due to the body trying to correct itself from the chemical imbalance that happened during the period of substance use. As the system does its best to clear itself of toxins, it will induce every known sensation of bodily purging such as vomiting and stomach pains akin to diarrhea.
This makes keeping food down quite difficult. While it might be agonizing to those with Adderall substance abuse issues, it is far worse for those who take narcotics and painkillers, as the pain receptors in their body start to light up work once more, magnifying the pain they feel.
Confusion and Anxiety
The focus and concentration Adderall abusers enjoyed while on it will diminish over the course of the detox phase. If the person already had problems with maintaining concentration or paying attention before Adderall, it will become much worse during withdrawal.
Some even say that they had great difficulty trying to hold on to one coherent thought during the early phase of detox. There is a general feeling of confusion and chaos when the ability to focus gradually decreases without stimulants.
This will inevitably bring in great fear and anxiety, as nothing seems to make sense during detox and withdrawal. While others become jittery and nervous, others seem to completely blank and zone out, as if their consciousness has left them, as they try to fix on a single thought.
These withdrawal symptoms tend to show up a day or two once detox starts. As different people have different thresholds and recovery rates, the symptoms could be felt anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Regardless of a person’s recovery rate, however, there is the matter of the physiological and neurological damage left by the abuse itself. Any substance taken in amounts within addiction levels becomes toxic to the body, and continued use exposes the body to even more toxicity.
This is why addiction treatment centers have a fully trained medical staff within the facilities as well. As with any type of addiction, to minimize the inherent damage, it would be best to seek help as early as possible and to commit to fulfilling the treatment to completion.
Find the Support You Deserve at Westwind Recovery®
If you or someone you know is struggling with an Adderall addiction, it’s important to seek professional help. Westwind Recovery® is a premier choice for substance abuse treatment in Los Angeles.
We offer a wide range of services, including individual therapy, group counseling, and medication-assisted treatment. Our team of experts will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that meets your unique needs.
We understand how difficult it can be to overcome an addiction, but we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about our program and how we can help you get your life back on track.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.