What Is Adderall?
Adderall is the brand name given to a prescription drug most commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ADD in children and adults.
The active ingredients in Adderall include the salts of two well-known psycho-stimulants, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant, along with other types of amphetamines including methamphetamine (‘crystal meth’). The drug works by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain, which helps people suffering from ADHD calm down and maintain focus on their environment and/or their task at-hand.
This 3-minute video explains where Adderall came from and what it does to your body:
There are two forms of the drug sold today:
- Adderall is the tablet form of the drug which is designed for a quicker effect.
- Adderall XR is the extended-release capsule form.
Only the tablet form is approved for the treatment of narcolepsy.
Contents of This Page
Designed To Treat ADHD
The primary approved use for Adderall is to help people suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). The drug helps ADHD sufferers gain more control over their erratic behavior, calms them down and improves their attention and focus. Doctors also prescribe Adderall to treat narcolepsy, severe depression and other behavioral disorders.
Adderall is not intended for use by otherwise healthy people.
Schedule II Controlled Substance
Adderall is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA. It is illegal to sell or distribute the drug, and you should not take it unless you have a valid prescription.
According to the DEA, a Schedule II drug has an accepted medical use but also carries a high potential for abuse that can lead to severe psychological and physical dependence. Other Schedule II controlled drugs include cocaine, methadone and morphine.
Adderall has been approved for use as a stimulant for over 50 years. In 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for use in humans.
DSM Pharmaceuticals manufactures the brand-name drug today. Several other companies produce generic versions of Adderall that are less expensive.
Use of prescription stimulants has increased dramatically in recent years (see chart). Adderall us the second most often prescribed stimulant, and sales of Adderall increased by more than 30-fold from 2002 to 2006. In 2010, more than 18 million Adderall prescriptions were written.
One reason for the surge in Adderall prescriptions is that an increasing number of people are getting diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, doctors are now also prescribing the drug to children and adults who do not have ADHD.
Adult use of ADD has increased rapidly during the past few years, in particular.
The widespread use and availability of Adderall has led to increasing levels of abuse of the medication. There are three ways we abuse Adderall:
- as a study drug. Students take Adderall so they can concentrate on their studies for hours, retain more information, and do better on exams.
- as a party drug. Adderall contains dextroamphetamine, which creates feelings of well-being, confidence and enhanced sexual desire. It also helps you go without sleep for long periods of time.
- as a weight-loss drug. Young women use Adderall to shed some pounds – while improving their grades!
Over the past 20 or so years, Adderall has become a popular “smart drug” of choice among college students who want to improve their academic performance. Every year, millions of otherwise healthy students take Addy’s to improve their focus, concentration and memory, so they can do better on tests and to help with all-night study sessions.
I started taking Adderall and things changed fast.
I focused in the library for hours without distraction. I cranked out a 15-page research paper in one night, without wanting to take a break. I could shut out the world. Any immediate distractions were rendered powerless. It was just me and the paper in front of me.
Recent medical research supports the claim that use of Adderall does, in fact, improve memory retention and focus for many people.
Unfortunately, the drug’s ability to improve academic performance has created a sort of “smart war” on campuses throughout the US, where high-performing students feel enormous pressure to use every possible tool at their disposal. Use of the drug appears to be more common among students attending the top schools in the nation.
Today, it is believed that roughly one-third of all college students have used “smarties” at one time or another to enhance their academic performance. This leaves the remaining students at a technical disadvantage, come exam time. According to one study, amphetamine use rises by a factor of eight during exam periods, with an estimated 25% of students using Vyvanse or Adderall.
Addy’s are also used in high school. According to the University of Michigan’s 2012 Monitoring the Future study, one out of 12 U.S. high school seniors reported using Adderall, and self-reported use has increased by 60% since 2009.
Adderall Addiction Is Real
According to Drugs.com, Adderall carries a high potential for abuse and addiction:
Adderall has a high potential for abuse and may be habit-forming if used for a long period of time. Use Adderall only as prescribed and do not share it with others. Abuse of Adderall may cause serious heart problems, blood vessel problems, or sudden death.
People who do NOT suffer from ADHD often abuse Adderall because it provides the following benefits for them:
- generates feelings of euphoria, superiority, confidence and well-being
- reduces the need to sleep
- improves concentration, memory retention and mental acuity.
These effects are especially beneficial to young adults in high-pressure, competitive situations where all-nighters may be required.
Even though the drug is only available by prescription, Adderall is incredibly easy obtain. The three most popular sources include:
- tell a doctor you need it and get a prescription. The retail price is about $5 – $9 per pill; but with insurance, you can legally purchase Adderall for under $1 a pill
- buy pills from fellow students for $3.00 to $5.00 a pill. Adderall is incredibly easy to find in college libraries, fraternities/sororities and study groups. Just ask.
- purchase pills online. Today, Reddit boards can be used to find online stores and the lowest prices.
Once acquired, Adderall is consumed in several ways. The most popular include:
- Swallowing pills or capsules
- Snorting – crushing tablets or capsule contents into a powder and inhaling through the nostrils; provides a quicker high, but also a faster crash. Often used to conserve supply, because even a small 5 mg dose can last hours when snorted.
- “Parachuting” – crushing the tablet or capsule contents into a powder and digesting it orally, for quicker effect.
- Plugging – mixing the powder with water or glucose and inserting into the rectum, where the drug can be absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly. Provides a faster effect. Not as common as the other methods.
No matter how you use it, Adderall is an amphetamine that carries all the risks of any drug that bathes your brain in excess dopamine. Like all forms of amphetamine, you will build up a tolerance over time. If you use too much Adderall over an extended period of time, you can end up physically dependent on it – just to feel normal!
Abuse of Adderall carries serious health risks and can cause significant, negative side effects if used too much or too frequently.
Side Effects and Risks of Adderall Addiction
In 2011, more than 23,000 young adults were sent to the emergency room for Adderall abuse, four times more than were admitted in 2005. Many suffered from the classic side effects of amphetamine addiction, including:
- signs of severe depression
- hostile or violent behavior
- jittery/fidgety behavior
- extreme paranoia
- psychotic breaks caused by extreme insomnia (days without sleep)
In some extreme cases, death from stroke or cardiovascular system failure have been reported.
Watch this story about Richard Fee, in which his family describes watching Richard suffer the classic side effects of using Adderall – which ended in his suicide.
For more detailed information on the side effects and risks associated with Adderall addiction, read this.
Common symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall addiction include:
- extreme hunger
- panic attacks
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and vary in severity. According to one study, withdrawal issues occur for as many as 87% chronic high-dose users and persist for three to four weeks – with a “crash” phase happening in the first week. This is also known as a binge crash, which is when the user does not sleep for days then sleeps extensively for days following the insomnia.
Recovery From Adderall Addiction
Recovery from long-term Adderall addiction can take weeks or months, as the informal diagram above illustrates.
While your brain is adjusting to lower dopamine levels, you may suffer from severe depression, lack of initiative, hunger, fatigue, withdrawal from social and work circles and reduced job performance.
All of these can create havoc in your personal and professional life, such as the loss of personal relationships that matter to you and the loss of your job.