Adderall® is a prescription stimulant that has powerful clinical use for treating several conditions. However, recreational use of Adderall in unfortunately common, especially among certain populations. Although it is a legally-prescribed drug for many people, it can be dangerous. Individuals are ingesting chemicals into their bodies, altering brain chemistry, and causing changes. This can result in addiction, overdose, withdrawal, and a variety of side effects. You can learn more about the withdrawal from Adderall on Addiction Rehab blog’s page Adderall Withdrawal, Crash, and Addiction.
Adderall is a prescription stimulant most often prescribed to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It may also be used to help treat symptoms of narcolepsy, a serious sleep disorder. It is a combination of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two amphetamine enantiomers.
These chemicals are stimulants of the central nervous system, and act by increasing the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Norepinephrine is a type of adrenaline in the form of a neurotransmitter. It is naturally lowest during sleep, and highest during periods of stress or when we are experiencing the fight or flight response. It increases heart rate, raises blood pressure, increases alertness, and helps focus attention. It also may cause anxiety, panic attacks, or a feeling of not being safe.
Dopamine, the other neurotransmitter activated by the stimulants, is responsible for our reward pathway in the brain. Many pleasurable activities release dopamine as a reward, such as eating, exercise, and sex. With Adderall, dopamine is increased greatly, which may cause a feeling of euphoria. It can inhibit the release of norepinephrine and help calm the central nervous system a bit as well.
Although it’s not truly recreational use, Adderall is often used as a study drug. If we define recreational use as non-medical use of a prescription drug, this is probably the most common form of Adderall recreational use. Using stimulants as a study drug may not be “for fun,” but it is certainly a way these drugs are misused without medical approval.
A study drug is a drug people use to help themselves study or get work done. We call them study drugs because they are popular on college campuses, but people use these drugs outside school and in the workplace as well. Because of Adderall’s properties as a stimulant, people use it to help focus, increase energy, and work longer. This is especially common among college students and during periods of time around final exams.
According to the Monitoring the Future Study, over six percent of high school seniors have used Adderall in a non-medical way. Furthermore, college students are more than twice as likely to abuse stimulant medications than their peers who are not in school. This points toward a real problem with amphetamine and other prescription stimulants like Vyvanse in the school system.
Adderall is often used recreationally outside of the study atmosphere. Because it is a stimulant, many people use it alongside depressants like alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines. The increase in activity in the central nervous system as a result of the release of norepinephrine helps give people energy and focus, and can help addicts achieve the desired “high” while using. The energizing effects combine with the depressant qualities to allow the user to achieve euphoric effects without falling asleep.
Many people don’t recognize the dangers of recreational Adderall use because they identify it as a legal and prescribed medication. However, abusing Adderall and taking it in other ways than which it is prescribed can be dangerous. First, addiction may happen. This is true for many stimulant ADHD medications. Although rates and risk of addiction are fairly low when the drug is taken as prescribed, non-medical doses cause addiction and dependence at much higher rates. There are other more addictive prescription drugs, but it’s worth noting that recreational Adderall use can cause dependence.
Next, regular use can cause lasting effects. With long-term use, people may experience side effects for weeks or months after quitting. Although each individual is different, common symptoms of Adderall abuse include:
Finally, recreational Adderall use can result in severely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Upon quitting Adderall, a user’s body has to adapt to functioning without the drug. This can cause symptoms such as panic, craving for more stimulants, problems with sleep, and more. Although many people think they won’t experience anything unpleasant when stopping abuse of amphetamine, the withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly difficult to cope with.