“I’ve just gotta get through finals week.”
“Once these exams are over, I can relax.”
“I’ll be stress-free once this stupid project is done.”
Every student has these thoughts, and chances are they will continue to have these thoughts for the near future. However, some students find ways to self-medicate during those stressful exam seasons, finals weeks and project deadlines. One of those ways is by using a medication called Adderall®.
This wouldn’t seem like such an issue if they were taking it as it is prescribed, but many college and high school students are taking it without a prescription. In 2019, approximately 4% of all 12th graders had tried Adderall. Many of them most likely trying it in hopes it would be an effective “study drug”.
A study drug is a colloquial phrase, or slang type of term that refers to prescription stimulant medications. These drugs are known to “enhance” mental functioning by helping with memory, concentration, alertness, attention, and motivation. Some people even regularly call these “smart drugs”. Of course, all this jargon and commonly known terms about the medication helping with smarts and brain power make it no real surprise that students sometimes turn to it for help with exams and big projects.
“Adderall for studying is fine.”
“If you don’t make a habit of using it, it’s okay to use it to cram.”
“It always works for me. I take it for all my finals.”
Let’s Talk All Things Adderall
The Adderall prescription has risen in popularity since its introduction in 1996. Adderall is the brand name for a combination of different chemicals that includes amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These chemicals are classified as central nervous system stimulants. It is a controlled, prescription medication that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
You may have noticed that Adderall is technically classified as a stimulant. Although stimulants as a class of drug are often negatively looked upon as illicit drugs that have to deal with addiction and substance misuse, all stimulants are not necessarily illicit. Adderall is just one example of a prescription stimulant. Of course, stimulants can also include illicit drugs, including the likes of substances such as cocaine and amphetamines. One of the key differences between licit and illicit stimulants is the manner of use. Prescription stimulants typically come in a tablet or capsule and are intended to be swallowed. Meanwhile, illicit stimulants can be crushed and snorted or dissolved in water and then injected.
Essentially, stimulants function by speeding up the body’s systems. This is why many stimulants result in increasing heart rates and a temporary boost in the user’s alertness and energy, hence, Adderall’s appeal to many students who are looking for that extra jolt in energy and concentration to help get them through a project or exam.
Adderall is available as immediate-release (IR) tablets and two different extended-release (XR) formulations. The extended release version of Adderall is typically taken in the morning by therapeutic users. A short, 12-hour extended-release formulation is also available under the brand name Adderall XR and is designed to provide a therapeutic effect and dosage concentration that is identical to taking two doses 4 hours apart. The longer extended-release formulation, approved for 16 hours, available under the brand name Mydayis®. In the United States, both the immediate and extended release versions of the drug are available in generic forms.
As mentioned before, Adderall is most commonly prescribed for people who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. It’s clear that when used properly, prescription stimulants such as Adderall can and do benefit many people. Unfortunately, misuse of these substances can also result in unwanted and harmful effects for the user.
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Can You Be Addicted To Adderall?
The short answer is yes, you can be addicted to Adderall. Individuals who use frequent, high, unprescribed doses are more susceptible to becoming addicted.
As a stimulant, Adderall works by affecting the central nervous system. When taken, the drug actually increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters help your body react properly to conditions and stimuli, while also functioning as chemical messengers.
Norepinephrine is responsible for the speed at which your brain can observe and appropriately react to any outside stimuli. This neurotransmitter is a major reason why Adderall helps a user by stimulating higher levels of alertness, productivity, and efficiency. In addition, Adderall boosts the body’s levels of dopamine. Dopamine levels in the body control how we perceive pleasure and rewards. Higher levels of dopamine can make a person feel good. When taken frequently, users can find that the increased dopamine levels make taking Adderall a rewarding experience, causing them to continue taking the drug to feel that sensation again.
Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
When you are addicted to Adderall, you find yourself increasingly relying on that next dose to help you feel better, more focused, and to get work done. Working before taking Adderall just doesn’t cut it anymore. You’re too foggy and unfocused to get anything done, even though you’ve had a couple of espresso shots.
After taking a dose of Adderall, you feel better! You’ve got more energy, and you’re not feeling as sluggish and mentally scattered as before.
You might work better after taking Adderall, but slowly, you realize it’s getting hard to get anything done before you take your first dose. This could be a sign that you’re addicted.
Like many drugs, Adderall can be misused, and users can potentially get addicted. Of course, it is true that not everyone who takes Adderall will become addicted. Addiction happens for a complex combination of reasons, but if you think you’re addicted, help is available. First, you need to determine if you are displaying symptoms of an Adderall addiction.
Do these symptoms sound familiar to you?
- Taking larger and larger doses to achieve the same feel-good effect
- Trying to stop taking Adderall or cutting down on the amount but failing
- Inability to begin or complete work without Adderall
- Feeling sluggish or tired before taking Adderall
- Giving less importance to usual interests, responsibilities, and relationships to devote more time to taking Adderall
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you’re not using
- Continuing to use the drug even when you recognize its harmful effects in your life
- Spending lots of money or time on buying and using the drug
Sometimes addiction to Adderall or any other substance can happen unexpectedly. Students using Adderall to get through busy exam weeks or finish projects aren’t taking this drug expecting to get addicted to it. For many people, it’s just a tool.
Unfortunately, increasing reliance can lead people into addiction without realizing it. Adderall addiction almost always starts with a desire to get work done and increase concentration. However, it can end up with faking or exaggerating ADHD symptoms to get a larger supply of the drug.
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What Are The Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms?
When you become physically dependent on Adderall, your body will have become so used to having that substance in your system that without it, you can experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug. If you have a physical dependence and try to quit, you could start feeling lots of different unpleasant symptoms that make it hard to stop cold turkey. For many, unpleasant withdrawal is a challenge to quitting a substance.
It should be noted that even those who take prescription stimulants like Adderall under the supervision of a doctor can still experience some withdrawal symptoms. After taking a substance for a long period of time, the human body simply adjusts to it and becomes used to functioning alongside a specific drug. The human body is extraordinarily flexible and adaptable when it comes to substance use. That’s why even licit users of Adderall might experience some degree of withdrawal when their dose is lowered, or they stop using.
Usually, Adderall withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The time frame can depend on the dose and length of time a person has been taking the drug. When compared to withdrawals from other kinds of drugs, Adderall withdrawal doesn’t usually carry many major medical risks. Instead, most users experience a depressed and gloomy mood, similar to the crash that comes after taking Adderall but intensified.
Withdrawal From Adderall Symptoms
Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can include
- Losing interest in usual activities or events
- Feeling lost, empty, or hopeless
- Getting easily irritated, angry, and frustrated, even about relatively minor events
- Constantly feeling tired and having little energy
- Increased anxiety
- Abnormal eating habits (eating more or less than usual)
- Trouble concentrating, making plans, or thinking
- Physical aches and pains
- Thinking you are worthless and increased self-criticism
- Feeling guilty
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harm
Is There Addiction Treatment Or Detox For Adderall?
If you have taken Adderall illicitly for a long time, you can benefit greatly from a comprehensive, individualized addiction treatment program. Even though Adderall might seem like a common and not overly “serious” drug like heroin or cocaine, Adderall dependence and addiction can still affect your health and life in major ways.
Treatment is available for Adderall addiction. Through addiction treatment, an individual can be surrounded by others who are dealing with similar problems such as drug and alcohol dependency and addiction. At Vertava Health, medically-supervised detox can make your withdrawal symptoms as comfortable as possible and ensure you remain in good health. Then, therapy and other recreational activities can assist you in learning more about addiction and teach you strategies to live a life without illicit Adderall use.
When you are stuck in a cycle of Adderall addiction, living a life without it might seem challenging and impossible. It might be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Addiction treatment is available that will suit your needs and address your concerns. People recover every day from addiction and dependency. Now it’s your turn.
At Vertava Health, we recognize the prevalence and seriousness of Adderall addiction and dependency. With our full continuum of care, you can find everything you need from an addiction treatment program right here. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff are ready to help you take the first step towards a better future. Call our counselors today to get admitted or get answers to your questions. Contact us today at (615) 208-2941.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does Adderall withdrawal last?
Usually, Adderall withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The time frame can depend on the dose and length of time a person has been taking the drug. Those who have been using Adderall for a longer period of time will probably experience withdrawal symptoms for longer than those who have taken it for a shorter period of time.
How to stop taking Adderall without withdrawal?
If you have been illicitly taking Adderall for a long period of time at high doses, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop taking the drug without experiencing at least some withdrawal symptoms. Even some people who take Adderall for ADHD and follow all their doctor’s instructions can experience some withdrawal symptoms when changing doses or stopping the drug.
Slowly weaning yourself off Adderall might help ease more major symptoms of withdrawal when compared to quitting cold turkey. If you are concerned about going through Adderall withdrawal, seek professional help. There are many options available for you here at Vertava Health to ensure you can go through as comfortable a withdrawal as possible.
How to ease Adderall withdrawal?
It is not always an easy task to ease the symptoms of an Adderall withdrawal. Individuals going through an Adderall withdrawal should consult with a medical professional in order to properly manage their care and recovery.
Some individuals will be prescribed anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants during the period of withdrawal. However, not every option or medication is appropriate for everyone. It is best to seek professional advice in this case to ensure your safety.