Adderall Addiction: The Dangers of the Most Popular Study Drug

Orange County Addiction Treatment Center

Is Adderall Addictive?

Adderall is a combination of pharmaceutical drugs that are classified as stimulants and contain amphetamines. It is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy and has been proven to help certain people stay focused, control behavioral problems and improve listening skills.

Although it is a prescription drug, Adderall has a high risk of abuse by people looking to get a stimulant rush from abusing the medication.  Because of its prevalence among high school and college students, Adderall is easily passed between people who have a prescription and those who don’t.  The line between taking prescription drugs in a doctor’s recommended dosage and abusing them can be blurry at times.  However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), recognizes Adderall Abuse as a type of stimulant use disorder and requires the same type of treatment recommended for methamphetamine or cocaine addiction.

Like other stimulant drugs, Adderall use can quickly turn to addiction.  Symptoms of Adderall addiction can be physical, behavioral and psychological and can affect every aspect of a person’s life.  Some of these symptoms can include:

  • Increased Talkativeness
  • A False Sense of Grandiosity
  • Dry Mouth
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Anxiety and Nervousness
  • Fear of Running out of Adderall

Chronic Adderall abuse causes a person to build up a tolerance to the drug.  This tolerance will require them to take larger amounts of the drug to feel the same effects.  Like any other abused drug, if a person cannot acquire enough Adderall to satisfy their addiction, they will experience withdrawal.  Common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal are irritability, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion.

Adderall Addiction Treatment Center

Adderall Addiction

Once Adderall use crosses the threshold into addiction, it can cause longterm negative effects on a person’s health.  The first and most common symptom of Adderall addiction is unhealthy weight loss.  This can lead to a host of secondary symptoms like muscle loss, lowered metabolism, nutrient deficiencies, and gallstones. 

Another common symptom is sleeplessness.  While an Adderall addict may be pleased with the short-term benefits of being able to focus on their work and study through the night, the effects of not getting enough sleep can be very harmful to their health.  Some secondary symptoms of sleeplessness or insomnia are moodiness, irritability, depression, difficulty learning, clumsiness, and forgetfulness.  There are other more severe effects as well, including a weakened immune system, increase risk for respiratory disease, increased insulin production, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  
Adderall addicts often resort to snorting, smoking or injecting the drug in order to heighten the effects and get their fix more quickly.

Taking Adderall in any way other than orally can also cause a host of negative effects.   When snorted, Adderall causes a dangerous increase in heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.  People with other pre-existing disorders can also encounter dangerous side effects if they use Adderall and suffer from bipolar disorder, seizure conditions or cardiac issues.  

When the high from Adderall abuse wears off, users experience a sudden crash from the stimulant high.  This crash is characterized by exhaustion, excessive sleep, nausea, depression, and irritation.  After an extended period of abuse, the addict will begin to depend on Adderall to perform common functions.  At this point, an addict will need to use Adderall just to go about their day as normal without feeling the negative effects of withdrawal. 

Depending on the level of addiction, if an addict attempts to quit “cold-turkey” on their own these withdrawal effects can become more dramatic and include panic, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and nightmares. 

Treatment for Adderall Addiction 

Once a person recognizes that they have an addiction and decides to seek help, the first step of the process is a medically supervised detoxDuring detox, patients will undergo a full medical evaluation, and a counselor will perform a complete medical intake to assess the level of Adderall present in the addicted individual’s system.  Based on this information, the staff of the treatment center will design a rehabilitation program to meet the specific needs of the individual.  During this time Medication-Assistance may be provided to mitigate the negative effects of the physical withdrawal symptoms to make sure that the patient can focus on recovery.

In rehab, an Adderall addict will receive both individual and group psychotherapy.  A licensed therapist will work with the patient to address the underlying causes of their addiction and develop a strategy to overcome their issues.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will be utilized to analyze the patient’s relationship to themselves and their environment and they will begin the healing process.  CBT can also be used to examine the initial reasons why the Adderall addict began abusing the drug in the first place. 

If the patient is a college student who felt insecure and unprepared for the college routine and began relying on Adderall to get them through a tough spot, the therapist can recommend strategies to boost their self-confidence and teach them time-management techniques to combat procrastination.  Oftentimes the route of addictive behavior is fear.  For an Adderall addict, this may be a fear of letting down their parents, fear of not being smart enough to succeed, and an overall fear of becoming a failure. 

These deep underlying issues can lead a person who is susceptible to addiction down a dark path of self-loathing and self-destruction.  By learning new skills to cope with these fears and feelings of generalized anxiety, an Adderall addict can learn to live at peace with themselves and with the world around them.

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance in dealing with Adderall Addiction, help is available.


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