Adderall Addiction

In the face of rising college tuition costs and heightened competition for scholarships, many teenagers are turning to prescription stimulants like Adderall to improve academic performance and secure a spot at their dream college. Adderall and other amphetamines are known as “brain boosters” and “study drugs” because students think the drugs help improve cognition. This is only a rumor, however.

While Adderall doesn’t make a person smarter, it does cause symptoms like hallucinations, epilepsy, psychosis, and malnutrition. Prolonged use of the drug can lead to Adderall addiction and its associated risks.

Contrary to what most teens and even parents believe about abusing Adderall, amphetamine is a highly addictive drug. Although prescription stimulants are safe for those they are prescribed to, people who use Adderall nonmedically to get high or fuel all-night study sessions risk a high chance of addiction. Adderall is so addictive, in fact, the U.S. government designated Adderall to the same drug classification as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Adderall is a brand name prescription amphetamine — a kind of stimulant drug that stimulates the brain to overproduce certain chemicals like dopamine, which can affect a person’s mood, motor activity, and alertness.

Adderall abuse in college and high school is very common because it’s believed taking these study drugs will lead to higher grades. This myth persists because two of the most common Adderall side effects in people without ADHD — the group the drug is intended for — are insomnia and lack of appetite. Without a need to eat or sleep, students stay up all night cramming for exams or writing papers.

Widespread amphetamine use began in 1887 when German chemist L. Edeleano first synthesized the drug. In the 1930s, American biochemist Gorden Alles discovered the stimulant effects of the drug and created Benzedrine, a decongestant inhaler. Doctors recommended Benzedrine to treat other ailments during this decade, too, like depression, narcolepsy, and nausea caused by pregnancy.

During World War II, both the Axis and the Allies used amphetamines to keep troops awake and energized. It was remarketed once again in the 1950s, this time targeting unhappy housewives looking to slim down and boost their mood. Amphetamine abuse — using the drug nonmedically — became more common starting in the 1960s when overall drug use began to rise across the U.S. Shire Pharmaceuticals released Adderall on the market in 1996 as a drug intended to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

While safe for those who follow a prescription, Adderall abuse can lead to addiction. Teens who experience an Adderall high will feel alert, energized, and productive. After continually abusing the drug, they will develop a tolerance for it, meaning it will require a higher dose of Adderall to experience the same effects. If left unchecked, this pattern of drug abuse, tolerance, and increased dosage will lead to Adderall dependence and addiction.
Adderall Addiction
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers Adderall to have such a high potential for addiction, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. Other Schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, OxyContin, and Ritalin.

According to the DEA, Schedule II drugs are considered dangerous because they have a high potential for abuse and severe drug dependence. Because Adderall has medical legitimacy, it is legal only for those with a prescription.

Adderall abuse — like other cases of prescription drug abuse — has an effect on a person’s physical and psychological well being. The short-term effects of Adderall abuse include insomnia, lack of appetite, malnutrition, and feelings of restlessness. The longer the abuse goes on, the more likely these symptoms are to develop into more dangerous and life threatening effects, including an addiction.

The long-term effects of Adderall abuse include:

  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart disease
Adderall comes in two forms — tablet and extended-release capsule. The tablet form administers the amphetamine quickly. The extended-release capsule takes longer to break down, distributing amphetamine throughout the day.

In both cases, the number of milligrams in the pill is written on it. Adderall abuse typically happens orally, but some abusers also chew the tablets or crush and snort them to reach an Adderall high quicker.

Although Adderall is the brand name for amphetamine, colloquially, the drug is known by many other names. Drug dealers, young people, and other abusers of the drug use slang for Adderall to avoid suspicion.

Street names for Adderall include:

  • Addy
  • Bennies
  • Copilots
  • Pep Pills
  • Uppers
  • Speed
  • Study Buddies
  • Smart Pills
  • Wake-Ups
Doctors prescribe Adderall as a treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which is common among children. It can also be used to treat narcolepsy, obesity, and some severe cases of depression in which other medications do not work.

Adderall abuse occurs when a person takes the drug without a prescription, or when a person with a prescription intentionally takes a much higher dose than their prescription. Adderall addiction occurs when a person develops a physiological or chemical dependence on the drug.

Dosage amounts vary based on the patient’s age, specific needs, and the condition for which Adderall is prescribed:

•Adults being treated for narcolepsy begin taking 10 mg per day, with possible later increases

•Children ages 6–12 being treated for narcolepsy begin taking 5 mg per day, with possible later increases. Children older than 12 begin taking 10 mg per day. Adderall is not recommended to treat narcolepsy in children younger than 6 years old.

•Adults being treated for ADHD begin taking 20 mg per day

•Children ages 3–5 being treated for ADD with tablets begin taking 2.5 mg once a day. Children age 6 and older begin taking 5 mg tablets once or twice per day. Adderall tablets are not recommended to treat ADHD in children younger than 3 years old.

•Children ages 6–12 being treated for ADHD with extended-release capsules begin taking 5–10 mg per day, with possible later increases. Children ages 13–17 begin taking 10 mg extended-release capsules per day, with possible later increases. Adderall extended-release capsules are not recommended to treat ADHD in children younger than 6 years old.

Adderall Addicition
Adderall can be dangerous to a person’s health on its own. When combined with other drugs, the effects can be compounded and unpredictable.

Some common combinations include taking Adderall with:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Xanax

Combining alcohol and Adderall can be dangerous because the stimulating effects of amphetamine will delay the symptoms of alcohol abuse, including drowsiness and a lack of coordination, even if the Adderall makes the symptoms of alcohol abuse stronger. Without recognizing these signs to stop drinking while on Adderall, you could risk alcohol poisoning or an accident related to drinking.

Although there is limited scientific data on the combined effects of marijuana and Adderall, there are varying user reports that claim the combination causes negative symptoms, and the combination causes limited feelings of marijuana symptoms. Similar to combining Adderall with alcohol, this can be dangerous because it increases a person’s tolerance for marijuana and masks the side effects that may signal to an abuser they have had too much.

It’s also dangerous to take Adderall and Xanax together because both are controlled substances with a high potential for addiction. Combining use will only increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. The combination is also dangerous because the effects of one could overpower the other, causing the abuser to take too much of Adderall or Xanax and risking the possibility of overdose.

Adderall abuse and addiction is the subject of many scientific studies. Some of the most compelling statistics about Adderall abuse include:

  1. 60% of all Adderall abusers, from age 12 up, are 18–25 years old
  2. Between 2006–2011, emergency room admissions involving Adderall increased 156%
  3. 54% of children with a stimulant prescription said a friend or peer has asked them to give away or sell their prescription pills
  4. 73% of 6,000 teens surveyed in 2007 said stress was their top reason for abusing prescription stimulants (and only 7% of the surveyed teens’ parents said they believe their teen might use drugs to cope with stress)
  5. Every person who has an addiction to Adderall has a different story, a different reason for why they started using the drug, and a different reason for why they stopped.
  6. In 2013, reporter Ruthie Friedlander wrote about her Adderall addiction in Elle magazine. She used Adderall for six years and started with a legal prescription. After suffering in school because of massive shifts in her social life, Friedlander’s doctor prescribed her Adderall. In hindsight, she realizes she should have been given a prescription to treat depression instead.
  7. “It took about a month for me to get hooked,” she wrote. “I remember the first few times I felt symptoms of withdrawal — clammy hands, dry mouth, and nausea among them.” She said fears of gaining weight and not being able to function well stopped her from quitting.
  8. It wasn’t until her mother asked her if she was “on something” because she looked strung out that Friedlander decided to change. After going to rehab and struggling with relapse, Friedlander flushed her Adderall pills down the toilet. She struggles with her sobriety every day, she wrote.
Benson, Thor. “The Surprising History Of Adderall.” ATTN:, 17 June 2015, www.attn.com/stories/2000/history-amphetamines-united-states. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Amphetamines | CESAR.” CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research), University of Maryland, 29 Oct. 2013, www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/amphetamines.asp. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

Drugs.com. “Adderall: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Safety Info – Drugs.com.” Drugs.com | Prescription Drug Information, Interactions & Side Effects, 19 Nov. 2015, www.drugs.com/adderall.html. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

Kent, James L. “Adderall: America’s Favorite Amphetamine.” The Huffington Post, 29 Oct. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/high-times/adderall-amphetamine_b_4174297.html. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

Teen Rehab Center. “Street Names for Drugs: A List of Popular Drug Slang Terms.” Teen Rehab Center, 15 Sept. 2016, www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/street-names-for-drugs/. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

Teen Rehab Center. “Teen Study Drug Abuse: A Parent’s Guide to This Rising Epidemic.” Teen Rehab Center, 14 Oct. 2016, www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/study-drugs-epidemic/. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.

American Addiction Centers. “What Are The Long-Term Effects of Heavy Adderall Use?” American Addiction Centers, americanaddictioncenters.org/adderall/long-term-effects/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

Friedlander, Ruthie. “The Truth About My Adderall Addiction.” ELLE, 17 Dec. 2013, www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/news/a14921/the-truth-about-my-adderall-addiction/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

Guarnotta, Emily. “Adderall Overdose | Signs, Symptoms & Effects of Overdosing.” DrugAbuse.com, drugabuse.com/library/adderall-overdose/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Adderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 16 Feb. 2016, www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2016/adderall-misuse-rising-among-young-adults.html. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

Shearer, Cynthia. “Marijuana and Adderall.” LoveToKnow, addiction.lovetoknow.com/drug-addiction/marijuana-adderall. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

Teen Rehab Center. “Teen Study Drug Abuse: A Parent’s Guide to This Rising Epidemic.” Teen Rehab Center, 14 Oct. 2016, www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/study-drugs-epidemic/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

University of Illinois-Chicago Drug Information Group. “Are Adderall and Xanax Safe Together?” Healthline, 8 June 2016, www.healthline.com/health/adhd/combining-adderall-xanax#Introduction1. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Scheduling.” United States Drug Enforcement Administration, www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml. Accessed 10 Jan. 2017.
Whitbourne, Kathryn. “Mixing Alcohol and Adderall (and Other ADHD Medications).” WebMD, www.webmd.com/add-adhd/features/alcohol-adhd-medications#1. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017.

Adderall Addiction was last modified: April 24th, 2017 by The Recovery Village