In the face of rising college tuition costs and competition for scholarships, many students turn to prescription stimulants like Adderall to help them focus, or to ease pressure. They often believe that stimulants improve academic performance and secure a spot at their dream college.
Adderall and other amphetamines are known as “brain boosters” and “study drugs” because some students believe that these drugs help improve cognition. Adderall doesn’t make a person smarter, but it can increase the perception and feeling of being smarter by improving motivation. Also, It can cause side effects like hallucinations, epilepsy, psychosis and malnutrition.
The prolonged use of Adderall can lead to addiction and its associated risks. Contrary to what many teens — and even some parents — believe about abusing Adderall, amphetamine is a highly addictive drug.
Prescription stimulants are usually safe for those they are prescribed, but even people under the supervision of a doctor are at risk of developing an addiction. Those who use Adderall without medical assistance to get high or fuel all-night study sessions are at risk of developing an addiction. Due to the likelihood of Adderall addiction, the U.S. government designated Adderall to the same drug classification as cocaine and methamphetamine.
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What is Adderall?
Adderall is the brand-name prescription of amphetamine. Adderall stimulates the brain to overproduce certain chemicals like dopamine, which affects a person’s mood, motor activity and alertness.
The story of amphetamine abuse began in 1887 when Romanian chemist Lazar Edeleanu first synthesized the drug. In the 1930s, American biochemist Gordon Alles discovered the stimulant effects of the drug and created Benzedrine, a decongestant inhaler. In the years following Benzedrine’s creation, doctors also prescribed Benzedrine to treat depression, narcolepsy and nausea caused by pregnancy.
- More on the History of Adderall:
During World War II, militaries used amphetamines to keep their troops awake and energized.
After WWII, amphetamine was rebranded to target homemakers looking to slim down and boost their mood. Amphetamine abuse became common in the 1960s when overall drug usage rates rose across the United States. Shire Pharmaceuticals released Adderall on the market in 1996 as a drug intended to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
Adderall comes in two forms: Adderall IR tablets (immediate-release) and Adderall XR (extended-release) capsules. The tablet form administers the amphetamine quickly. The extended-release capsules take longer to break down, distributing amphetamine throughout the day.
People usually abuse Adderall by taking it orally, but the tablets may also be chewed or crushed and snorted to quickly achieve an Adderall high.
Although Adderall is the brand name for amphetamine, colloquially, the drug is known by many other names. Drug dealers, teenagers and other individuals who abuse the drug may use slang for Adderall to avoid suspicion.
- Common street names for Adderall include:
- Pep Pills
- Smart Pills
- Study Buddies
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers Adderall to have a high potential for abuse and addiction. They classify it as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Other Schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, OxyContin and Ritalin. According to the DEA, Schedule II drugs have a recognized medical use, along with the potential for abuse and addiction. Because Adderall has medical legitimacy, it is only legal for individuals with a prescription.
What is an Adderall Addiction?
Adderall addiction is when a person continues to use the drug even when it harms them financially, occupationally or in their interpersonal relationships. Symptoms of substance use disorder impact all aspects of a person’s life. Treatment involves helping a person return to a healthy level of functioning while contributing to society.
- How Addictive is Adderall?
Adderall is addictive, even if someone takes it as prescribed under the supervision of a physician. Abuse of a prescription increases the potential for addiction. Abusing it can cause intense feelings of pleasure and high energy. Abusing Adderall has a very high chance of leading to addiction.
- Who Abuses Adderall?
While Adderall is prescribed for individuals living with ADHD, abuse commonly occurs amongst college students.
Students use the drug to stay awake and focus on finishing assignments. The drug is widely passed around on college campuses. Students sometimes refer to Adderall as a “study drug,” and there’s a common misconception that the drug will allow students to gain knowledge and receive better grades.
- Proper & Safe Adderall Dosage:
Dosage amounts vary based on the patient’s age, specific needs and the condition for which Adderall is prescribed.
Adults usually start with Adderall IR 5 mg once or twice daily. Their dose may be increased or decreased depending on response. If an adult is started on Adderall XR, the dose may be 10–20 mg initially. The maximum recommended dose is 50 mg daily.
Children under 12 years old will be started at 2.5–10 mg daily, depending on their medical condition and age. The dose will then be closely monitored and adjusted by the prescribing doctor. The maximum daily dose for children is 40 mg.
Signs & Symptoms of an Adderall Addiction
Adderall addiction can manifest in a number of ways. Each person can experience different symptoms depending on the severity of the addiction.
- Common Symptoms of Adderall Abuse:
- A decline in personal hygiene
- Accelerated talking
- Aggressive behavior
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
Common Adderall Combinations
Adderall can be dangerous to a person’s health on its own, and when it is combined with other drugs, the side effects can be compounded and unpredictable. Some common combinations include Adderall with: alcohol, marijuana, and Xanax.
Combining alcohol and Adderall can be dangerous because the stimulating effects of amphetamine delay the symptoms of alcohol, including drowsiness and a lack of coordination. Without recognizing these signs, a person risks alcohol poisoning or an accident related to their drinking.
There is limited scientific data on the combined effects of marijuana and Adderall. However, some reports claim that the combination causes symptoms similar to combining Adderall with alcohol. The combination can be dangerous because it increases a person’s tolerance for marijuana and masks the side effects of an overdose.
It’s dangerous to take Adderall and Xanax together because both are controlled substances with a high potential for addiction. Combining these two substances increases the likelihood of developing an addiction. The combination is also dangerous because the effects of one could overpower the other, causing the person to take too much of Adderall or Xanax and risking the possibility of an overdose.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.
Adderall Addiction & Abuse Statistics
Adderall is a relatively common drug amongst students in high school and college. In 2017, about 6% of high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Adderall. However, the good news is that this number is declining.
Between 2009 and 2013, the nonmedical use of Adderall increased, but usage has been decreasing through 2017.
Of those who abused Adderall, sixty percent of teens and young adults report that they bought or received Adderall through a friend or relative.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Call today to learn more about treatment options for Adderall Addiction.
Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Amphetamines.” 2013. Accessed September 28, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Agency. “Drug Scheduling.” Accessed September 28, 2019.
Food and Drug Administration. “Adderall Package Insert.” 2017. Accessed October 9, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Stimulants.” June 2018. Accessed September 28, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is the Scope of Prescription Drug Misuse?” December 2018. Accessed September 28, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.