Adderall is a combined form of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that can be used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), and for other purposes that require a stimulant medication.
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that comes in two forms:
- Immediate release (Adderall IR)
- Extended-release (Adderall XR)
The IR version will result in stimulant effects that can last 4-6 hours, and the XR version typically produces effects lasting about 12 hours. Adderall has significant medicinal uses; however, it is a drug that does carry a significant risk for abuse and the development of physical dependence. As such, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drugs in this classification are tightly controlled and can only be legally obtained with a prescription from a physician due to their potential for abuse.
Recognizing a Stimulant Use Disorder
An individual who is suspected of abusing Adderall would be formally diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder. This is a serious mental health disorder that most often requires formal intervention. The signs of a stimulant use disorder as a result of Adderall abuse are outlined below.
- The person repeatedly engages in nonmedicinal use of Adderall. Individuals with a prescription to Adderall who use it within the confines of their prescription would not be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Anyone repeatedly using Adderall for purposes outside of its prescribed uses is demonstrating behavior consistent with abuse or addiction.
- The person repeatedly grinds up pills and snorts them or mixes them with water and injects the solution.
- The person displays difficulty controlling their use of Adderall. This can occur over a number of different contexts, including:
- Repeatedly misusing the drug in spite of experiencing negative ramifications associated with use, such as relationship issues, work troubles, problems at school, financial issues, etc.
- Giving up important activities in favor of using the drug
- Spending lengthy amounts of time using the drug, recovering from its use, or trying to get it
- Frequently using more of the drug than originally intended (e.g., frequently using all available Adderall in one sitting)
- Frequent attempts to cut down or stop using Adderall that are unsuccessful
- Continuing to use Adderall despite awareness that use is resulting in issues with psychological or physical health
- The person frequently uses Adderall with other substances, such as alcohol, pain medications, cannabis, etc.
- The person has strong urges to use Adderall frequently.
- The person uses Adderall in situations where it is dangerous to do so, such as before driving a car or operating other machinery.
- The person uses Adderall to cope with stress or improve mood.
- The person develops tolerance to Adderall./li>
- The person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they cannot use Adderall.
Anyone who displays two or more of the above signs may have a formal SUD. Anyone suspected of having an SUD should consult with a mental health clinician. l
These disorders do not remit by themselves; most often, they require targeted interventions.
There are some other signs that might occur in addition to the ones listed above. Often, the signs below are observed before a person notices the more telling signs listed above. These include:
- The person displays cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, and even nosebleeds or hoarseness.
- The person displays intermittent hyperactive behaviors, pressured and talkative speech, and a significantly decreased need to sleep that alternate with periods of lethargy, inattention, depression, irritability, etc.
- Drug paraphernalia, such as straws, mirrors, rolled-up paper money, etc., are present.
- Empty prescription bottles are present.
- For individuals who have a prescription for Adderall, major signs of abuse include the need for more frequent refills, visiting different doctors to get multiple prescriptions for the drug, etc.
Dangers of Adderall Abuse
An obvious danger of abusing any drug is the development of a formal SUD. Individuals who develop SUDs are also at risk to be diagnosed with some other mental health disorder.
Research studies, such as one published in the American Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, note that the abuse of drugs like Adderall can lead to some other serious potential consequences. These include:
- The development of cardiovascular issues due to prolonged increased blood pressure and accelerated heart rate, leading to damage that can increase the risk for heart attack or stroke
- Complications with physical health as a result of dehydration, damage to nasal passages due to snorting the drug, poor judgment as a result of stimulant intoxication, and issues with appetite and sleep
- Significant alterations in the central nervous system that may increase the risk for the development of neurological issues, such as seizures or other potential issues
- An increased probability to develop issues with psychological functioning, such as hallucinations, delusions, depression (as a result of withdrawal), apathy, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, etc.
- An increased potential to engage in risky behaviors that can be detrimental to health as a result of stimulant intoxication
- Risk for potential overdose with escalating abuse
The development of a substance use disorder as a result of Adderall abuse is a serious issue. Treatment for these disorders should only be delivered by licensed, trained, mental health clinicians.