The Effects of Adderall and Concerta on College Students

Stimulant medications, like Adderall and Concerta, can be beneficial for people who struggle with ADHD. They can help improve focus and attention, which makes them a popular “study drug” for college students. However, these medications also have a known risk for misuse, dependence, and addiction.

This article will explain what Adderall and Concerta are, how they work, and the effects that they have on college students.

What Are Adderall and Concerta?

Adderall and Concerta are prescription stimulant medications used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), doctors often prescribe stimulant medications Adderall, Concerta, and methylphenidate to children, adolescents, and adults who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How Do Adderall and Concerta Work?

Prescription stimulants work by increasing the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects attention, movement, and feelings of pleasure. Drugs like Adderall and Concerta stimulate a slow and steady increase of dopamine that is fairly similar to the way the brain produces it. Physicians typically start off patients on a low dose and gradually increase it until a therapeutic effect is achieved and cognitive function has improved.

Adderall and Concerta Side Effects

Like many medications, Adderall and Concerta have side effects. Typically these abate over time, but if you are concerned about potential reactions it’s important to consult your healthcare provider right away.

Adderall side effects include:

  • Upset stomach.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Insomnia.
  • Mild anxiety.

Rare but serious side effects include:

  • Significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, or delusions.
  • Severe muscle pain or weakness.
  • Dark urine due to dehydration.
  • Prolonged or painful erections.
  • Color change and changed feeling in fingers or toes.

Concerta side effects are similar to those of Adderall.

Adderall and Concerta Misuse

Despite the potentially negative side effects, there is widespread belief that prescription stimulants make people smarter, making these drugs especially popular among high school and college students.

According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, the rate of amphetamine use has been steadily rising since 2008 among college students. Because drugs like Adderall and Concerta reduce the body’s need for sleep while increasing concentration, college students believe they can pull all-night study sessions without worrying about forgetting the material or feeling sleep deprived.

Both Adderall and Concerta are Schedule II drugs, meaning that they have a high risk for misuse, dependence, and addiction. People who use higher doses of these medications than prescribed, use other people’s prescriptions, take Concerta or Adderall more frequently than prescribed, or combine them with other substances (e.g., alcohol or illicit drugs) are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects — including dependence and addiction.

Risks Associated with Long-term Use

People who misuse stimulant medications by taking larger and larger doses for a significant period of time face all of the same risks associated with short-term use, as well as several risks particular to long-term use. According to a report originally published in Paediatrics & Child Health, long-term use of Adderall and other stimulants can result in life-threatening cardiovascular complications. The New York Times reports that adults might be at the highest risk for heart problems resulting from taking stimulants, but doctors claim the risk is fairly small, especially for children and adolescents.

Other risks of using Adderall and Concerta on a long-term basis include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Feelings of depression.
  • Intense irritability.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.

Ultimately, the longer someone uses Adderall or Concerta, the stronger the likelihood that they will become dependent on the medication, which may require professional help to overcome.

Signs of Stimulant Misuse or Addiction

Parents who are worried about their children abusing stimulants may not be able to monitor them for signs while they’re away at college, but they can check in on their children regularly during breaks, holidays, and over the phone. While only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose a stimulant use disorder, knowing what to look for can be helpful in getting your loved one the treatment they may need.

There are 11 criteria that are used by professionals to diagnose addiction to stimulants. Some of these include:

  • Adderall or Concerta are taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • There is a strong desire or urge to use Adderall or Concerta (cravings).
  • Continuing to use Adderall or Concerta despite experiencing negative social or interpersonal problems caused by or made worse by use.
  • Experiencing withdrawal when use of Adderall or Concerta is abruptly cut back or suddenly stopped.

If a loved one exhibits any of the symptoms of abuse or addiction, it’s important to reach out and offer support. Ultimately, individuals have to make the decision to commit to treatment of their own volition, but family members can help.

Getting Help for Stimulant Addiction

If you are struggling with Adderall or Concerta misuse, or know someone who is, there is effective help that can help you get on the road to recovery from stimulant dependence or addiction. At our Orange County, CA inpatient rehab, our team of dedicated and compassionate specialists use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help people overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol.

To learn more about our different levels of care to find one that’s right for you, contact our knowledgable and caring admissions navigators at . They can also answer your questions about starting the rehab admissions process, as well as help you to learn more about your rehab payment options — including using insurance to cover treatment.

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