Formally used in medicine as a drug to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Adderall has also become a drug of choice for recreational users. Dealt on the street as “speed,” and often used in “academic doping” to enhance test performance, Adderall is an amphetamine that acts on chemical messengers in the brain.
Creating euphoria, calm and an energized, wakeful state, Adderall can quickly lead to addiction — with liabilities that include mental health issues, physical maladies and even fatal overdoses when addiction remains untreated.
How Adderall Addiction Develops
Adderall is a mixture of four potent amphetamines — including those found in Dexedrine and Benzedrine. As a result, Adderall encourages to over-release the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) known as dopamine and norepinephrine when the drug is used. These neurotransmitters are restrained from uptake, creating a flood of dopamine and norephinephrine in the brain. Adderall users then experience euphoria, heightened confidence, awakening and a better ability to concentrate as a result.
Adderall addiction generally has several components: drug tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, “crashing,” psychological addiction and chemical imbalances induced by the drug. Higher doses of Adderall lead to users abusing the drug and building up a physical tolerance, causing Adderall to be taken in additional doses for the user to benefit from the initial “high” experienced at the lower dosage. Post-binge “crashes” (including exhaustion, depression and dehydration) become worse as users boost Adderall doses, furthering dependence as users re-dose to avoid the crash.
Chemical imbalances created by Adderall’s effects on neurotransmitters cause the brain to lower production of these vital brain chemicals — leaving users feeling “normal” while on the drug but depressed, anxious and unfocused when the Adderall is no longer present in the system. As a result, physical withdrawal sets in. Finally, psychological addiction can further bolster Adderall addiction, as the brain’s reward systems become activated when the drug is present in the system — and users come to associate positive outcomes or personality traits with Adderall ingestion.
Signs of Adderall Addiction
Users addicted to Adderall experience a host of physical and mental symptoms. Physically, Adderall-addicted individuals will often experience rapid or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia or tachycardia), panic attacks or hyperactivity. Chronic thirst and dangerous dehydration can also take place with continued Adderall abuse.
Some users experience a litany of digestive problems, including constipation, vomiting, nausea and stomach pains. Sleeping disorders are also common to Adderall-addicted individuals, including insomnia (trouble falling asleep), hypersomnia (oversleeping) and interrupted REM sleep. Other signs of Adderall addiction include migraine headaches, emotional disturbances such as depression and mood swings, weight loss and nightmares.