Adderall has found its way into society as a primary treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADD/ADHD. When this drug is used as prescribed for effective treatment, there is little chance for serious side effects to occur. However, taking Adderall without a prescription at one’s own discretion is considered misuse and abuse. Misuse of Adderall can lead to serious side effects and addiction.
Adderall Function and Addiction
To better understand Adderall addiction and how it typically begins, it’s best to first understand what Adderall is and how it works. Primarily, it is a stimulant drug belonging to the amphetamine class, containing four amphetamine salts in a proprietary ratio. This combination is used to provide the steadiest and longest effect possible for improved ADD/ADHD symptom control.
Amphetamines all work in a similar way to each other, whether we’re speaking about Adderall, Dexedrine, or even methamphetamine (also known as crystal meth). They all temporarily increase levels of chemicals known as neurotransmitters in the brain, including free dopamine. Normally, the brain keeps dopamine stored up and only uses the reservoir as needed. With amphetamines present, all the stored dopamine is released much faster.
Dopamine is part of the reward cycle in the brain. The dopamine receptors in the brain are also the pleasure/ reward receptors. The most addictive drugs act directly on the D2 receptor (Dopa 2). Since Adderall is in essence, amphetamine salts, it also acts on the D2 receptor to a significant degree. This explains how the drug works as well as why it’s often abused and how it can lead to addiction if not taken as prescribed.
Methods of Adderall Abuse
By prescription, Adderall is taken orally as directed. When a patient begins abusive behavior with this substance it’s usually by increasing the oral dose. But when a patient is looking for an even greater or faster high, they eventually find a way to speed up and increase its effects, even with a lower dosage. The most common way is to crush and insufflate (snort) the tablets. Another is to crush, dissolve and inject the drug.
Snorting the pill powder exposes the amphetamines to the mucous membranes of the nose, causing it to be rapidly absorbed. This creates a moderate “rush” and faster onset. It takes less of the drug to cause a high when it’s used in this manner.
Since amphetamines are water-soluble, the pills can be used to make an injectable form of the substance. It’s just a matter of heating, dissolving, and filtering. This form of abuse is by far the most harmful and takes even less quantity to get a very quick rush/high.
Effects of Adderall Abuse
Any drug abuse is dangerous and can have serious, harmful effects on both health and lifestyle. Let it be clear that addiction to some drugs are more dangerous than others and each drug has its own array of effects from abuse. Stimulants, in particular, have a critical history of quickly becoming addictive, causing a change in lifestyle, and ultimately limiting the user’s mortality.
The most serious of the long term effects of Adderall abuse is the addiction. Once the addictive behavior manifests, it tends to quickly get worse. Whether this is due to a latent tendency on the user’s behalf, or a result of the drug itself, long term side effects of Adderall and addictive behaviors are an all too common result from amphetamine abuse.
Signs of Adderall Abuse
Since the amphetamine use drains dopamine supplies, depression, lethargy, attention and concentration issues, anxiety disorders, physical weakness, and weight gain can all result from long term abuse. These side effects tend to occur once the drug use is discontinued, and also as a result of the addiction.
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Psychosis and hallucinations most often result from high dose abuse and usually abate once the drug is withdrawn. In some cases, delusional thinking and hallucinations remain as a persistent psychosis even after the drug is no longer being abused.
The cause of death from an overdose of amphetamines is typically related to the heart. An extremely rapid heartbeat along with persistent high blood pressure can easily cause a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events. Heart attack and stroke can cause severe long term physical damage and will often lead to death.