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Adderall Addiction

Posted on January 25, 2013 in Prescription Drug Addiction

Adderall AddictionShire Specialty Pharmaceuticals introduced Adderall in 2001, and by the end of a decade millions of American children were taking it to relieve symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. In late 2011, when the drug was temporarily in short supply, parents and teachers were challenged by how incontrollable children had become without their medications, and parents were going to heroic lengths to obtain Adderall. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry called the shortage “devastating.”

How could one drug have become so important in the lives of so many children in such a short time?

The number of American children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorders has been increasing by about 5% since 2003.

By 2007, 9.5% of Americans ages four to 17 years old or 9.5% (5.4 million children) have the diagnosis.
American children are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to their counterparts in other areas of the world. The U.S.A. has only four percent of the world’s population but uses 88% of its supply of legal amphetamines found in drugs like Adderall.

Some experts believe that the U.S.A. uses more ADHD drugs because the country is simply more advanced and its medical community is better at diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders.

In any event, because there is so much Adderall being prescribed, it is widely available and widely abused off-label. Thousands of people use it casually as a study or weight loss aid, or as an adjunct to other drug or alcohol abuse. What they often do not realize is that Adderall, even though it is prescribed to children, is one of the most addictive drugs made. The U.S. government classifies it as a Schedule II Controlled Substance right along with methamphetamine and cocaine. Abusing Adderall carries serious risks to your health, and if you are caught using or giving it away without medical supervision, you face the most severe penalties and fines for possessing and dealing in addictive drugs.

What Is Adderall?

Amphetamines are man-made drugs that stimulate the central nervous system by acting within the brain and central nervous system, and by increasing levels of dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. By altering the levels of this chemical and another called norepinephrine, these drugs raise body temperature and the rates of heart beat, respiration and blood pressure.
They can also cause euphoria and increased levels of alertness, energy and focus, and decrease the need for food and sleep.

Adderall is about 75% dextroamphetamine and 25% amphetamine.

The chemical name for amphetamine is 1-phenylpropan-2-amine.

Dextroamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine except that it has a sugar molecule attached to it. Its chemical name is d-alpha-methyl-phenethylamine and its molecule looks like this:

Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine were available from 1930s to 1970 over-the-counter in various products for weight control, “energizers” that lessen your need for sleep, or as bronchial inhalators. When the number of these pills sold annually climbed over a billion and it was becoming evident some Americans were addicted to them, the U.S. federal government classified them as Schedule II Controlled Substances, which have the highest potential for addiction but some legitimate medical uses.

Amphetamine drugs like Adderall are now available by doctors’ prescriptions only.

Medical Uses Of Adderall

Adderall is prescribed for children and adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. Adderall and Vyvanse, both from Shire, are close chemical cousins in the amphetamine family, but they are unrelated chemically to Ritalin, Concerta, Metabate and other ADHD drugs that contain methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is usually the first drug of choice for Attention Deficit Disorder, but if a patient cannot tolerate it, then a doctor will prescribe Adderall, Vyvanse or Dexedrine from the amphetamine family.

Adderall is also prescribed for narcolepsy, a condition in which people have the sudden need to sleep even in the daytime.

Adderall is the most common version of the combination amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and it is sold in bottles of 100 pills and in strengths of 5, 15, 20, and 30 mg. The pills say “AD” on one side and the number of milligrams on the other, and come as round, oval and sometimes convex pills in white, blue, and orange. Adderall Extended Release tablets come in similar strengths.

Doctors usually start the dosage for Adderall at 5mg once or twice a day for adults and children over six years old, and increase it gradually to 20 to 25mg a day, if needed.

Adderall is usually taken after meals and not in the evening because it can cause insomnia. The drug’s effect takes place within ten to 20 minutes of taking it and can last for four to six hours. Extended release versions can sometimes last all day.

Side Effects Of Adderall

Common and manageable side effects of Adderall can be restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, shaking, changes in eyesight, anxiety, dry mouth, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss, and changes in sexual desire. These are usually not serious and may even go away after you get used to the drug.

However, if you experience the following serious side effects, you should stop taking Adderall and consult your doctor. These are pain when you urinate, very high blood pressure, changes in the rhythm of your heart beating, fever, tics, and chills.

Rare and life-threatening allergic reactions can occur the first time you take Adderall. These symptoms are skin blisters, chest pain, difficulty speaking and breathing, and hallucinations.

Drugs That Interact With Adderall

Taking Adderall with MAO Inhibitors can be fatal. This combination causes a spike in blood pressure. Doctors do not want you to take amphetamine drugs until you have stopped taking MAO Inhibitors for at least two weeks.

Combining Adderall with other stimulants including energy drinks, coffee, caffeinated sodas, methamphetamine, Desoxyn, Vyvanse or Dexedrine increase its effect and can lead to stroke or heart attacks.

You should not take Adderall with antidepressants, cold, flu or allergy medications, or drugs to lower blood pressure, alpha blockers, antacids and other medications for ulcers or heartburn, Vitamin C, or diuretics (water pills). You will lessen the effects of narcotics, opiate painkillers, anesthetics, sleeping pills, alcohol, and other drugs that depress the central nervous system if you take them with Adderall.

Adderall should not be used with lithium, Haldol, Demerol, Thorazine, seizure drugs, Holoperidol, Doxazosin, Prazosin, phenothiazines, Dilantin, Hiprex, Darvon, methenamine, phenobarbital, and Serpalan.

Young people abusing Adderall frequently combine it with alcohol because amphetamines make you feel alert and not drunk, enabling you to drink more. This is not a good idea because you put yourself at risk for alcohol poisoning.

Risks Of Adderall

The main risk of Adderall is for addiction. Children are not likely to become addicted because they cannot buy their own drugs, and they take this medicine under parental and medical supervision. People most likely to become addicted use Adderall along with alcohol or other drugs, take it in large amounts, or snort, smoke or inject it. It is the person who uses Adderall as an energizer, diet pill or performance enhancer who is more likely to become addicted.

A physical dependency on Adderall means building up a tolerance to the effect of the drug and going through withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. Once you’ve built up a tolerance to Adderall, you need more to achieve the effects you want, until you are taking it at unhealthy levels. You risk damage to your heart, kidneys and liver. People addicted to stimulants have developed convulsions, fevers, psychoses, irregular heartbeats, and malnutrition . Even when you use these drugs short-term but without a medical need, you can develop psychotic episodes similar to paranoid schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

Adderall slows the rate of growth in children, who usually have to go to the doctor for height checks while they are taking these drugs. One study found that children on these drugs grew one centimeter or about half-inch less in three years than their peer groups.

Who Should Not Take Adderall

Anyone with a history of drug abuse or alcoholism should not take Adderall because it is addictive. Adderall is not prescribed to those with glaucoma, overactive thyroids, heart problems, high blood pressure, tic disorders, seizures, and mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and mania.

Children with unhealthy hearts or who come from families with histories of heart disease should not take Adderall, because some have died suddenly after their first dosage. Adderall was banned in Canada after it was linked to the deaths of 12 American children.

Adults with heart problems or high blood pressure can likewise have strokes or heart attacks after taking these medications.

The manufacturer of Adderall uses a warning label that says the drug can cause sudden deaths, and that it is highly addictive and likely to be diverted and abused.

The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine published a case study of a teenage girl who developed hallucinations, bizarre behaviors, and other symptoms of psychosis after taking Adderall.

Adderall Overdoses

Symptoms of overdose can be tremor, restlessness, skin changes, high blood pressure, muscle spasms, change in heart rate, fast breathing rate, confusion, aggression, hallucinations, panic, diarrhea, vomiting, blood in urine, suicidal or homicidal ideation, and rhabdomyolsis.

If the person becomes dehydrated and overheated, he or she can have convulsions or experience circulatory collapse, enter shock or a coma, or even die. Get professional emergency help as soon as possible.

Adderall Addiction

Some of the most recent research on Adderall has produced conflicting results. Studies originally done in the 1970s tended to track only short-term changes in children who were prescribed ADHD drugs, and concluded that stimulants have a paradoxical calming effect on children with ADHD, perhaps because of genetically-based brain differences. However, new studies in the 1990s found that all children react to stimulants in the same way and become more focused and able to concentrate better under the influence of the drugs.

A 2009 British research team followed 600 children for three years and found no differences in the academic performance, peer relationships or behaviors among children with ADHD who either were or were not treated with drugs. An American study that is tracking children since 1975 found that adverse childhood experiences such as an impoverished environment or unstable parents predict ADHD, not genetics, infant temperament or IQ.

Another found that ADHD may be more related to sleep apnea or difficulty breathing than brain differences.

There is no doubt, however, that parents and teachers can provide much anecdotal evidence that the drugs are completely necessary for many children. Moreover, researchers from the University of California found that young children who take ADHD medications have higher test scores on standardized exams equivalent to a fifth of a school year when compared to those who do not take the drugs, but this was not a long-term study.

Meanwhile, Adderall is widely abused and easy to obtain, because it is so commonly prescribed.

People may believe that the average Adderall addict is a “brain,” cramming for college exams or pulling an all-nighter to get good grades. It is true that college students are twice as likely to use Adderall, Ritalin and other ADHD drugs when compared to peers not enrolled in college.

It is also true that these drugs are widely abused at elite high schools, and that some students snort them before their SAT exams.

However, government researchers who investigated Adderall abuse on college campus found that those who abuse the drug tend to be poor students and heavy users of alcohol and other drugs. There is some evidence that Adderall abuse is a gateway to cocaine and methamphetamine addictions.

Besides collegians, Adderall is frequently abused by pilots, truckers, and soldiers.

Females abuse Adderall at equal rates as males, which is unusual and probably due to women with eating disorders abusing Adderall as an appetite suppressant. In general, males abuse drugs at twice the rates of females.

Adderall Addiction Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms will depend on how much Adderall you have been taking, how long you’ve been taking it, your general health, age, weight, and other individual factors. The majority of people who enter medical treatment facilities for Adderall addictions are using other drugs and alcohol as well, and their withdrawal symptoms will depend on the use of these substances as well. Some people experience no withdrawal symptoms at all if they were just using Adderall.

Adderall is an amphetamine, so its withdrawal syndrome is similar to other amphetamines and stimulants. Symptoms may include extreme tiredness (some people just sleep for a few days) or the opposite — insomnia. Other typical symptoms are depression, irritability, loss of appetite, loss of interest in daily activities, and feelings of hopelessness. People who have been abusing stimulants in large amounts and for long periods of time may experience suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and even paranoia, which is why it is a good idea to withdraw from Adderall or other amphetamines under medical supervision.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

After you stop using Adderall, you may experience cravings for the drug. Some people become depressed and suicidal. Others become upset when their appetites return and they start gaining weight. For these reasons, psychological withdrawal from Adderall can be more difficult that actually getting off it physically.

The treatment for Adderall addiction is based on proven treatments for methamphetamine and other addictions to stimulants. If you enter a residential treatment center, you will be accessed for other psychiatric conditions that “travel” with stimulant addictions, such as underlying depression, unresolved childhood traumas, fear of failure, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and so forth. These conditions or comorbidities, which may have been never diagnosed before, will be treated in a separate protocol of therapy and medications. The majority of people entering treatment for addictions have comorbidities.

Residential treatment should be interesting and fun or else it probably won’t work for you. Your day should be filled with classes, individual therapy sessions, art and drama, learning to relax, and working with others who are facing similar problems. Physical fitness is a key component of addiction treatment, and you will enjoy healthy meals and indoor and outdoor sports as you become healthier. The center should offer sight-seeing outings and other social activities. By getting away from your old lifestyle and drug environment, you can assess your life and gain a new understanding of yourself and what you want for your future. Many people in addiction treatment have made major lifestyle changes such as starting new career paths or going back to college. Whether you return home or start over in a new place, your addiction treatment protocol will continue in an aftercare program of support groups and counseling in your local community.

Signs You Are Addicted To Adderall

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, it is time to consult your local mental health center or family physician about your abuse of Adderall.

  • Are you using Adderall without a doctor’s prescription?
  • Are you using Adderall to counteract the effects of other drugs, such as prescription painkillers, alcohol, or narcotics?
  • Are you using more than 25mg of Adderall every day?
  • When you try to stop using Adderall, do you experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression and fatigue?
  • Do you have health problems, such as insomnia and jitteriness, that you know are due to your Adderall abuse?
  • Are you obtaining Adderall through illegal means, including faking symptoms for a doctor? Are you afraid that you will be caught?
  • Do you believe that using Adderall is the best way to control your weight?
  • Do you think you cannot do your job or perform well at school unless you take Adderall?
  • Do your family members or friends criticize you because you abuse drugs?
  • Do you abuse energy drinks, methamphetamine or other stimulants along with Adderall?
  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to quit using Adderall?

References:

Harris, Gardiner. “FDA Finds Short Supply of ADHD Drugs,” The New York Times,  December 31, 2011.

“Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children — United States, 2003 and 2007,” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5944a3.htm

Schwartz, Alan. “Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School,” the New York Times, October 9, 2012.

Diller, Lawrence, MD. “The Ritalin Wars,” The Huffington Post, Sept. 19, 2011, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-diller/the-adderall-wars-continu_b_967971.html

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse. Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002, pg. 15.

“Adderall, Oral Route,” the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602653

“Dexetrine,” The Rx List, the Internet, see http://www.rxlist.com/dexedrine-drug.htm

“Adderall, Oral Route,” the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602653; and “Dexedrine Medication Guide,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm088583.pdf

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse. Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002, pg. 13-15.

“Adderall,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/adderall.html

Ibid.

“Adderall,” PubMed Health, The National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166/

“Stimulants, Drugs of Abuse,” Facts for Teens, National Institute on Drug Abuse, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx/pdf/PEERx_Toolkit_FactSheets_Stimulants.pdf

Griffith, Winter (MD), editor. Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs, 2009 Edition, New York: The Penguin Group, 2009, pg. 33.

“Amphetamines,” The Encyclopedia Britannica, Online edition, see http://www.britannica.com/

“Adderall,” PubMed Health, The National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166/

Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice. “Drug Fact Sheet: Amphetamines,” undated, retrieved April 27, 2011: www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/drug_data_sheets/amphetamines_DrugDataSheet.pdf.

“Public Health Advisory for Adderall and Adderall XR,” February 9, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, see http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/DrugSafetyInformationforHeathcareProfessionals/PublicHealthAdvisories/ucm051672.htm

“Adderall,” Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/adderall.html

Harris, Gardiner and Benedict Carey.  “Senator Says F.D.A. Asked Canada Not to Suspend Drug,” The New York Times, February 11, 2005.

“Adderall,” PubMed Health, The National Institutes of Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166/

Adderall instruction leaflet for patients from Shire, (manufacturer), see http://pi.shirecontent.com/PI/PDFs/AdderallXR_USA_ENG.PDF

Surles et al. “Adderall-Induced Psychosis in An Adolescent,” The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 15 (6): 498.

Adderall,”  Physicians’ Desk Reference, 65th Edition 2011.

Sroufe, Alan. “Ritalin Gone Wrong,” The New York Times, January 28, 2012.

Murphy, Kate. “Attention Problems May Be Sleep-Related,” The New York Times, April 16, 2012.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “ADHD Drugs Linked to Higher Test Scores,” The New York Times, April 27, 2009.

“Nonmedical Adderall Use Among Full-Time College Students,”  The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, see http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/adderall/adderall.cfm

“Study Drugs Popular Among High School Students,” The New York Times, June 9, 2012.

“Nonmedical Adderall Use Among Full-Time College Students,”  The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, see http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/adderall/adderall.cfm

“Amphetamines,” The Encyclopedia Britannica, Online edition, see http://www.britannica.com

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