January 3rd, 2024
Adderall is a medication that has been instrumental in transforming the lives of many children and young people with ADHD. However, the same attributes that make Adderall a powerful tool in managing ADHD can also pave the way to addiction and its associated harms. Adderall addiction can latch on via various pathways, but once it has a grip on you, it can be incredibly hard to break free. It is imperative, therefore, that both users and healthcare providers tread carefully and are mindful of the fine line between therapeutic use and the risk of Adderall addiction.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant commonly used in the effective treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Comprising a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, Adderall enhances focus and reduces impulsivity by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.
Despite its therapeutic benefits, however, Adderall also comes with a risk of side effects, such as sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, mood swings and, crucially, addiction. The potential for stimulant addiction arises when Adderall is used beyond prescribed guidelines or by people who don’t have ADHD for energy, focus or productivity boosts.
In the UK, Adderall is a class-B controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Unlawful possession and supply are punishable by up to 5 years and 14 years, respectively.
Adderall use is banned by many amateur and professional sporting organisations for its performance-enhancing abilities.
What is Adderall addiction?
Adderall addiction is when you develop a compulsion to continuously use Adderall even though it is causing harm to you. The path to Adderall addiction often begins with prescribed use for ADHD or narcolepsy or through recreational use for its energy-boosting effects. Over time, users then develop a tolerance to Adderall, requiring higher doses to get the same effects.
This increased use can quickly turn into a dependency where you need Adderall to feel “normal” and experience withdrawal symptoms if you cut down or stop. Addiction to Adderall can have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only your physical health but also your mental well-being, personal relationships, job and education.
What causes Adderall addiction?
It is important to understand that not everybody who takes Adderall will go on to develop an addiction. However, there are various factors which can increase your chances of becoming addicted to Adderall, including:
People with underlying mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may use Adderall for its mood-enhancing effects, unknowingly paving the way for addiction to take hold.
Environmental factors, including high-pressure academic or professional settings, can lead to the misuse of Adderall to enhance performance and productivity. Soon, you can become reliant on Adderall to get through work or school and develop an Adderall addiction without even knowing it.
Recreational use of Adderall, particularly among young adults and students seeking its euphoric effects, often leads to a pattern of abuse and eventual addiction.
Some people may begin using Adderall to self-medicate for issues like fatigue or concentration difficulties, which can quickly escalate into habitual use and addiction.
A family history of substance abuse can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction to Adderall, as genetic factors have been shown to play a significant role in the risk of dependency.
How to spot Adderall addiction signs
Identifying signs of Adderall addiction as early as possible is crucial for receiving effective treatment. This is not always easy, as many who develop an addiction to Adderall start with a legitimate prescription. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, here are ten Adderall addiction signs to watch out for:
- Increasing the dosage of Adderall beyond the prescribed amount.
- Using Adderall without a prescription or for non-medical reasons.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression or irritability when not taking Adderall.
- Neglecting social, occupational or recreational activities due to Adderall use.
- Continuing to use Adderall despite awareness of its harmful consequences.
- Experiencing cravings or a strong desire to use Adderall.
- Engaging in risky behaviours, especially when under the influence of Adderall.
- Failing to control or reduce Adderall use despite efforts to do so.
- Developing tolerance and needing more Adderall than before to achieve desired effects.
If you notice these Adderall addiction signs in yourself or someone else, it’s important to seek professional help. The sooner treatment begins, the better outlook for a smooth, successful recovery.
What are the effects of Adderall addiction?
Adderall addiction side effects can be extensive, affecting various aspects of your life. These include:
Physical health risks
Physical Adderall addiction side effects include cardiovascular problems, such as hypertension and heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite leading to rapid weight loss and, most seriously, overdose.
Symptoms of an Adderall overdose include extreme restlessness, tremors, rapid breathing, confusion, hallucinations, panic attacks, fever, muscle pains and, in extreme cases, heart attack or seizures. An overdose of Adderall can also exacerbate mental health issues, leading to heightened anxiety or aggression and can cause long-term damage to the heart and nervous system.
Mental health issues
Prolonged Adderall abuse can exacerbate existing mental health conditions or lead to new ones, such as anxiety, depression or psychosis. This can be particularly true for people who are misusing Adderall to self-medicate for a mental health condition. While Adderall may be effective at first, it will usually worsen the symptoms in the long term, resulting in more Adderall being used to soothe those heightened symptoms. This cycle reinforces addiction and also increases the risk of serious harm.
Even though some people use Adderall for its cognitive-enhancing abilities, chronic abuse can result in difficulties with concentration, memory and decision-making over time.
Adderall addiction may lead to behavioural changes like increased aggression, impulsivity or social withdrawal. This can affect work, school and other important responsibilities and facets of your life.
All of the above issues can put enormous strain on personal and professional relationships. This can lead to further isolation and escalating Adderall use and reliance.
What does Adderall addiction treatment involve?
Due to its complex, multi-faceted nature, effective Adderall addiction treatment needs to be approached in a systematic, comprehensive way. At UKAT, this involves three stages of equal importance:
Stimulant detox: This process involves gradually reducing Adderall use under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Detox breaks physical dependence and allows the body to begin the healing process.
Stimulant rehab: This provides structured treatment which includes a combination of therapy, relapse prevention, new ADHD coping skills, co-occurring disorder, lifestyle changes and holistic wellness techniques. Rehab seeks not just to overcome Adderall addiction but to understand its roots, address them systematically and build you back up from the foundations.
Aftercare: This crucial stage begins after you complete the first two stages. It involves weekly group therapy sessions, providing accountability, much-needed support, and reinforcement. Attending aftercare is one of the most effective relapse prevention strategies.
How to help someone with an Adderall addiction
If you’re reading this article because someone you know is facing an Adderall addiction, it’s vital to approach the situation with compassion, understanding, and readiness to provide support. Assisting someone with an addiction can be demanding, but your support can greatly impact their path to recovery. Here are steps you can take to aid them effectively:
Educate yourself about addiction
Educate yourself about the signs of addiction, the challenges of withdrawal and the process of recovery. This knowledge will prepare you to offer informed support and help you maintain realistic expectations.
Approach with empathy and without judgement
Start a conversation with empathy and without passing judgement. Feelings of shame and guilt often accompany addiction, and a non-judgmental approach can encourage openness and honesty.
Encourage professional help
Gently discuss the options for treatment and offer to accompany them to doctor’s appointments or to visit addiction treatment centres.
Help with practical matters
If they decide to seek treatment, they may need help with practical matters. This could include assistance with finding a treatment centre, arranging transportation or handling childcare or work commitments while they are in treatment.
Be patient and stay committed
Recovery is often a long process with potential setbacks. It is important to stay patient and committed to supporting their journey, even during difficult times.
Overcome Adderall addiction today
Breaking free from Adderall addiction can be a challenge, but it comes with enormous rewards. UKAT offers comprehensive Adderall addiction treatment and support to help you get started on this lifelong journey. If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, reach out to UKAT today and embark on a path toward recovery and a healthier life.
Can someone with ADHD get addicted to Adderall?
Yes, someone with ADHD can become addicted to Adderall, particularly if the medication is not used as directed or if it’s used over an extended period. It’s crucial for those with ADHD to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions and that the provider is aware of the potential signs of misuse and addiction.
How long does it take to get addicted to Adderall?
The time it takes to develop an addiction to Adderall can vary greatly from person to person and depends on several factors, including the dosage, frequency of use and individual susceptibility. Generally, regular misuse of Adderall, such as taking higher doses than prescribed or using it for non-medical reasons, can accelerate the development of tolerance and dependency, potentially leading to Adderall addiction.