Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, after marijuana, are the most commonly abused substances in the United States. Adderall, the latest trend in prescription drug abuse, is the third most common drug used among 12th graders, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study.
People often think that, because prescription drugs have been approved by a doctor, they are completely safe to use. Many decide that the dangers of prescription medications, in comparison with a “street drug” like heroin, hardly exist. Without the outward manifestations of usage, or the risk of a fatal overdose, users are not threatened in the least by the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs. It’s no wonder, then, that non-medical prescription drug use is becoming such a rampant trend. And amphetamines are at the top of the A-list, with Adderall standing as America’s favored drug of choice. It is also one of the most addictive drugs out there today.
Adderall is a stimulant medication that is composed of amphetamines and dextroamphetamines. Most commonly, doctors prescribe it to children, adolescents, and adults who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD. These patients, who are often treated in their early school years, generally have trouble paying attention, committing to one task, and carrying out what may otherwise be normal day-to-day motions. Hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors are also associated with ADHD, but medications such as Adderall aid in keeping these patients calm and focused.
Stimulants such as Adderall are meant to progressively increase an individual’s dopamine levels. Associated with the ‘rewards system of the brain,’ dopamine itself is a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure, movement, and attention. When activated, it supplies a person with strong feelings of enjoyment, and proactively motivates them to perform. Adderall aids this process, while also triggering the release of adrenaline, increasing one’s heart rate, and redirecting blood flow to the muscles of the body—altogether introducing refreshingly new levels of energy to its user.
While those with ADHD need this drug for full function, the newfound energy levels resulting from Adderall are also appealing to a much larger crowd. Because of its effects on a person’s overall concentration levels, Adderall is often seen as a “good drug,” or a “study drug.” And still, many fail to see it as a drug at all. Over recent years, Adderall has gained the reputation as more of a superhuman substance, enhancing the productivity of normal individuals and allowing the overworked, the overscheduled, and the overwhelmed to simply coast through their to-do lists. According to a 2009 NSDUH survey, full-time college students were found twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically than as their part-time college counterparts. Whether they were cramming for an exam or staying up late to finish a paper, they felt the results were positive, and their reasons for using the drug as justified. The problem here is that those using Adderall non-medically are accepting it merely as a strong cup of coffee, and remain unaware or uneducated on the precautions, interactions, and proper dosages of the medication.
Adderall has been classified as Schedule II by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This means that it is of high potential for abuse and dependency, along with other Schedule II drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Adderall is addictive in the way that it builds dopamine levels in the brain. When taken in high doses, or ingested improperly, dopamine increases in an amplified and rapid manner, disrupting normal communication between brain cells and producing a lingering euphoria, or high. In this way, along with its molecularly similar composition, Adderall is very much like cocaine. Both drugs achieve their effects by acting on the same neurotransmitter system, leading the user to desire that same high again and again.
Adderall is so addictive that users who originally sought it as a study aid have also found it to amplify their party persona. A rising trend in Adderall users is to crush and snort the capsules, in order to obtain a faster and harder high. Adderall also promotes wakefulness, allowing users to stay awake longer and out later.
The abuse rate of Adderall among young adults continues to rise, and yet the drug is increasingly seen as less and less dangerous. For example, the non-medical use of ADHD stimulant medications nearly tripled emergency room visits in recent years: from 5,212 visits in 2005 to 15,585 ER visits in 2010. However, in 2014, only 55 percent of high school seniors saw regularly taking prescription amphetamines as harmful, down from 69 percent in 2009.
The persistent use of Adderall can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disorders, such as increased blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It can also affect an individual’s mental health: promoting aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, and other psychotic symptoms.
If you know that your son has used stimulants, medically or non-medically, it is extremely important that you keep an eye on his behaviors. Some may point to an Adderall addiction. One of the most tell-tale signs of a consistent Adderall user, for example, is hyperactivity: manic behaviors that run an individual in all directions, so that he constantly keeps busy. Because of this crazed need to focus on an activity, Adderall use often leads to a suppressed appetite and disrupted sleep patterns. Your son may grow hostile, aggravated, or paranoid, as a result.
If this is the case, it is time you educate your son on the realities of prescription drug use and Adderall addiction, and take the proper steps in getting him treatment. Recognizing that your son needs help is especially hard when he and his peers have already accepted the drug as harmless. A residential drug treatment center such as Turnbridge may be the best option in treating his addiction, as we offer support groups, behavioral therapy, and clinical programs specifically designed to defeat drug dependence. Our aim is to get your loved one on the right track to a healthy, drug free lifestyle. Whatever he was able to do with the drug, he is most certainly capable of doing without the drug. He just needs a little push and a lot of faith.