You’ve probably heard of Adderall® before. It’s the name of one brand of a combination drug that doctors often prescribe to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a chronic disorder which makes it difficult to pay attention or control your behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that approximately six million children between the ages of three and 17 are living with ADHD.
Doctors may also prescribe Adderall for narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a disease where people have trouble regulating their sleep and often fall asleep unexpectedly throughout the day. This disorder is less common than ADHD — but nearly 200,000 Americans live with it.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall contains two drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both of these compounds are stimulants. They stimulate the brain to make you feel more awake and alert.
Adderall can help people focus better in school and at work. But it can also produce a “high” or feelings of euphoria. This makes it a prime target for misuse.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
What Is Adderall Misuse?
You may wonder what it means to misuse Adderall — or any other prescription drug. The answer is simple. You’re abusing the drug if you’re not taking it the way your doctor told you to.
This could mean you’re taking more pills at once than your doctor prescribed. Or it could be that you’re taking the prescribed amount but taking it more often than you should.
Misuse can come in other forms, too. Some people may combine Adderall with other drugs or alcohol to get high. They may even crush and snort the pills to get a faster, effect.
People who don’t have an Adderall prescription can misuse it, too. Those people often get pills from a friend or family member with a prescription. They may do so to help them keep up with work or school — or they may take Adderall as a party drug.
People who have taken Adderall for a long period of time may experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or stop taking it. Many people report problems with sleep and overwhelming fatigue when they stop. Some even experience depression.
Adderall misuse is a problem that is affecting younger and younger people. Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conducts a survey called Monitoring the Future (MTF). MTF looks at trends in drug use in American adolescents.
The good news is that MTF found that illicit use of Adderall is declining in both teens and college-aged students. The bad news is that nearly 2% of the 8th graders in the study reported misusing it last year.
Symptoms of Adderall Misuse
Like other stimulants, you can become addicted to Adderall. Symptoms of Adderall misuse or addiction include:
- Lack of appetite.
- Problems with sleep.
- Developing an irregular heartbeat.
- Feeling anxious, paranoid, or angry all the time.
- Having intense cravings for the drug that lead you to take more than prescribed.
- Taking risks, like stealing from or manipulating others, to get the drug.
- Trying, unsuccessfully, to stop taking Adderall.
- Withdrawal symptoms (like overwhelming fatigue) when you don’t take the drug.
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, it’s time to seek help. Your doctor can help you get started on the path to recovery.
Risks of Adderall Misuse
Not only can Adderall be a difficult drug to stop using, it’s also possible to overdose from taking too much. In fact, recent studies show that stimulant-related deaths are on the rise.
This type of overdose presents differently than an opioid overdose. Some of the symptoms include:
- Feelings of panic.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Overactive reflexes.
- Rapid breathing.
- High fever.
- Muscle pains and weakness.
A stimulant overdose can also cause a seizure or heart attack. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing an Adderall overdose, call 911 immediately.
Besides the potential for overdose, abusing Adderall can also take a toll on your overall health and well-being. Over time, it can lead to cardiovascular problems, nerve issues, and gastrointestinal disease. Those problems can stay with you for the rest of your life.
How to Handle Adderall Misuse
The best way to deal with Adderall misuse is to prevent it altogether. Always take prescription drugs exactly as prescribed by your physician.
If you’re an adult taking Adderall, monitor your heart rate, mood, or sleep. If you think your medicine is impacting any of these, talk to your doctor immediately.
You can help prevent Adderall misuse in your child by monitoring your child’s intake of the drug. Keep the prescription bottle in a safe place and watch your child take their meds. If they need to take any doses at school, make sure your child takes them at the nurse’s office.
If you see concerning behavioral changes in your child, or suspect they are taking too much Adderall, reach out to your pediatrician.
If you think you or someone you care about has a problem with Adderall use, don’t wait to ask for help. There are a host of behavioral therapies and other interventions available to help manage prescription stimulate addiction.
Reach out to your doctor, contact your local public health department, or reach out to UPMC Addiction Medicine Services at 412-692-2273. We can help get you on the path toward recovery.
Adderall® is a trademark of Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.