Adderall is a prescription drug doctors often use to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and severe sleep disorders (such as narcolepsy).
In its prescriptive form, Adderall can help those suffering from ADHD to minimize the severity of their symptoms. However, Adderall has a potential for addiction, and misuse either of a prescription or by buying Adderall from illicit (“street”) sources can lead to dependence, withdrawal, overdose, and even death.
How Adderall Works
Adderall is a brand-name for the chemical combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Their shared interaction in the brain creates a stimulant effect.
Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, meaning it increases the activity of this processing center in the body. Research reveals that individuals who suffer from ADHD show a deficiency in dopamine, impairing their ability to focus. Adderall remedies this by prompting and prolonging the release of dopamine and norepinephrine.
Adderall for Sleep Disorders
The other primary condition doctors prescribe Adderall for is narcolepsy. This condition can manifest in several ways, but the most common (and most debilitating) symptom is extreme daytime sleepiness that makes even everyday tasks difficult. Chemical stimulation from Adderall can effectively counteract this intense tiredness.
Adderall Misuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal
Adderall dependence most often forms when an individual abuses the substance, but it can also form if it is taken for a long period of time, even at the prescribed dosage. For this reason, doctors tend to avoid prescribing Adderall beyond a few prescription cycles.
When an individual develops a dependence upon Adderall, their brain begins to ‘expect’ its presence during normal daily function. If Adderall is suddenly removed, then the processes of the brain that have adapted to function with the drug prompt the body to crave it, resulting in withdrawals.
Often, the withdrawal symptoms for a given prescription drug are the inverse of the original effects of the substance. Since Adderall is a stimulant, the effects of its presence in the body increase CNS activity.
When someone experiences Adderall withdrawal symptoms, they usually manifest as depressive-like effects including:
- Wild or unpleasant dreams
- Lower energy
- Increased appetite
- Loss of interest
- Lethargic motions
Mixing Adderall and Alcohol
Adderall’s increase in dopamine production makes it a life-changing treatment option for patients with ADHD. The effects of this dopamine surge, however, make Adderall a common target for misuse and abuse. Whether they have had a prescription or not, people may buy Adderall to take purely for its stimulating effects.
One common misconception is that mixing Adderall and alcohol–with one being stimulant and the other a depressant–will result in a net effect of them simply “canceling each other out.” This is not true, however, and taking alcohol and Adderall can have some dangerous consequences.
While the two substances do not “cancel each other out,” they do each influence the experienced efficacy of the other. So, if someone who has been drinking takes Adderall expecting the usual dopamine release, the alcohol may severely reduce the drug’s felt effects–prompting the user to take more Adderall.
The same is true in reverse: someone drinking who has Adderall in their system may not “feel” the effects of the alcohol as early as they would perceive them because Adderall dulls the symptoms of feeling drunk. Thus, they end up drinking more than they should.
Additionally, continuous alcohol intake depletes dopamine. Thus, while it can seem to lessen ADHD symptoms in the short-term, anyone taking Adderall for ADHD should avoid consuming alcohol as it may worsen ADHD symptoms over time.
Adderall Tolerance and Addiction
One worrisome effect that prolonged Adderall use can lead to is tolerance. If someone develops a tolerance to a substance, over time, they require a larger and larger dose in order to achieve the same effects that a smaller amount used to produce. The increasing need to fill this craving and the desperate measures people take to get it form the basis for an Adderall addiction.
The longer a person continues to use Adderall after developing a tolerance to it, the greater their risk of experiencing an overdose.
Adderall overdose is life-threatening. If you think someone is experiencing an overdose, call emergency services immediately. The symptoms for Adderall overdose usually include:
- Fast or Irregular heartbeat
- Increased breathing rate
- Pupil dilation
- Seizures or shaking
- Changed mental state
In addition to the immediate effects, Adderall overdose can lead to other life-threatening conditions, such as extreme dehydration.
Seek Help to Avoid Adderall Overdose Today
It is extremely risky to take Adderall from a non-medical source or buy Adderall from someone selling it illicitly. If you find you need a prescription for Adderall, follow a dosage regimen prescribed by a doctor to have the best chance of avoiding Adderall overdose or withdrawal.
If you or someone you know has developed a dependence upon Adderall, it is crucial to take action immediately. Reach out to us today to discover how our holistic approach to substance abuse counseling can help you thrive addiction-free.