One of the more popular and overly-prescribed medications in the landscape of drugs of abuse in the last ten years or so is Adderall. Approved by the FDA in 2006, this compound was initially marketed for use by young people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as well as narcolepsy. Adderall is a form of amphetamine, containing a mixture of salts, as opposed to methamphetamine, which is a slightly different chemical/molecular compound. Both are addictive and are heavily abused. Adderall is available in both instant and extended release, and although not officially recommended for obesity and depression, it is sometimes prescribed for these disorders.
Like any form of amphetamine, Adderall causes feelings of euphoria, energy and invigoration. Because of this, it’s a highly-abused and very popular study aid. It has become a very trendy performance-enhancing drug, to the point where it had been limited in use in the NFL only for athletes with legitimate ADHD (as if that’s going to stop them from taking it…). And like any form of speed, those who discontinue use suffer withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, loss of sleep, irritability and depression.
Due to the fact that Adderall is so widely prescribed, there is an inherent danger for elongated use, usually longer than the patient is in need of. Because of its attraction as a study aid, many students sell and trade their supply with deadly regularity. The instant release variety can also be crushed and snorted, or diluted in water and injected. This can be particularly dangerous, because the effect on the heart rate can lead to a myriad of cardiovascular problems, as well as high blood pressure. Adderall is not recommended for those with bipolar disorder, anorexia, heart disease and hypertension, among others. This includes a large number of people, especially in high school/college age students. The sad fact is that we very well may be hearing about a lot of Adderall-related accidents in the coming years as its popularity appears to be increasing at a rapid rate.
As far as detoxification goes, the routine is basically the same as most stimulants. A loss of appetite is common, so unwanted weight loss, along with lack of vitamins is one area that needs to be addressed, and to a large degree it is a matter of rest over a period of a week; this is only the physical detox. Beyond this, most doctors and recovery professionals agree on therapy (group and individual) along with education, counseling and 12-step programs as ‘industry standard’ for treating Adderall addiction.
But more than this, it’s the underlying symptoms that must be addressed. Many young people, especially females, turn to Adderall to treat feelings of unpopularity, acceptance and body image issues. Excelling in competitive sports and the demand of high grades are usually motivating factors as well….and the availability of Adderall, particularly in schools, is frighteningly high. Sarah F. is 19 years old, and currently relies on the drug to get through her freshman year at a local college. During a break at a 12-step meeting, she confided about her problems with the drug. “I started taking it in my junior year of high school,” she admitted. “I thought I was overweight, even though I’m not anorexic, so it helped me lose weight. But I also used it to cram for finals, and still do. It gives you fairly unlimited energy; it’s super-easy to take a couple and stay up all night studying. And it’s nearly everywhere! So many girls sell or trade them…it’s never a problem scoring a few, especially at school.”
Despite this enthusiasm, Sarah does see that it’s a problem, hence her attendance at NA meetings. “I’m starting to realize that I take them more than I should. I actually started doing some web research on it, and I don’t like what I’m reading. My friends at school where I get it were basically telling me it wasn’t much more dangerous than a few Starbucks. Obviously, they’re wrong. I have a friend that ended up in the hospital after overdosing on them, and it scared the shit out of me.”
Because Adderall is so easily available, it’s up to people like Sarah to self-educate and learn the facts pertaining to its dangers. We can’t rely on the Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex to police us. They just may come up with a new ailment to treat or name another name for amphetamine when the word gets out as to its danger and addictive properties.