Adderall Abuse in the Workplace

2 min read · 5 sections

What is Adderall?

Adderall (the brand name for a combination drug comprised of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a stimulant that increases the activity of specific neurotransmitters, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain. It is prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and less commonly for narcolepsy. Adderall must be prescribed to you by a doctor or mental health provider. A prescription for Adderall to treat ADHD is made with a diagnosis based on the presence of specific symptoms listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

Adderall Use in the Workplace

Adderall is often referred to as a “study drug,” and students frequently turn to this and other cognitive-boosting drugs to increase their focus and level of productivity. These drugs help people feel alert, focused, and awake. A 2015 study showed that 1 in 6 college students misuse ADHD stimulant medication for the purpose of enhancing performance.¹ Not surprisingly, cognitive-boosting drugs are also being used in the workplace to gain a competitive advantage or just to keep up with one’s peers.

According to a landmark analysis of workplace drug test results released by Quest Diagnostics, the use of amphetamines, including prescription medications such as Adderall, has more than doubled in the previous 10 years.² In 2018, approximately 1 out of 75 people in the United States workforce tested positive for amphetamines by urine drug test.³

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Risks of Abusing Adderall

If you take Adderall and it makes you feel good, you likely do not have ADHD. A recent study conducted at the University of Chicago showed that people who feel euphoria when taking these stimulants are less likely to have genes that predispose them to ADHD.⁴ This may explain why people without ADHD are more prone to Adderall addiction; quite simply, it makes them feel good.

There are many risks associated with the abuse of cognitive-boosting drugs. The following effects on health are linked to the misuse of stimulant drugs such as Adderall:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures

With widespread Adderall abuse among the working class comes the increased likelihood of overdose. In fact, statistics confirm that Adderall overdoses are an increasing problem in the United States. A 2016 study showed that from 2006-2011, use in adults increased by 67% while emergency room visits involving Adderall went up by over 155%.⁵

Adderall has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Constant use makes it harder to sleep, causing you to be more tired the next morning. This increases the temptation to pop another pill the next day to overcome exhaustion. And with more frequent use comes an increased tolerance, making it necessary to take increasingly higher dosages to feel the same cognitive-boosting effects. Long term abuse can have devastating consequences, including the risk of psychosis, myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, and even sudden death.⁶

Adderall Addiction Treatment

If you currently suffer from Adderall addiction, there are many sources of help available. Consider treatment at a facility or hospitalization program where you can undergo supervised detox with medical specialists. Detox is typically followed by an abstinence maintenance phase, where you will receive both individual and group psychotherapy.

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  1. Benson, K., Flory, K., Humphreys, K.L., & Lee, S.S. (2015). Misuse of Stimulant Medication Among College Students: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-analysis. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 18(1), 50-76.
  2. Quest Diagnostics. (2013). Drug Use Among American Workers Declined 74% Over Past 25 Years, Finds Unprecedented Analysis of More Than 125 Million Workplace Urine Drug Tests.
  3. Quest Diagnostics. (2019). Positivity Rates by Drug Category: Urine Drug Tests for General U.S. Workforce.
  4. Hart, A.B., Gamazon, E.R., Engelhardt, B.E., Sklar, P., Kähler, A.K., Hultman, C.M., …Palmer, A.A. (2014). Genetic variation associated with euphorigenic effects of d-amphetamine is associated with diminished risk for schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(16), 5968-5973.
  5. Chen, L.Y., Crum, R.M., Strain, E.C., Alexander, G.C., Kaufmann, C., & Mojtabai, R. (2016). Prescriptions, nonmedical use, and emergency department visits involving prescription stimulants. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 77(3), 297-304.
  6. Lakhan, S.E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain and Behavior, 2(5), 661–677.
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