Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It may also be regularly abused as a “study drug” to enhance focus and increase wakefulness; as a “crash diet drug” for its appetite-suppressing effects; and recreationally as a “party drug” for the heightened euphoria, energy, and excitability it can promote. A study at the University of Kentucky found that 30 percent of its students had abused an ADHD medication like Adderall at some point in their lives, CNN reports, which may represent a microcosm of a larger picture of college campuses around the country.
Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that is available in immediate-release (IR) or extended-release (ER) formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings regarding the possible dangerous side effects of the drug, including the potential for a life-threatening overdose when the medication is not taken as prescribed.
Adderall may be abused by taking it without a medical need, for recreational purposes, taking more of the dosage than prescribed, or by altering the drug to use in a way other than intended.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes Adderall as Schedule II since it has a high potential for abuse, diversion, and addiction, even though it does have legitimate medical uses as well. Abusing Adderall in any manner can be dangerous. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that in 2011, more than 17,000 people sought emergency department (ED) treatment for a negative reaction to an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine medication.
When it is taken necessarily for medical reasons and working as prescribed, Adderall can help people focus, combat hyperactivity, and help balance some of the chemicals in the brain that are negatively affected by ADHD. When abused, the functions of the central nervous system may be increased to hazardous levels.
Adderall tablets or capsules are often crushed and then snorted for a more rapid “high. Crushing and then snorting Adderall medication that has an extended-release format, like Adderall XR, bypasses the way the drug is supposed to be slowly released in set doses over a set period of time. Instead, it sends the entire amount of the drug into the bloodstream at once. The brain may be overwhelmed by the amount of Adderall suddenly in its system and may not be able to safely break down the drug. Seizures, racing heart rate, hypertension, fever, severe confusion, and psychosis may be side effects of Adderall overdose, and these can result in stroke, heart attack, or death without swift medical treatment. Mixing other drugs or alcohol with Adderall only increases the risks.
Close to 30,000 Americans died from a prescription drug overdose in 2014, as published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In addition to the high risk for an unintentional overdose, there are many other hazards specific to snorting Adderall, such as damage to the nasal and sinus cavity, respiratory infections, and lung damage.
Adderall can increase the levels of some of the brain’s chemical messengers, like norepinephrine, epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine, which are partially responsible for making people feel good by enhancing pleasure. These messengers also ready the body for anything that may come its way by increasing alertness and activating the “fight-or-flight” response, the Columbia Science Review explains. These effects may be desirable, and someone abusing Adderall may be keen to recreate these good feelings.
Regular abuse of Adderall can actually alter the way these natural brain chemicals are produced and how they flow through the central nervous system, creating an imbalance that only the drug can then rectify.
This is when dependence has formed. When the drug is then removed or its use is stopped, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, like depression, fatigue, insomnia, difficulties concentrating or thinking clearly, memory issues, tremors, and anxiety, may occur. Oftentimes, withdrawal symptoms are the opposite experience of an Adderall “high.”Drug cravings and the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms may translate into drug-seeking behaviors and compulsive Adderall abuse. Snorting Adderall may lead to an increased risk for developing an addiction to the drug, NIDA reports, as it sends the drug more quickly into the brain, thus creating the chemical changes more rapidly than swallowing the drug may.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) published that in 2013, close to 1.5 million Americans aged 12 and older abused a prescription stimulant drug like Adderall at the time of, or in the month leading up to, the survey. Adderall abuse or addiction is associated with the following:
Adderall, when used as prescribed, may be beneficial for individuals battling ADHD; however, when snorted and used outside of a medicinal purpose, it can be dangerous. Abuse of Adderall can potentially cause a life-threatening overdose or other medical complications, and lead to addiction.