Today, Americans are abusing prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin and ecstasy combined. And prescription drug abuse is climbing, with an amphetamine/dextroamphetamine composite medication known as Adderall sweeping the nation as the au courant "feel-good" pill.
Adderall is prescribed by doctors to successfully treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but today, people are using this highly addictive substance in ways it was never intended. Adderall is known to increase alertness, libido, concentration and cognitive performance while also decreasing fatigue. These "pep pill" qualities are very enticing and have created a high demand for Adderall by an array of people who want to take it without any doctor supervision: everyday moms who want to lose weight, students pulling all-nighters to cram for exams, and others simply looking for a recreational high.
How Adderall works on the brain and body
Adderall is a stimulant that works on the brain's central nervous system, affecting chemicals and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Like other stimulants, Adderall affects the brain's pleasure circuit. The sensation of pleasure requires communication between neurons: one neuron releases the chemical dopamine, and the other clears it. Adderall triggers dopamine release and then blocks its reuptake, resulting in constant, uncontrollable pleasure.
The slow creep of addiction
"People like Adderall because it makes them more focused, attentive and goal driven, and because it's a stimulant that can aid weight loss," says addiction specialist Dr. Charles Sophy. "Addiction creeps up on you because this drug appears to be a win-win. Who doesn't want to look skinny and feel happy?"
But using Adderall can turn into a big lose-lose. The more you take, the more you need to obtain that pleasurable mental state. "One pill works, then all of a sudden you need 3 pills or 4 pills," says Dr. Sophy. "You build a tolerance, and after a while, you're crashing when you're coming off these pills."
Health risks associated with Adderall
Even more frightening, Adderall, like other stimulants, can powerfully increase blood pressure, creating the risk of heart attack, sudden death or stroke, plus rare but possible long-term side-effects such as psychosis. Simply put, Adderall is a complex drug; its usage is very tough to regulate without the guidance of a doctor.
Unfortunately, obtaining Adderall outside of a doctor's office has become incredibly easy. Students are sharing it in college dorms and study halls. Moms are borrowing it from their kids diagnosed with ADHD. And many doctors are too quick to write prescriptions for Adderall.
Warning signs of Adderall addiction
To determine if you or someone you know is at risk for developing an Adderall addiction, ask these questions:
- Do you have a prescription?
- Are your friends abusing?
- Are you using it to lose weight or stay awake?
Obviously, the more Adderall is being consumed, the more difficult it is to stop using it. Also, if you've been taking high doses for a prolonged period of time, stopping abruptly can lead to depression or extreme fatigue.
If you suspect you or a loved one may be addicted to Adderall, seek a physician's help right away.
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