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."