Why Adderall Abuse in Women Is on the Rise

By Janet Taylor, MD, MPH

Posted on | By Janet Taylor, MD, MPH

Women are constantly faced with the real pressure of running households and boardrooms, organizing their kids at home and school, and even caring for aging parents. In addition, the added pressure of having to look like a supermodel while performing like a superwoman can be overwhelming. It’s no wonder so many women report being absolutely stressed out and completely exhausted.

For some, relief is thought to come in the form of a pill prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – the stimulant Adderall. Recent reports indicate that women who are looking for a quick fix are abusing Adderall.

It is no secret that more and more children and teens are being diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. But ADD/ADHD is also being newly diagnosed in adults. In the United States, almost 4.4% of adults will have symptoms of hyperactivity, disorganization, impulsivity and inattention resulting in the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD. The hallmark for adults is a disruption or difficulty with home or work life. Adults with ADD/ADHD have higher rates of academic or work failures, higher rates of car accidents, increased rates of divorce, and higher rates of anxiety, depression or drug abuse.

One common and effective treatment for ADD/ADHD is Adderall. It is thought to work by increasing the concentration of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. The end result for individuals with ADD/ADHD can be an improvement in focus and concentration, which is a welcome relief. Potential side effects such as hypertension, increased heart rate, anorexia, weight loss, headaches and mood changes (i.e. anxiety and depression) may be higher in people who do not have ADD/ADHD and take Adderall.

The problem is not with the treatment. The danger lies with the 16 million Americans who will take a prescription drug for a reason other than why it was prescribed. That’s abuse. Stimulant use by women between the ages of 20-44 has increased by 264% over the past 10 years. Increased access to stimulants like Adderall can increase the potential for abuse or misuse. As women, we share information, resources, and what works for us, which may happen to include prescription medications.

Article written by Janet Taylor, MD, MPH
Psychiatrist and Wellness Expert