What is Adderall
Adderall is the brand name of a prescribed drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This medication has a combination of two stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It has also been prescribed to treat narcolepsy. Patients struggling with ADHD can use this medication to increase their attention span and improve their focus (1).
Adderall was FDA-approved in 1960. The combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine has also been approved as a generic drug. The brand-name drug is made by DSM Pharmaceuticals, while other companies make the generic form. Adderall XR comes as a capsule, while regular Adderall is a tablet (2).
The drug belongs to a group of substances known as central nervous system stimulants (3). It increases the levels of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine stimulates the brain and has a soothing and focusing effect on individuals with ADHD (4). While this can be helpful in certain situations, it can also lead to Adderall abuse.
Side effects of Adderall may include (3):
- Stomach problems
- Reduced appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Low sex drive
When more severe side effects develop, patients should call a doctor immediately. Serious side effects can include (3):
- Vision disturbances
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Numbness or severe weakness
- Uninhibited movements
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Violent behavior
- Intense behavior
- Chronic skin disorders
- Face, lips, or tongue swelling
- Trouble talking or swallowing
Adderall has been classified by the FDA as a Category C drug, meaning that there isn’t sufficient information to know whether or not it will hurt an unborn baby and so it may not be safe for use by pregnant women (1). Based on some animal studies, there is evidence of adverse effects in animal babies, but there are not enough conclusive studies to prove that these same effects occur in humans. A doctor or pharmacist should be able to give advice on whether or not a patient should take this medication during pregnancy. For women, this makes Adderall addiction treatment even more important (5).
Doses of Adderall are administered according to the patient’s needs (6). Doctors generally prescribe a low initial dosage, which can be increased depending on a patient’s response to it. Children older than 5 taking Adderall for ADHD generally start with 5 milligrams, increasing gradually to 30 mg (6). Adult dosage for patients with narcolepsy starts at 5 mg and can increase to 60 mg (7). Adderall and Adderall XR can be taken with or without food. The tablets are taken over several hours throughout the day, preferably in the morning, since Adderall taken at night can disturb sleep. Many patients take three doses each day for ADHD (8).
The substance should be taken exactly as directed by a physician. Patients should not stop taking this medication suddenly, as doing so can cause severe depression, drowsiness, and other symptoms of withdrawal. When a dose is missed, it should be taken as soon as possible. However, if the next dose is coming up, the missed dose should be skipped. Doses should not be doubled to make up for a missed dose (9).
Abuse and addiction
In recent years, Adderall has become very popular. Studies demonstrate that the amount of ADHD medications administered to children went up 45 percent between 2002 and 2010. Also, Adderall has become the second most prescribed drug. Sales of this drug have jumped and the amount of prescriptions has topped 18 million (10).
The reason why this happens is that more young adults are being diagnosed with ADHD. Nevertheless, doctors are also prescribing it more to patients who do not have ADHD. The availability of this medication has increased its abuse (11). Individuals who do not have a medical condition, allowing them to take it, can experience intense euphoria due to the increase of dopamine levels in the brain. Due to this, many people have become addicted to it. Some may crush, snort, mix or inject them (12).
Drugs in the stimulant category increase alertness and attention. Many individuals who do not have an ADHD diagnosis have used this drug to improve their ability to think and focus. It has become very popular among students in order to boost their academic performance (13).
Stimulants in the same category as Adderall are generally called smart pills (14). This is the second most common type of drug used on university campuses. Adderall can only enhance thinking ability in those who have ADHD. Students who take this drug for academic performance can experience potentially harmful side effects. Abuse of this drug is not only dangerous, but it may serve as a gateway to more serious drugs as well (15).
1. “ADDERALL® (CII).” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mar. 2007, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf.
2. J.mcgoughm.d., James, et al. “Pharmacokinetics of SLI381 (ADDERALL XR), an Extended-Release Formulation of Adderall.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Elsevier, 4 Jan. 2010, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0890856709611576.
3. Angrist, Burton, and Abraham Sudilovsky. “Central Nervous System Stimulants: Historical Aspects and Clinical Effects.” SpringerLink, Springer, Boston, MA, 1 Jan. 1978, link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4757-0510-2_3.
4. Undie, ASHIWEL S., and E. I. T. A. N. Friedman. “Stimulation of a dopamine D1 receptor enhances inositol phosphates formation in rat brain.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 253.3 (1990): 987-992.
5. Louik, Carol, et al. “Increasing use of ADHD medications in pregnancy.” Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety 24.2 (2015): 218.
6. Rodriguez, William, et al. “Improving pediatric dosing through pediatric initiatives: what we have learned.” Pediatrics 121.3 (2008): 530-539.
7. Kolar, Dusan, et al. “Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment 4.2 (2008): 389.
8. Sherzada, Awista. “An analysis of ADHD drugs: Ritalin and Adderall.” JCCC Honors Journal 3.1 (2012): 2.
9. Kerley, Kent R., Heith Copes, and O. Hayden Griffin III. “Middle-class motives for non-medical prescription stimulant use among college students.” Deviant Behavior 36.7 (2015): 589-603.
10. Scheffler, Richard M., et al. “The global market for ADHD medications.” Health affairs 26.2 (2007): 450-457.
11. Varga, Matthew D. “Adderall abuse on college campuses: a comprehensive literature review.” Journal of evidence-based social work 9.3 (2012): 293-313.
12. Bright, George M. “Abuse of medications employed for the treatment of ADHD: results from a large-scale community survey.” The Medscape Journal of Medicine 10.5 (2008): 111.
13. Teter, Christian J., et al. “Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: prevalence, motives, and routes of administration.” Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy 26.10 (2006): 1501-1510.
14. Szalavitz, Maia. “Popping smart pills: the case for cognitive enhancement.” Time, January 6 (2009).
15. Speranza, Keriann. “The Effects of Massachusetts’ Decriminalization of Marijuana Law on Use Patterns.” Undergraduate Review 7.1 (2011): 101-107.