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Overcoming Adderall Addiction

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Adderall is a powerful stimulant that is usually prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At the same time that Adderall exists as an important prescription medication for certain individuals, it also has a high potential for drug abuse. This abuse can lead to an addiction that is difficult to overcome. Understanding how to overcome Adderall addiction is important for individuals that regularly take Adderall as well as their loved ones and family members. Conquering an addiction to Adderall is no easy task, yet it is possible with the right care team and addiction treatment plan in place.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand or trade name for a medication that combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are powerful stimulants that excite the central nervous system. Adderall functions by increasing the function of dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is an important component of how our bodies regulate attention, movement, and emotions such as pleasure. Dopamine is often discussed in its relationship to how we perceive and act on rewards, known as a reward pathway. This reward system is important for understanding how drugs like Adderall create a powerful chemical dependence and addiction. Norepinephrine also acts as a neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system. Norepinephrine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure, while also increasing the output of the heart. These responses to norepinephrine are an integral component of the body’s fight-or-flight response, which is the process through which the human body responds to a perceived threat. By heightening blood pressure, heart response, and decreasing blood flow, norepinephrine helps an individual reach a heightened state that is appropriate for immediate and decisive action. Adderall is used in a clinical setting to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. For the addiction treatment of ADHD, powerful prescription stimulants like Adderall can help calm the patient while allowing them to achieve a greater level of focus.

Why is Adderall Abused?

Adderall is abused because it is a powerful stimulant. Adderall stimulates the central nervous system while also producing feelings of euphoria, which is often referred to as a “high”. Individuals abuse Adderall because it makes them feel more productive, more energetic, and more alert.  Most people who abuse Adderall begin taking it at low doses. Typical Adderall prescriptions are for 5-30 milligrams, and most people start with doses below this threshold. However, individuals that abuse Adderall will quickly build up a tolerance to the drug, which requires them to take more Adderall to achieve the same effect. In an advanced Adderall addiction, a person may be taking from 100 – 200 milligrams of Adderall every day.

What are the Risks of Abuse?

People who abuse Adderall on a regular basis will begin to experience a number of effects on their physical and psychological state. Like other stimulants, individuals that take large amounts of Adderall will have difficulty sleeping. It is not unheard of for someone who abuses Adderall to go several days at a time without sleep. During this time, they may feel more productive, aware, and engaged with their everyday life. When a person who is abusing Adderall does sleep, they will typically sleep for long periods of time. After a binge, they may sleep 15-20 hours before waking again. Without more Adderall, they may not feel the energy or motivation to get out of bed. Alongside disrupted sleeping patterns, individuals that are abusing Adderall will typically eat less than they normally would. This results in weight loss over time. Appetite suppression is a common side-effect of Adderall abuse, yet the resulting weight loss can present health complications if Adderall abuse continues for a long period of time. Many people that abuse Adderall develop unhealthy eating patterns during and after their binge. During their binge, they may barely eat. Once they come down from the effects of the drug they may begin eating excessively. This cycle can be difficult to break while they continue to abuse Adderall. Many people that abuse Adderall for a long period of time will experience shifts in their mental state. Depression and anxiety are both common for people that abuse Adderall. Alongside depression, they may experience suicidal thoughts. During a binge and when a person is coming down from the effects of the drug they may experience paranoia or visual and auditory hallucinations. The physical and mental health effects of long-term Adderall abuse are not the only negative effect of drug addiction. Often, as an individual’s addiction progresses they will begin withdrawing from friends and family. While Adderall use may actually improve their performance in school and work for a brief period when they first begin taking the drug, over time the deterioration of their physical and mental state will result in a degraded performance in nearly all areas of their life.

Breaking the Addiction

Overcoming Adderall addiction will most often occur within a treatment program. Adderall creates a powerful chemical dependence on the drug that must first be addressed. This is usually done in a detox rehab program. Following detox, individuals must take part in counseling and therapy sessions to address the underlying issues that gave rise to their addiction in the first place. Addressing the physical and mental components of addiction is equally important for someone that desires to quit abusing Adderall. The physical aspect of dependence on the drug is addressed first by discontinuing use of the drug and then navigating the withdrawal process. The mental aspect of addiction is then unearthed and addressed through sessions with mental health professionals and addiction counselors. 

Navigating the Withdrawal Process

Withdrawal from Adderall can be rough, particularly if you are quitting the drug suddenly or “cold-turkey”. Remember that Adderall alters the way that two important neurotransmitters work in your body. When you quit using Adderall your body must begin to adjust to functioning without the effects of the drug. This process is known as withdrawal. Most people withdrawing from Adderall will feel lethargic as their body adjusts to a lack of stimulant. They may experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or gastrointestinal issues, upset sleep patterns, irritability, or depression. Going through withdrawal from any drug is a highly individualized process that is influenced by a person’s drug habit, the length of time they have abused the drug, and their unique health profile.  Withdrawal from Adderall will begin from 24-48 hours after the last dose and may last up to two weeks. At the end of two weeks, most physical symptoms will have ended, but non-physical withdrawal symptoms may continue through the second week and beyond. Overcoming Adderall withdrawals within an inpatient treatment program isn’t an easy process, but it is easier and safer than doing so on your own. During detox, an individual’s vital signs are monitored to ensure that any health complications can be addressed quickly. It is not uncommon for an individual to enter prescription drug rehab with underlying health conditions that can be made worse by the stress placed on the body during withdrawal. Additionally, medications can be administered that can help alleviate the most difficult withdrawal symptoms that you are facing.  The most important outcome in an inpatient setting is that you navigate the Adderall withdrawal process safely and comfortably. An inpatient setting is ideal for this because you are under constant supervision and because you can’t easily return to using the drug. In contrast, the desire to return to using during withdrawal done outside of a treatment facility can be difficult to resist.

Addressing the Underlying Addiction

Once you have gone through the worst of the withdrawal process, you will transition from a detox program to a treatment program. Detox programs are intended to cleanse the body and clear the mind of the effects of the drug so that an individual can more readily engage with the treatment program itself.  Treatment programs combine counseling and therapy sessions to address the underlying causes of addiction. In this way, Adderall treatment programs are a powerful tool used to address addictions that are otherwise difficult to overcome. Inpatient treatment programs usually last from 1-3 months. During this time, most patients will take part in individual and group therapy sessions. Individual sessions can help them dive deep into the underlying roots of their addiction, while group therapy sessions can provide an important avenue to learn to communicate about their addiction and learn from the experiences of others. One effective treatment for Adderall addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a treatment modality where an individual’s thought processes themselves are addressed. Negative or toxic thought processes are identified and healthier and more productive processes are adopted. CBT can be used to address the way that we think about addiction and how we navigate and respond to events that you might run into. Certain events that can be triggers for drug use can be identified and strategies can be implemented to allow individuals to successfully navigate those events without resorting to drug use.  CBT is an excellent example of one way that talk therapy can make a tangible difference in the life of the patient. With a treatment program, individuals are taught a variety of different skills that can allow them to better navigate stressful or difficult situations once treatment has finished. These sessions can also help individuals identify and deal with underlying trauma or damage caused by their addiction, helping them move past their addiction and begin moving towards a life of sobriety.

Closing Thoughts

Adderall is a very strong stimulant that is prescribed to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. Many individuals begin abusing Adderall because it gives them more energy, allows them to focus on projects, enhances their concentration or productivity, or gives them the ability to do more work with less sleep.  Though Adderall use in the short-term can produce effects that are seen as beneficial, it can also quickly lead to chemical dependency and addiction. Adderall enhances the effectiveness of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is an important component in how we perceive rewards and experience pleasure. Abuse of Adderall not only stimulates the person taking the drug but will also produce a feeling of euphoria. Once the effects of Adderall wear off, this feeling of euphoria can quickly change to anxiety, depression, and lethargy.  Adderall addiction is important to identify early on so that the individual abusing the drug can get the help they need. Many people who abuse Adderall will go on binges where they stay up 2-3 days at a time before they crash. During this time they may experience hallucinations, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Extended use of Adderall will result in reduced appetite and weight loss. Many people who abuse Adderall will also develop unhealthy eating patterns where they hardly eat under the effects of the drug, then eat excessively when the drug has worn off. Many people who attempt to quit Adderall on their own find that they have trouble doing so. During the withdrawal process, a desire to use the drug again can become overpowering. Navigating the withdrawal and recovery process within an inpatient treatment program can give individuals the best chances for a successful recovery.  An inpatient treatment program addresses both the physical and mental components of addiction. The physical aspect of addiction is addressed during the detox timeline when the withdrawal process is initiated and navigated. Following detox, individuals in a treatment program will take part in therapy and counseling sessions that are designed to identify and treat the underlying issues that contributed to the addiction in the first place.  Inpatient treatment programs last up to 3 months, so entering a program represents a big commitment in both time and resources. Because of this, it is important to work with a treatment facility that specializes in treating substance abuse of prescription drugs like Adderall. Treatment programs that use proven treatment modalities, such as CBT, in an outcome-based approach should be considered first. By working with an accredited treatment facility that utilizes treatment modalities grounded in proven research, you can be sure that you or your loved one will have the best chance for a successful recovery. To learn more about treatment for Adderall addiction, please contact Apex Recovery today.


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