Adderall Addiction & Students: “It’s Not That Dangerous”

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Addiction is a Disease.

Addiction is an indiscriminate disease. Individuals of either gender and any age, socioeconomic level, racial or ethnic background, religion, education level, and sexual orientation can develop an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or even a number of harmful, destructive behaviors. While not necessarily a rule, chemical dependency often begins when an individual becomes curious about alcohol or drugs. After experimenting with substance abuse and intoxication, he or she decides that the feelings experienced while under the influence were desirable and decides to continue recreationally abusing that substance or substances. As a tolerance is built over time, the individual requires more and more of the substance to achieve the same effects, leading to the development of a chemical dependency, or addiction. Although aware of the propensity for substance abuse, more often than not addicts are completely caught off guard when they realize they are physically and even psychologically dependent on their substance or substances of choice, requiring some method of intervention or treatment to overcome the dependency and regain their independence.

Over the years, there have been countless trends, or “fads,” that have come and gone among those in the ever-present community of recreational substance abusers. During Prohibition in the early-twentieth century, alcohol was the drug of choice of many, also becoming incredibly dangerous as bootlegging led to many harmful, toxic adulterants added to alcohol to amplify its intoxicating effects. In the mid-twentieth century, marijuana and hallucinogens, or “psychedelics,” had become increasingly popular, especially among the youth subculture. However, more recently there have been national and even global spikes in the abuse of heroin and prescription drugs. Although other drugs like cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana have not been forgotten, it seems that the abuse and addiction rates for prescription drugs and heroin are higher than they’ve ever been, surpassing the abuse rates of most other drugs and prompting many officials to refer to these drugs as “epidemics” on American society.

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Prescription drugs are dangerous because they encompass different types of drugs. Many people think of depressants when they think of prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers like Percocet and OxyContin. However, there are other pharmaceuticals that produce very different effects, such as stimulant medications that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) like Ritalin and Adderall. In particular, Adderall has unexpectedly shown to have a very high potential for abuse, especially among the teens and young adults who make up the college-aged crowd. The following will detail the current Adderall problem among college students in an effort to enlighten those about an alarming problem that’s occurring among the nation’s best and brightest.

What is Adderall?

There are a number of medications that are commonly prescribed to individuals who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some of which have stimulating properties and some of which do not. Adderall is a psychostimulant that is prescribed for ADHD as it increases the activity of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. The active ingredients in Adderall share many molecular and pharmacological similarities with specific neurotransmitters in the brain that are implicated in cognitive functioning and mood. Although it’s not uncommon for Adderall to be prescribed for certain other conditions such as narcolepsy, it’s most commonly prescribed for ADHD and has been shown to improve the development and functioning of the brain and even nerve growth in the brain of individuals who suffer from ADHD. What’s more, whereas a number of medications used to treat other illnesses have shown certain side effects from prolonged and long-term use, Adderall has shown to decrease a number of brain abnormalities that cause ADHD, resulting in decreased symptoms over time with its continued use and making it one of the most effective medicinal treatments for the condition that is currently available.

Abuse of Adderall Among College Students

In addition to the therapeutic effects of Adderall as a treatment for those suffering from the effects of ADHD, there have been numerous studies conducted on the effects of Adderall—taken at therapeutic and higher-than-therapeutic doses—on individuals who do not actually suffer from the illness. Adderall has shown to be a cognitive enhancer, improving both working and episodic memory, adaptive response, increasing wakefulness and alertness, promoting goal-oriented behavior, focusing attention on acute tasks, and even increasing the motivation to perform tasks. Due to these specific effects, Adderall is seen not as a recreational drug, but rather as a performance or “study enhancer” that allows college students to be more attentive and successful in their coursework. In fact, studies have indicated that 90 percent of the college students who abuse Adderall are using it for the purpose of improving their ability to do their schoolwork rather than abusing it recreationally. As such, Adderall is seen as being much less dangerous than drugs like heroin, cocaine, and even alcohol and, consequently, is why non-prescription use and abuse of Adderall has skyrocketed on college campuses.

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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, college students are twice as likely to take Adderall without a prescription as a performance enhancement than individuals of the same age range who aren’t attending college. While the percentage of college students that use stimulants like Adderall for such purposes is at turns estimated between 5 and 35 percent from one campus to another, some researchers estimate that 30 percent of college students nationwide are using Adderall non-medically; what’s more, the percentage of those who are using Adderall as a study enhancer is higher among upperclassmen than lower classmen. Especially at more prestigious schools where there’s more competition between students, there’s an immense amount of pressure to succeed with many feeling like Adderall can give them an edge or help them to complete a heavy course load. In a recent study of college students, most students find the use of Adderall as a performance enhancer to be perfectly acceptable and not dangerous at all with a small percentage feeling there was only a very “slight danger.”

Find Help for Adderall Addiction Today

However, despite the conception of being a safe study aid, Adderall does pose a threat. In addition to the possibility of Adderall conflicting with or reacting to other medications and substances a student might be taking, Adderall—taken excessively and/or by those who aren’t taking it to treat a medical condition—is known to cause difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, irritability, depression, nervousness, loss of appetite, and changes in sex drive. There are also long-term effects with the worst arguably being the lack of cognitive function or inability to concentrate without the aid of Adderall as individuals have become physiologically dependent on the drug to maintain their mental acuity and functioning.

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs and would benefit from a treatment program, Ocean Breeze Recovery can help. Our caring recovery specialists have helped countless individuals overcome chemical dependency by matching them to the best addiction treatment programs that met their particular needs. Don’t wait—let us help you or your loved one today.