Adderall Abuse May Be Gateway To Illegal Amphetamine Use

adderall abuse | Just Believe Recovery PA

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Adderall Abuse May Be Gateway To Illegal Stimulant Use

Adderall is a prescription amphetamine commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, it’s commonly used for recreational purposes by young adults, and for staying awake for long periods of time. Students often use adderall before cramming for exams.

In addition to wakefulness, adderall can increase energy, and produce elated feelings of well-being. Students may also feel that it promotes learning and mental acuity, but research shows this is not true for non-ADHD users. In fact, these users tend to exhibit poorer school performance and lower grades.

Unfortunately, like other amphetamines, adderall can be addictive and prone to abuse. Withdrawals from adderall can mirror that of other amphetamines, and even cocaine. Adderall is basically a legal form of speed.

adderall abuse | Just Believe Recovery PAWhere It Coming From?

Much of the adderall that ends up in the hands of non-prescription users comes from legitimate patients who sell their drugs to make extra money. Pills can sometimes be sold for up to $15 a piece.

While adderall affects those without ADHD like a typical stimulant, those with the condition may benefit from improved focus and attention span.

The Gateway To Other Drugs And Habits

Unlike many other drugs, adderall “mixes” fairly well with alcohol. This is opposed to opioids or other central nervous system depressants which have multiplying sedative effects when combined with drinking. Adderall allows people to drink more and for longer periods of time without blacking out or passing out. However, this doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

Regular adderall abuse, not unlike cocaine, can lead to weight loss. In young people, women especially, this habit can co-exist or contribute to eating disorders. When someone begins to wean off the drug, in addition to withdrawal symptoms, they may incur weight gain, which likely discourages some from seeking abstinence.

So not only can the drug promote alcoholism, but it can also promote other addictive or compulsive behaviors. Once habitually or chemically addicted, some users will go to extreme lengths to obtain the drug. They may themselves go to doctor’s offices feigning symptoms of ADHD in effort to get a personal prescription.

adderall abuse | Just Believe Recovery PAOr, they may retreat into a behavior that is similar to that of prescription opioid addicts – that is, seek to obtain illicit drugs on the street to fuel their habit when they can no longer obtain or afford their drug of choice.

Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 out of 5 new heroin users admitted that they began using the drug because they were already addicted to painkillers.

Similarly, those addicted to adderall may switch to methamphetamine, which is cheaper and widely available. However, meth use can be even more dangerous than adderall abuse.

In fact, while studies may be lacking, meth users commonly admit both in recovery and conversationally to having consumed or snorted ritalin, concerta, or adderall before using meth.

Why Withdrawals Can Lead To Further Abuse Or Other Drug Use

Common withdrawal symptoms include extreme fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances, mental fogginess, increased appetite, vivid dreams, suicidal thoughts, and irritability. People report being unable to function normally, neither socially or cognitively.

These effects are likely to occur even during a gradually weaning, especially if the drug has been used for a long period of time.

And unfortunately, there are no drugs that can effectively treat amphetamine withdrawal, although sometimes benzodiazepines are used to reduce anxious symptoms in a medical setting.

adderall abuse | Just Believe Recovery PA
The chemical structure of an amphetamine.

According to, amphetamine and methamphetamine are almost identical in function. They cause the same side effects, incur the same dangers, and have the same potential for dependency, abuse, addiction, and overdose.

More Research Is Needed

So why is there not more being done to research the link between adderall abuse and future illicit stimulant use? There is clearly a similar association well-established between prescription opioids and heroin, and the connection makes absolute logical sense.

Moreover, if you or someone you know is engaging in adderall abuse, it should not be taken lightly. The lack of availability of the drug upon addiction, not unlike any drug, can lead users to engage in illicit drug use that they never could have before predicted.

Fortunately, however, there are a few facts about adderall use among college-aged young adults I was able to uncover.

According to results from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, non-ADHD, full-time college students that used adderall were 8 times more likely to have used cocaine or to have used prescription sedatives for non-medical purposes. They were also 5 times more likely to have used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.

The most recent survey found that in 2014, there were 406,000 adults aged 18-25 who used stimulants non-medically. Of those, 86,000 currently used meth.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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