Adderall is a brand name for a stimulant medication that combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The medication is approved for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. It may also be used to treat obesity and to counteract the effects of neurological conditions such as stroke or a head injury that produces lethargy.
Adderall is a controlled substance in the Schedule II classification by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schedule II controlled substances are at the highest level of control for medications that can be prescribed by physicians. This means that these substances have a high potential to be abused and produce physical dependence.Adderall is available in an immediate-release formula and an extended-release formula (Adderall IR and Adderall XR, respectively). Extended-release versions of the drugs will typically be used to avoid multiple doses throughout the day.
The effects of the immediate-release version will most often last four to six hours. The extended-release version will most often be effective for 12 hours.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases figures about the use and misuse of medications and other substances. Adderall use and misuse are not specifically identified in the 2017 results, but the estimated rates of use and misuse of amphetamine products (which would include Adderall) are reported.
The estimates listed above do not simply apply to Adderall, but all amphetamine products. It can be seen that a significant proportion of individuals who admit to using some type of amphetamine product also report misusing amphetamines at least one time.
Misuse of the medication is not the same thing as addiction. Misuse refers to using the medication in a manner that is not appropriate given its intended use.
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Amphetamine misuse most often occurs in the context of individuals using the substance to promote wakefulness or to increase their ability to focus.
The development of a substance use disorder represents a clinical syndrome of chronic misuse. However, misuse rates associated with amphetamine products like Adderall portray the significant potential for abuse that these drugs carry. The development of any substance use disorder typically begins with occasional misuse of the product.
Research studies indicate that Adderall abuse is more likely to occur in college students (often as cognitive enhancers) or young professionals in high-pressure business positions (for the stimulant effects) than in people of similar ages who are not in college or a high-pressure profession.
The research suggests that nearly 25 percent of college students have misused a stimulant like Adderall that is designed to treat ADHD at least one time. About 6.5 percent of college students would qualify as having a stimulant use disorder.
Even though many college students begin abusing Adderall as a study aid, the findings indicate that abusers of Adderall typically have lower grade-point averages than those who don’t abuse the drug. They also have lower levels of achievement in other areas.
Female students are more likely to abuse Adderall to help them lose weight. They are less likely than male students to abuse the drug to promote wakefulness or to increase their ability to focus and study. Both males and females who abuse Adderall are often members of a college sorority or fraternity.
These studies also indicate that the majority of individuals who abuse Adderall have not been prescribed the drug. Instead, they get the drug from family members or fellow students or obtain it illicitly.
An individual who is prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD or some other condition is actually less likely to abuse the drug, according to SAMHSA. Any person who engages in what is commonly referred to as doctor shopping (trying to get numerous prescriptions for Adderall from different physicians) should be suspected of abusing the drug.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists formal criteria to diagnose a stimulant use disorder, which is a substance use disorder that is associated with the abuse of stimulant drugs like Adderall. Because all stimulants function in a very similar manner, the diagnostic criteria are generalized to cover the abuse of all stimulants.
There are very few diagnostic signs and symptoms that would specifically point to an individual abusing Adderall and not another stimulant.
Periodic displays of aggression, irritability, or even paranoia and psychosis (hallucinations and/or delusions)
The formal diagnosis of a stimulant use disorder can only be made by a mental health professional. If someone is suspected of abusing Adderall, they should be evaluated by a professional to determine if they have developed a substance use disorder.
Anyone diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder as a consequence of abusing Adderall should seek professional treatment.
Because Adderall can produce physical dependence, abruptly stopping the use of the drug without medical supervision can be potentially dangerous. Consult with a physician before stopping use.
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