Adderall is a drug that has gotten a lot of media attention over the last few years due to academic abuse of the drug – yet contrary to what some might think, the use of stimulants to stay competitive in higher education has become somewhat of a tradition, albeit a dangerous and reckless one.
To understand why Adderall is addictive, and how it can both treat ADHD and become a major hazard for students looking for an academic edge, it is important to take a few steps back to the beginning of the drug, and its simple origins.
Long before Richwood Pharmaceuticals introduced Adderall to the American markets in 1996, it existed as amphetamine, a drug first synthesized by chemist Lazăr Edeleanu well over a century ago in 1887. Despite his discovery of the compound, Edeleanu was not aware of its psychoactive properties – it was Gordon Alles, a biochemist in California, who realized its potential in medicine over forty years later.
At first, amphetamine sulfate hit the shelves as a decongestant, but it did not take long for people to realize its stimulating effects. Alles himself took a dose of the drug during his experimentations, discovering that it left him feeling a profound sense of well-being. By the late 1930s, amphetamine-based decongestants – specifically Benzedrine – were in frequent use in universities and college campuses across the academic world, where amphetamine use became more common as a study aid.
It was a few decades after the popularity of amphetamines and their various forms had grown that the government stepped in and started cracking down, making them illegal without a prescription. Despite a rather sordid history as an addictive drug, Adderall hit the shelves in the late 90s with great success, prescribed as a treatment for ADHD, yet often taken illegally for recreational or academic purposes.
Amphetamines and The Brain
As a stimulant, amphetamine raises the heart rate, boosts the brain’s dopamine levels, and increases a user’s motivation and focus. It also prolongs this effect by inhibiting the reuptake of epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, like what antidepressants do. As a result, people using amphetamines also find themselves more confident and capable, as well as more energetic.
Among athletes, amphetamines were known for boosting performance, making them a highly illegal and highly controversial performance drug.
While amphetamine generally makes both the body and mind perform better and feel great, these effects are still harmful in the long-run. Rather than improve a life, amphetamine can quickly destroy a life through addiction.
While amphetamines primarily boost the effects of naturally-occurring neurotransmitters, they do this so well that it begins to adversely affect the brain, causing temporary changes in the way the brain recognizes certain internal cues and external stimuli to the point where amphetamine medication can quickly become your only source of motivation and happiness.
Of course, there is a reason amphetamines – and methamphetamine, a stronger stimulant – are still on the shelves. That is because despite the risk of addiction, these stimulants do in fact treat disorders, and they do so very effectively. It is important to understand why – not just because it helps people become more aware of ADHD and how it works, but because it relates directly to addiction as well.
What is ADHD and How Is It Treated?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder involves difficulty with impulsive behavior, an inability to stay still or focus, and trouble with paying attention for periods of time. Most people struggle with ADHD the most in childhood, and grow out of many of their symptoms, although cases of adult ADHD are not particularly uncommon either. In both cases, treatment is possible, and the disease is manageable. There is no definitive cure to ADHD, but with therapy and medication, the symptoms can be controlled enough to provide a normal quality of life and help someone with ADHD maintain regular focus throughout the day.
Common symptoms for ADHD include:
- Having trouble listening to people or paying attention to others
- Being consistently forgetful of basic responsibilities and obligations
- Lack of organization and task management, often leading to lost items failure to complete assignments
- Being constantly in motion, in some shape or form
- Excessively talkative, past the point of a talkative personality
- Trouble staying in one place, even when seated
It is important for parents to differentiate possible symptoms of ADHD with normal child behavior. Children are more prone to impulsive actions than adults, and can often exhibit restlessness, especially after something sugary. It is important to get a professional diagnosis.
If your children are consistently exhibiting symptoms of hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness despite changing diets, and if their symptoms are negatively impacting their social and academic progress by cutting into their grades, cutting short their list of friends, or leading to troublesome behavior, then it may be ADHD.
Adderall is often a part of the treatment for ADHD but is not the only form of treatment. Many schools today have special programs set up to help children with ADHD, and there are various forms of therapy that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of the condition.
While ADHD has a myriad of possible causes and factors associated with the development of the condition, stimulants help in many cases when applied responsibly and prescribed by a professional. Both short-acting stimulants (like Adderall and the much stronger Desoxyn) and long-acting stimulants (such as Focalin) help the brain achieve a normal balance of neurotransmitters, alleviating the symptoms associated with ADHD.
This contrasts with the brain of a healthy adult, wherein a certain neurotransmitter balance already exists. Unwarranted and illegal prescription drug use can have a massively adverse effect on this balance, rather than treating anything. That does not mean that Adderall lacks the potential for addiction among people diagnosed with ADHD. It is possible to become hooked on amphetamines even with a valid prescription, especially if the recommended dosage is exceeded. If you suspect you or your loved one is struggling with an addiction to their medication, consult a professional.