Often referred to as “smart drugs,” “neuro enhancers,” and “cognitive enhancers,” Adderall and other “study drugs” are powerful stimulants that are prescription-strength amphetamines. Effective in treatments for ADHD and narcolepsy, the chemical makeup of Adderall increases naturally occurring chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When Adderall enters the body, it causes receptors in the brain to release unnatural and excessive levels of these chemicals, creating a chemical dependence after prolonged use.
Adderall is a stimulant prescription drug, usually used to treat A.D.H.D. (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, previously referred to as A.D.D.). Originally included in the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association in 1987, children diagnosed with A.D.H.D. has increased from 3-5% in the early 1990s to over 11% in 2013. A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. were mostly treated by Ritalin, an older prescription drug that had to be taken multiple times a day. Adderall largely replaced Ritalin in 1996 because Adderall only needed to be taken once a day, was longer lasting, and was considered more effective for treatment.
Methods of Use
There are a few different ways to use Adderall. Some people take them with a glass of water, but others crush them up and snort them like it’s a line of cocaine or some other illicit drug. People snort crushed Adderall pills to get a stronger, more intense dose. Snorting or otherwise inhaling Adderall is an important sign of identifying if someone you love has an addiction to Adderall or other stimulant drugs.
Understanding Why Students and Young Professionals Abuse Adderall
Many people, especially youth, begin using Adderall to improve focus in school and sports in order to keep up with studying, papers, and practices. High school and college students using Adderall without a prescription or abusing their prescription with alcohol has increased by over 125% since 2011. In fact, over 65% of young adults and teenagers who have abused Adderall are current or former college students. More than 20% of college students report having abused prescription stimulants in some manner. Of college students who have abused some form of stimulant, Adderall has been the drug of choice for over 60% of those surveyed.
In a 2006 study in The Journal of Drug Abuse, the authors found three motives for trying and abusing prescription drugs. Many students self-medicate for stress, pain, weight loss, and increase focus. The second most-identified reason by students was to simply “have fun.” And finally, students who don’t identify as “partiers” began using “smart drugs” to improve their performance in school. Stimulants such as Adderall are notorious as study aids in college dorms and libraries. A study in 2018 identifies that 88% of use in college students was used “not as prescribed” or the students didn’t have their own prescription.
Dangers and Myths of Adderall Use
Sure, improved studying and focus from a drug that is prescribed to over 3 million youth a year doesn’t sound too dangerous. This is not true though. Adderall abuse with the supervision of doctors can be very dangerous. Research in the last few years suggests that the short term effects of increased focus and attention may be more of an urban legend than fact. “It’s basically just keeping you awake,” says Eric Teske, assistant director of IUPUI’s abuse prevention program. “It’s not giving your brain superpowers.”
Aside from not really helping kids study, Adderall increases risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, seizure, and irregular heartbeats.
Adderall and Alcohol – Do Not Mix
Many Adderall abusers report mixing with alcohol. The amphetamine makes it possible for people to drink more alcohol while feeling “in control.” They don’t get as drunk, they think, as when they don’t mix with Adderall.
People who mix stimulants with alcohol increase the risks of alcohol related injuries or complications because their body can’t tell them when it’s time to stop. There is a significant increase in the chances of alcohol poisoning because the person on Adderall keeps drinking much longer than they would be able to without the aid of amphetamine.