Adderall: America's Best Kept Secret Epidemic 

For those who don’t know, Adderall is a medication used to treat severe attention deficit disorders. However, if taken by those who don’t have ADHD-related symptoms, the drug is a powerful stimulant with a high equivalent to methamphetamines. Like its illicit cousin made in a bathtub and sold on the streets to millions every year, it doesn’t take more than a few uses for an Adderall user to become fully addicted.  With America’s news media and parents focused on the opioid epidemic, Adderall has quietly risen to become one of the nation’s most abused prescriptions in history - especially among young adults and teenagers. 

Its intended use is an effective provenly medication for those experiencing severe ADHD-related symptoms. Its effectiveness in treating those who need it is not in question. But the extent to which the drug is prescribed does not justify Adderall’s overall number of prescriptions. 

According to the latest statistics, approximately 9 million American’s and 2.5 million children have ADHD. Yet, there were over 16 million prescriptions of stimulants (Adderall being the far-favorite) in circulation in 2012. 

The number of Adderall prescriptions in 2018? A staggering  25,331,775 total subscriptions.

The Origins of Adderall

Debuting in 1996, Adderall has been on the pharmaceutical market for over two decades. The stimulant’s first purpose served as a stimulant used to treat severe narcolepsy. As one could imagine, the drug was significantly impactful for men and women who suffered from dangerously random and life-debilitating bouts of narcoleptic sleeping disorders. 

It wasn’t long before Adderall made its way to patients who had severe ADHD. Again, the drug proved effective in treating patients whose hyperactive symptoms otherwise made their life unmanageable.  

Adderall was initially touted as a godsend for patients with the bonus of having “zero” side effects. We now know this statement to be patently false as Adderall has ostensibly become a legal form of meth that is easy to obtain as filling out a questionnaire in your family doctor’s office. 

Today, Adderall is the 25th most prescribed drug in America, and it's addicting today’s youth in countless droves.

The Epidemic Abuse of Adderall in Today's Teenage Culture 

Today’s youth are using Adderall for an unknown number of uncertain millions. There are no firm numbers on how many teens are abusing the drug - but experts say the numbers of teens abusing the stimulant are probably close to that of adults, roughly 4-5 million. 

Teens popularly use the drug as a study or work aid. With its high amphetamine-fueled stimulating effects, Adderall is the perfect drug for students and young people who need to stay awake for long periods to complete academic or work-related tasks to get ahead and succeed. The effects of Adderall can keep high schoolers and college students awake for days at a time, allowing them to study without rest or food.

In the mid-2000s, Adderall was mainly being distributed and abused among college students and campuses. By 2009, the drug had made its way to 5% of every high school in America and 7 % just four years later.

Its chemical composition makes Adderall a highly sought-after drug in the classroom and extracurricular pursuits such as high school athletics and music rooms. 

In 2019 it was estimated between 10 to 20% of high schoolers are or have used Adderall illicitly.

So, Why is Adderall So Addictive? Its super-stimulating ingredients include a combination of dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine aspartate monohydrate - all highly volatile ingredients that mimic the effects of a similarly chemically made methamphetamine when taken in high doses. 

In the hands of teenagers, Adderall’s dependency is near-instant. Teen abusers whose frontal lobe is in charge of critical thinking and impulsivity aren’t yet fully developed can become addicted after a few highly-dosed uses. 

Symptoms of Adderall Abuse - Dependence, Withdrawal, and Overdose

Adderall is a powerful drug. Like most powerful drugs, it also has many adverse physical and psychological effects if abused. 

Adverse physical symptoms range from mild to severe and include: 

  • Cardiovascular side effects including hypotension and hypertension 
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon - loss of blood flow to hands and feet 
  • Gastrointestinal side effects - abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea
  • Appetite loss and weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive grinding of the teeth
  • Nosebleed
  • Profuse sweating 
  • Heart attack (in extreme cases)

Adverse psychological range from mild to severe, and effects include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviors
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Psychosis 

Like its stimulating highs, Adderall’s lows are just as severe. Users who ingest high doses can experience significant withdrawal symptoms, including major depression, extreme fatigue, and extreme anxiety. In severe cases, withdrawal of heavy users can result in suicidal ideation. 

Overdose symptoms also widely vary. The severity of symptoms of an amphetamine overdose greatly depends on a user’s tolerance and the amount they’ve taken. In extreme cases, for example, severely heavy users have been known to take 1000 mg of amphetamine in a single day - 100 times the maximum prescribed use - which commonly leads to amphetamine poisoning. According to the DSM-IV, amphetamine poisoning can lead to cardiac shock, cerebral hemorrhages, circulatory collapse, coma, and even death. Although, it should be noted that this only occurs in extreme usage. 

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