“The study drug,” “speed,” “uppers”—these are all slang terms for Adderall, which is a brand name for the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Although the misuse of Adderall has gained attention in the media in recent years, the substances it’s made of are nowhere near new.
Adderall abuse on college campuses is a common problem. This is probably not a surprise since most people do in fact think of it as/call it the “study drug.” There are a lot of reasons for these nicknames, though, reasons going back to the turn of the century.
Before we get too far into what Adderall is and the side effects it can produce, it’s important to remember it can be used safely. There are a lot of people who get great benefits from an Adderall prescription. When someone follows their doctor’s directions they can utilize Adderall to overcome certain struggles in their life.
Adderall should never be prescribed for weight loss or for someone who just wants to study for a test more effectively. We will cover the reasons Adderall is appropriately prescribed, as well as reasons it is diverted or misused, and then discuss how the side effects of Adderall can appear.
Lifting The Mental Fog With Amphetamines
Right around the time amphetamine was being used openly and sold freely, scientists noticed the effects it was having on what they called “cognitive enhancements.” It was helping people focus and seemingly do better than they could have done previously on intelligence tests.
These effects were seen as magnificent and nothing to worry about. In fact, amphetamine was seen as so beneficial it was distributed to American and British military members during World War II. One study estimated around 150 million Benzedrine pills were handed out to soldiers.
Even more noteworthy is that seemingly no one was reporting on the potentially addictive effects of amphetamine use. Soldiers were using it to stay awake, alert, and as mentally sharp as possible. When the scope of WWII is considered, along with its years of active combat, this means doctors were writing prescriptions and essentially diverting the medication themselves.
Another first for amphetamine occurred in the late 1930s, this one related to children.
The Contradiction Of Using Amphetamine To Calm Down
Amphetamine is a stimulant. That’s one of the reasons the term “upper” is given to the substance: because it makes someone feel more energetic and alert. The opposite of stimulants are depressants, which are sometimes called “downers.”
In 1937 a scientist conducted a study with children who were deemed to have “behavioral problems.” He prescribed 30 children Benzedrine (amphetamine) and monitored their behavior over the course of a week. Half of the group had significant changes to behavior and cognition, including a calmer demeanor and ability to focus.
Where the contradiction comes into play with amphetamine is when a prescription is written for a person—usually a child—with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As the names of those disorders show, they’re present in kids who have trouble focusing and/or trouble with higher levels of physical and mental activity.
Essentially, what that means is the people struggling with ADD or ADHD have a problem with stimulation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define them both as “neurodevelopmental” disorders that can come with the following symptoms:
- Excessive daydreaming
- Regularly losing and/or forgetting things
- Constant motion, like squirming and/or fidgeting
- Excessive talking
- Taking unnecessary risks and making avoidable mistakes
- Struggling with resisting temptation
- Struggle to take turns
- Having a hard time getting along with other children
Possible Adderall Side Effects
Although Adderall has a long list of side effects, keep this in mind: if you are taking a prescription for Adderall your doctor will be monitoring your health. It’s important to remember it can be completely safe to take Adderall and it helps a lot of people.
Side effects of Adderall can play a role in someone’s life who is taking the medication exactly as prescribed, just like they can play a role in the life of someone who is taking them without a prescription. Some of these side effects are mild and some are severe. Some are even life-threatening.
Mild Adderall Side Effects
Some mild side effects of Adderall may include:
- dry mouth
- weight loss
- painful menstrual cramos
Side effects like increased levels of anxiety and nervousness are connected to how Adderall is affecting someone’s nervous system. A change in sexual stamina and even the desire for sexual interaction is possible, which is a side effect you will often see listed alongside antidepressants.
Weight loss in particular is one of the side effects of Adderall people who are taking this drug without a prescription might be seeking, but taking Adderall for weight loss alone is dangerous. If you are abusing this drug, get Adderall addiction treatment right away.
Severe Adderall Side Effects
The list of severe side effects from Adderall abuse is long. Doctors and experts recommend anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms while on Adderall should call a doctor immediately. If you are taking Adderall without a prescription you could be significantly endangering yourself.
Severe Adderall side effects may include
- Slurred speech and/or having trouble speaking
- Blurry vision or general changes in sight
- Itching and hives
- Random swelling, especially of the face, and particularly in the eyes, tongue, and/or throat
- Struggling to breathe or swallow
- A feeling of numbness or weakness in a leg or arm
- Depression—Adderall has been shown to potentially affect clinical depression and bipolar disorder, worsening the symptoms of both
- Grinding your teeth
- A heightened sense of paranoia and potentially feeling a change, in reality, thinking and/or believing things that are not actually real
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Blue colored toes or fingers
- Random and inexplicable wounds appearing on the hands and/or feet
- Blisters and skin cracking or peeling
- Developing tics of speech or fine motor skills, such as in the hands or in the face
- Fever (sweating, shaking, etc.)
- Heightened heart rate
- Stiff muscles
- Decreased coordination
- Manic episodes
The most severe side effect of Adderall is potentially death. For people with heart defects, the likelihood of heart attack or sudden death is higher, in children, teens, and adults. Because Adderall can speed up someone’s heart rate a person who is already struggling with maintaining a healthy heart rate could be at a higher risk of a heart attack. Doctors caution to watch for shortness of breath, chest pain and fainting as signs of a serious problem.
It is possible to overdose on Adderall and it is specifically possible when considering someone misusing the medication. Almost all Adderall tablets/pills are created as time-release, meaning they are ingested and the medication then enters the body over an extended period of time.
If someone crushes the pills in order to inhale/snort or even smoke them, the likelihood of overdose rises. That’s because the amount of the medication the body would be getting in a very short period of time would be much too high.
Many of the signs of Adderall overdose are similar to the side effects of taking Adderall, which further complicates the situation of someone taking Adderall without a prescription. They can include:
- Weak muscles
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Fever or temperature spikes
- Excessive or uncontrollable shaking
- Dark urine
- Blurred vision
Another difficult aspect is that everyone is different, meaning some people could overdose on much smaller amounts of Adderall. If someone has overdosed on Adderall call 911 immediately. The dangers associated with overdose are very real, including coma and even death.
Most importantly, if you know someone who is taking Adderall without a prescription and struggling with stopping, there is treatment available. Trying to quit “cold turkey” is not a helpful strategy for most people, and can lead to longer struggles with relapse, not to mention produce dangerous side effects from suddenly stopping the use of a drug or substance.
When it’s time to get treatment, finding the right situation and location is the best way to go about it. Taking all information and circumstances into consideration is key. You want the person struggling to be as well taken care of as possible.
Moving Past Adderall Addiction
Struggling with addiction, potential side effects, and withdrawal from a drug or substance is all very scary. When someone enters an addiction treatment facility to address these things they should be well taken care of and remain safe and comfortable.
Recovery is possible. Our Mississippi drug rehab uses the strength of the clients we see; it focuses on their resilience and helps them realize how powerful they are. It’s our mission to help everyone we see begin their lifelong journey into recovery.
We use evidence-based treatments like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a well-researched and reliable form of therapy, to address all the things that go into struggling with addiction. And because everyone is different, and struggles in different ways, we do individual assessments to ensure we’re not relying on a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Also, we know treatment doesn’t begin and end with detox and rehab. That’s why we have our evening intensive outpatient program (IOP). It’s a program that allows people to continue working, living at home, and continue focusing on their future.
When it’s time for someone to begin recovery, or even when it’s time to ask questions about recovery, we want you to know we are here for whatever you need. Call us at 844-551-7335 any day of the week, at any time. Whether you are calling for yourself or a loved one, we’re ready to talk.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Adderall Do To Your Brain?
Adderall affects three specific chemicals that are naturally produced in the brain: dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. First, dopamine can lead to feeling euphoria but also help maintain focus. Epinephrine interacts with and affects the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which controls how alert a person may be, and can also increase the ability to focus. As a side effect, it may also make a person want to eat less. Essentially, Adderall can have the effect of focusing your brain and giving you a feeling of higher energy.
What Should I Avoid While Taking Adderall?
If you are taking Adderall because it’s been prescribed to you, your doctor will most likely have given you an information sheet detailing the medications that might interact with the drug. If not, call your doctor and ask for that information. If you are taking Adderall without a prescription you should stop doing so immediately. One of the reasons why is that Adderall can lead to sudden death in people with certain heart defects, and without a medical professional doing an exam on you, the dangers are higher than you want to risk.
What Are The Most Common Side Effects Of Adderall?
There are a lot of side effects, and they will differ from person to person, normally. Some of the most common ones are decreased appetite, dry mouth, headache, increased levels of anxiety, and sexual side effects including decreased sex drive or difficulties performing. It’s also important to remember the long list of side effects includes things that are also possible when someone has overdosed on Adderall. It is a drug that should never be taken without a prescription and regular visits to a medical professional for checkups.
What Does Adderall Do To Your Body?
Aside from the effects on the brain listed above, and including a decreased appetite, Adderall has a massive list of potential side effects on the body and mind, some of them dangerous or even life-threatening. They include: headache, decreased sex drive or sexual ability, intensely painful menstrual cramps, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, sudden weight loss, and anxiety/nervousness. The more serious side effects include weak/numb arm or leg sensation, seizures, verbal or motor tics, grinding of teeth, depression, heightened suspicion/paranoia, visual or auditory hallucinations, and a lot more. Adderall has also been shown to cause sudden death in children and teenagers, but particularly in those who have heart defects. This can also affect adults with heart defects.