Adderall is an amphetamine-based drug that is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
Some people even use it without a prescription to get more focused on their tasks, but it’s very easy to develop an addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall and may have developed an addiction, you’re not alone. A lot of people have issues with Adderall.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to treat your addiction.
What is Adderall Addiction?
Adderall addiction, as the name implies, is a compulsive urge to use this prescription medication to get a drug-induced high. Adderall is part of the amphetamines family, which includes a range of drugs that stimulate brain activity.
While severities vary by drug, Adderall addiction resembles a fixation on most other stimulants, from milder cases like caffeine to real problems like methamphetamine (usually an amphetamine mixed with other substances).
We’ll discuss the characteristics of Adderall addiction more deeply in a moment, but it tends to involve using progressively more of the drug and possibly modifying the method of using it.
One important thing to understand is that many people who use Adderall as prescribed have a dependency on it.
A dependency is usually not as severe as full-on substance abuse, but anyone who uses Adderall for a meaningful period may experience withdrawal symptoms when getting off it.
Do Adderall Addiction Urges Go Away?
Cravings for Adderall can be persistent and may occur for years after you stop taking the drug.
Much of this is because of existing associations in the brain, where certain thoughts or experiences can trigger the desire to take Adderall as a solution. Such cravings are the root of most types of drug addiction.
Cravings typically get weaker over time if you can stop associating things with Adderall or if you can switch the cravings to a less-harmful substance. While they may never completely disappear, especially if you use Adderall for a long time, most people can learn to manage them.
Forms of Adderall Addiction
Adderall addiction is relatively straightforward in most people, so there aren’t as many types of addiction as you might expect. It is considered a prescription drug addiction and people go through the different stages depending on how advanced they are.
- Abuse of Adderall: In this type of addiction, the person who uses the drug is no longer doing it as prescribed and is causing harm to themselves. Gradually they may opt to increase the dose to prolong the feeling. Abuse of Adderall will lead inevitably to tolerance and require a higher dose each time to reach the desired pleasure.
- Dependence on Adderall: At this point, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to function properly. Users will need Adderall to function. However, not all dependence is addiction. Users may suffer from it, but still won’t be fixated 24/7 on getting the substance.
- Addiction on Adderall: At this point, the user is going through a mental disorder that will impede the person from stopping using the substance. A lot of the time the person will be seeking that boost, experience withdrawal, and not think about anything else.
Adderall Addiction Statistics
Adderall addiction is common among college students, with reports indicating about 11.1% (higher for males, lower for females) abused Adderall.
These numbers can increase significantly by groups. Reporting by Professor Alan DeSantis found that as many as 80% of students in fraternities and sororities were using stimulants, including Adderall and some related drugs. Numbers are also higher among upperclassmen generally, as opposed to new students.
DeSantis has done a lot of research into this and also found that students generally had little trouble acquiring “study drugs,” nor did they see any stigma for it.
Prescriptions for Adderall haven’t gone up significantly over the years, suggesting that many cases of Adderall abuse are diversions from the intended recipients.
The drug has been having manufacturing problems, to the point that over 60% of people with prescriptions reported having issues getting Adderall in 2022-2023.
While this will likely lead to a drop in abuse among students, some of those people may turn to more dangerous drugs.
What are the Signs of Adderall Addiction?
Here are some of the most common signs of Adderall addiction.
1. Doctor Shopping
Adderall addiction may encourage someone to visit many different doctors and get multiple prescriptions for it.
Doctor shopping is common among people who intend to sell the drug or those supporting someone else’s illicit habit. Shopping around accounts for a decent portion of diverted prescriptions.0
2. Manipulating Adderall
Regular users and those with mild addictions typically take Adderall in pill form, which is the usual method.
People with more severe addictions may experiment with changing the format, especially by crushing it. Snorting crushed Adderall may cause other visible symptoms, such as damage to nasal membranes.
Adderall is a stimulant, so people taking it may talk much faster or be more sociable than usual. If you see an increase in their sociability over time, someone with an Adderall addiction may be taking higher doses to try and retain the high as they build tolerance.
4. Incomplete Thoughts
Adderall is a stimulant, so people may find their brains are working faster than their mouths. From the outside, this can take the form of incomplete thoughts while they’re talking, and someone may appear to be jumping from subject to subject with no real connections.
5. Fixation on Adderall
Addiction can also lead to a general fixation on Adderall, meaning someone will spend lots of time locating and using this drug. Other things like work or study may be degraded to a lower level of importance in the user’s eyes.
6. Sense of Invincibility
People over-using Adderall may experience a feeling of grandness, invincibility, or overall well-being. This sensation can manifest as acting confident and content with life while they have the high but swing back down to depression if they stop taking the drug.
7. Weight Loss
Adderall usually curbs the user’s appetite, so you may see weight loss. That mixes with feelings of energy and invincibility to make people more active overall, which can further cause weight loss through exercise.
Some people abuse Adderall for this quality specifically. However, while it may appear to work at first, Adderall addiction can lead to a slide into unhealthy levels of weight loss.
8. Financial Problems
Adderall is only available as a prescription, which means someone needs to pay somewhere along the line. Addicts may spend far too much of their money on the drug, which only gets worse if they’re not working.
Exhaustion usually occurs when someone is withdrawing from Adderall. This can occur almost as soon as the drug leaves its system. At more severe levels of addiction, this exhaustion can persist for days or weeks.
Addicts may also have a disparity in how they feel and how much energy they have.
For example, college students may use Adderall to try and stay up late studying, but too many sleepless nights can quickly cause real exhaustion. Drugs can only cover that for so long.
Some addicts will start acting in risky ways, usually as a secondary effect of feeling invincible. The highs of being on the drug can make it easy to grow overconfident and misjudge situations.
Types of Unhealthy Adderall Behavior
All the behaviors above are unhealthy, but people misusing Adderall may display more troubling behaviors over time. They may also experience problems like vomiting or nausea, quit their job, drop out of school, or ask other people to help them get Adderall.
Withdrawal symptoms usually include depression, problems sleeping, fatigue, and anxiety. These can persist for months, so treatment programs often emphasize minimizing these to make recovery easier.
What is the Main Cause of Adderall Addiction?
The primary cause of Adderall addiction is mental rather than physical. People often start abusing this drug in college, where they feel that they need a study aid to help them keep up with classes and have the potential for a better life.
Once those thoughts take hold, students may start it when they’re facing a big test or feel that they need an extra edge. This experience is often successful for them, so Adderall establishes itself mentally as a solution to stress and the fear of failure.
However, people who don’t have a prescription for Adderall also tend to experience crashes and exhaustion once the drug runs out. The crashes encourage taking more of the drug to compensate, and from there, it’s an easy slide to higher doses.
It’s possible to develop a tolerance to Adderall, so people with an addiction will often consume more and more over time or start looking for ways to modify it to strengthen Adderall’s effects.
Beneath all of this is a culture of acceptance, especially on college campuses and among young adults. Adderall is often viewed as a study aid, with the worst effects not seen until after people graduate, so students may encourage each other to take it. It lacks the stigma of more obviously-dangerous drugs.
It’s also worth noting that the benefits of Adderall for studying appear to be largely illusory. Students may think they’re doing better, but testing indicates minimal effect in people without ADHD.
How Adderall Addiction Affects the Brain
Adderall addiction is like most forms of drug addiction in that it causes people to fixate on the drug to their detriment. Addiction manifests in several ways.
What is the Personality of an Adderall Addict?
Adderall addicts may appear to be manic-depressive. When they’re on Adderall, they tend to feel grand, important, cheerful, and successful.
However, when the drug runs out, this can quickly slide into depression and anxiety. The desire to avoid all the bad feelings fuels the addiction.
Early addictions can be hard to spot. Addictions often start among college students with minimal parental oversight, only people who are encouraging them to take the drug.
Most parents won’t ask too many questions if a student says they’re staying up late to study.
Later stages of addiction tend to be more obvious, but at this point getting off of Adderall typically requires more serious intervention.
Is Adderall Addiction a Mental Health Issue?
Yes. All forms of addiction are mental health issues, but Adderall is more cognitive than some other drugs. Helping someone with an addiction to Adderall usually requires some form of mental health support group.
What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Adderall Addiction?
Adderall addiction is especially common in people who experience anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Generally, any mental illness with negative impacts on a person’s mood is especially susceptible to Adderall addiction because the feelings of positivity can seem like they’re solving another problem.
Less obviously, Adderall addiction may develop as a result of situations like Imposter syndrome, where students feel like they don’t deserve their place in a high-level school.
How Do I Stop My Adderall Addiction?
Addiction support groups are often used in dealing with Adderall addictions, and the good news is that there are ways to get off of it.
Can Adderall Addiction Ever Be Cured?
Adderall addiction rarely disappears entirely, but most people can manage it and significantly reduce both the power and the frequency of addictive urges.
What is the Most Common Treatment for Adderall Addiction?
Many people start with a medically-guided detox, which will help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of getting off Adderall.
The drug doesn’t need much help to exit the body, so the detox is mainly to help alleviate issues like anxiety, paranoia, and cravings.
From there, treatment plans are often individual and get catered to a person’s unique needs. Some people attend rehab, while others may work on community reinforcement, cognitive behavioral therapy, or contingency management.
Do not attempt to manage treatment for Adderall addiction yourself. Talk to your doctor or specialized therapists.
What Can I Replace Adderall With?
Some people replace Adderall with other stimulants like Ritalin, Focalin, Zenzedi, or ProCentra.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative, citicoline (a brain chemical) and methionine (an essential amino acid, no relation to methamphetamines) may help mitigate some effects of Adderall if you’re trying to get off of it.
As with regular therapy, make sure you consult your doctor before trying to replace Adderall. Only an expert can tell you if a specific approach is healthy based on your unique medical situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions that people have about Adderall addiction.
What Happens if You Take Adderall Every Day?
Long-term use of Adderall usually leads to addiction, especially if you take it above a prescription amount. Some people may also experience heart issues, new mental health issues, or delayed physical development.
Can Adderall Cause Brain Fog?
Yes. Although Adderall is primarily a stimulant, it can cause brain fog and affect aspects of concentration and memory. While the exact cause is unknown, evidence suggests that severe ADHD contributes to the chance of brain fog.
Additional Addictions to Be Aware Of
People who experience an Adderall addiction may also try other drugs to get a better high. Here are some other addictions to be aware of.
- Xanax Addiction: Xanax is a common drug people take for anxiety and insomnia. It is highly addictive, and people tend to develop tolerance quickly, so addicts may take dozens per day.
- Fentanyl Addiction: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Although it has some prescription uses, it’s highly addictive because of its overall power. Some illegal drugs use fentanyl as part of a mix without telling their users.
- Morphine Addiction: Morphine is an opioid often used for treating pain. Long-term use typically builds tolerance, and addiction is especially likely in people suffering from chronic pain.
Adderall addiction is a serious and common problem, especially on college campuses where the myth of its value as a study aid persists. The crucial thing to remember is that treatment is possible and can bring the addiction down to a manageable level.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an Adderall addiction, talk to your doctor and ask for help today.