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Long Term Effects of Adderall Use

In 2011, nearly 50 million prescription stimulant medications like Adderall were dispensed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD symptoms.

In 2011, nearly 50 million prescription stimulant medications like Adderall were dispensed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms or ADHD.

This represents an increase of nearly 40 percent in these prescriptions since 2007, says the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). ADHD is one of the most common childhood neurobiological disorders. 

Adderall (amphetamine- dextroamphetamine) is intended to increase concentration and attention span in those with ADHD. It is also sometimes prescribed to treat narcolepsy.

As Adderall prescriptions increase, so can its potential for fun and non-medical use, which also increases its health risks. Adderall is abused as a “smart drug” on college campuses. 

Stimulant drugs like Adderall are addictive, and their recreational use can increase the chances of developing a psychological and physical dependence on them.

Adderall’s side effects include physical damage to the brain, internal systems, and organs.

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Disclaimer: Only a medical or clinical professional can diagnose a substance use disorder. This self-assessment can indicate possible addiction but should not replace a diagnosis from a professional treatment provider.

How Extended Adderall Use Affects the Brain

Stimulants increase focus and energy levels while decreasing the need for sleep and suppressing appetite. Adderall increases the activity of several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and especially dopamine. Over time, changes in dopamine activity can affect our brain’s reward center and alter our ability to experience pleasure without the chemical support of continued amphetamine use. The more often Adderall is taken, the more entrenched these changes become. Tolerance to the drug can form, and more Adderall may be needed with each dose to feel the same desired effects.

As Adderall leaves the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings may occur, indicating physical and emotional dependence on the drug. How Adderall is abused, and the amount and duration of abuse can affect the level of dependence on the drug. Crushing pills and then injecting or snorting them, for example, sends the drug to the brain faster than swallowing them whole and getting them into the bloodstream through the digestive tract. Natural dopamine production is reduced, causing low moods and trouble feeling pleasure without the drug.

The more and more Adderall is abused, the more pronounced the mood swings can be when it is no longer available in the body. Fortunately, most brain changes are likely to be repaired over time with sustained abstinence and proper care and support.

In some cases, Adderall and other prescription stimulants have been reported to cause psychosis and schizophrenia-like symptoms such as paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and other behavioral or mood disorders, according to the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Anxiety and panic attacks can also be triggered by long-term use of an amphetamine stimulant or during Adderall withdrawal. The US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, even prints warnings on Adderall’s labels about possible negative psychiatric side effects. Symptoms may be increased in someone with a history of mental illness or an underlying mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

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physical side effects

Stimulants like Adderall increase body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and repeated use or abuse, particularly in high doses, can create a variety of medical problems, from stroke to seizure to a heart attack.

Adderall can cause damage to the heart and cardiovascular system when used over a long period of time, especially when used in excess. As published by Brain and Body, the most common reported ADHD medication cardiovascular problems are hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (irregular heart rate). Sudden cardiac death can also be a potential side effect of Adderall.

Other side effects of long-term Adderall abuse include:

  • Heart disease
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weightloss
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Constipation
  • hyperactivity
  • Feeling nervous or “on edge.”

The heart muscle can weaken with prolonged stimulant abuse, leading to further complications. Brain changes and mood and behavior problems related to long-term Adderall abuse can also continue unless the drug is safely removed from the body.

However, Adderall detox is not a sufficient treatment. A substance abuse treatment program should be followed to help prevent relapse and support long-term recovery.

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