Top Signs of Adderall Abuse

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated June 30, 2020

Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) is a widely used stimulant prescription medication. While it’s prescribed to adults and children with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy, misuse of Adderall is common. Other prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD include Vyvanse, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Concerta, and Focalin.

According to research by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, prescription stimulant abuse is most prevalent among young adults between the ages of 18 to 25. A study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases that surveyed nearly 11,000 college students nationwide found that more than half of those with an Adderall prescription were asked to share or sell the stimulant medication to their peers. Additionally, students who used Adderall for non-medical purposes were more likely to binge drink or use recreational drugs.

If you think a loved one might be misusing the prescription drug, there are certain signs of Adderall abuse to look out for. We’ll give you a breakdown of each red flag and how to seek help from a rehabilitation center.

5 Signs of Adderall Abuse

The signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse aren’t typically as obvious as other drugs. With or without a prescription, many use it to help them study or focus on work. Aside from elevated focus, ADHD medications can produce a euphoric, energetic feeling. 

The combined side effects of Adderall abuse make for a highly addictive drug, and the dangers of abusing it should not be understated. Find details about the top five signs of Adderall abuse below.

1. Changes in Mood

When someone uses Adderall, you might notice both positive and negative mood changes. On the positive side, they may seem more upbeat, excitable, and self-confident. In addition to its energizing effects, Adderall can boost a person’s self-esteem and make them feel accomplished if they begin to perform better in school or at work. This often results in happier moods. 

On the other hand, ADHD medication can make a person feel anxious, irritable, paranoid, and even depressed. When the desired effects aren’t achieved with a dose of Adderall, they might take more to try to feel more focused or energized. As you might expect, this can make negative moods even worse. When Adderall is abused for long periods, some experience severe adverse mental effects, such as extreme anxiety, delusions, or hallucinations.

2. Habitual Changes

Specific habitual changes could be signs of Adderall abuse. Whether or not a person has an ADHD diagnosis, dextroamphetamine-amphetamine is often used in an attempt to boost productivity. The drug is notorious among college students for helping them write last-minute papers or study for exams. Some professionals also use ADHD medication to help them meet deadlines or work longer hours.

If your close friend, family member, or romantic partner is abusing Adderall, you might notice that they’re suddenly more dedicated to school or work. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and yet misusing stimulant medications can have a number of negative consequences. 

Apart from increased productivity and an uncharacteristic focus on work or school, misusing Adderall may lead to a change in sleep patterns. Since the drug makes people feel more alert, it can prevent them from going to bed at normal hours or allow them to wake up much earlier than usual. It’s also a known appetite suppressant, so you might notice a change in your loved one’s eating patterns as well. If they’re working more, sleeping less, and eating less, it’s possible Adderall abuse is the cause.

3. Behavioral Shifts

As with many prescription drugs, both medical and recreational use of Adderall can lead to behavioral shifts. Since ADHD medication can make people feel more lively, typical examples include talking and working out more than usual. If you notice unusual chattiness and or increased physical activity, it could be a sign of Adderall abuse.

Although these behavioral shifts may not seem like a bad thing, misusing Adderall can lead to a false sense of invincibility, which can be destructive. When someone tries to fit in a vigorous workout routine, long hours at work, and frequent social activities without getting enough sleep or proper nutrition, it can result in anxiety, exhaustion, burnout, and poor physical health. 

Some people use Adderall as a party drug, which can be exceedingly dangerous. Since stimulants often make people feel as if they can drink more, it can lead to blackouts, alcohol poisoning, and liver damage.

Other behavioral shifts may include hostility and aggressiveness. This can occur with Adderall abuse at any age, especially when the stimulant drug is misused. In some instances, Adderall can also make people more impulsive and less interested in activities they used to enjoy. If you notice someone dear to use is atypically aggressive, reckless, or withdrawn, they could be abusing ADHD medication.

4. Physical Red Flags

The physical red flags of Adderall addiction can be very telling, but they aren’t always easy to detect. That being said, knowing what to look for will help you determine whether your loved one has a problem.

The physical effects of Adderall abuse can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Twitching or shaking
  • Vision impairment
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Unless someone tells you what they’re experiencing, you probably won’t know they have dry mouth, vision problems, or frequent headaches. However, if you pay careful attention to their physical cues and complaints, you might be able to pick up on multiple symptoms. Also, the higher the dose of Adderall, the more prominent these physical effects will be. In severe cases, abusing ADHD medication can lead to seizures.

5. Prescriptions and Paraphernalia

Adderall is a strong medication that can be beneficial when used as prescribed by those who need it. The problem with prescribing medication for ADHD and narcolepsy is that there is no blood test or other method of verifying the condition — prescribers can only go off of a patient’s word. For this reason, many people falsify their symptoms in an attempt to receive a diagnosis that would qualify them for an Adderall prescription.

Even if someone has a prescription, one of the signs of Adderall abuse is running out of medication before they’re able to refill it. In some instances, people attempt to get more than one prescription from multiple doctors to acquire more than the recommended dose, which is illegal. An Adderall prescription doesn’t automatically mean the stimulant drug is being abused. However, an empty pill bottle soon after the prescription date or two bottles from different prescribers would be a red flag.

If your loved one doesn’t have a prescription of their own, you might notice pills in plastic baggies or even a pill bottle with someone else’s name on the label. When taken as prescribed, ADHD medication is typically consumed by mouth once a day, in the morning. When it’s abused, people tend to keep pills on them — in their pockets, purse, or wallet — so that they can take it throughout the day.

Additionally, some people crush Adderall pills to snort them as a way to quicken and intensify the effects. In that case, you might find razor blades, rolled-up cash, straws, or other paraphernalia in their possession.

Adderall Abuse Treatment from Northbound

When stimulants are misused, dependency can develop, and users can feel as if they can’t function or accomplish anything without it. On top of that, ignoring the extreme moods, destructive behaviors, and physical effects of Adderall dependence can have harmful consequences. Knowing the signs and symptoms of Adderall abuse is a crucial first step in helping your loved one get the support they need.

Northbound acknowledges that for some, addiction treatment for Adderall abuse might seem unnecessary or excessive. Having said that, the highly addictive medication can be just as dangerous as illegal stimulants, such as meth or cocaine. No matter what type of substance is being abused, treatment can be overwhelming. But Northbound is here to support our clients and their families at every step of the recovery journey.

Our Approach to Adderall Addiction Treatment

When patients come to Northbound for help with Adderall addiction, treatment begins with a comprehensive clinical assessment. From there, we’ll work with them to develop a personalized treatment plan that caters to their unique needs and situation. We offer residential rehab and outpatient treatment, including intensive outpatient programs and telehealth services.

In many instances, substance abuse is treated in conjunction with a co-occurring mental health condition, like depression, anxiety, a trauma disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, codependency, or an eating disorder. This integrated approach is called dual diagnosis treatment, and we often find it to be more effective than treating substance abuse and mental health disorders separately.

If your family member, close friend, or partner is struggling with drug abuse or addiction, please reach out to Northbound Treatment today. Call us or fill out our admissions form online.

Sources:

  1. Benham, Barbara, and JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Adderall Misuse Rising among Young Adults.” Jhsph.edu. N.p., 17 Feb. 2016. , https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2016/adderall-misuse-rising-among-young-adults.html
  2. Arria, Amelia M., and Robert L. DuPont. “Nonmedical Prescription Stimulant Use among College Students: Why We Need to Do Something and What We Need to Do.” Journal of addictive diseases 29.4 (2010): 417–426. Print., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951617/
  3. “‘Study Drug’ Abuse by College Students: What You Need to Know | National Center for Health Research.” Center4research.org. N.p., 8 July 2016., http://www.center4research.org/study-drug-abuse-college-students/

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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