In the United States alone, there are approximately 4.8 million people taking the prescription medication Adderall. (1) There are numerous people abusing this prescription medication, buying it on the sly or angling to get the medicine from a doctor even though they don’t medically need it. (2)
Those who are prescribed it most often take it for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, college students around America have taken to using the drug as a way to study longer and better, and as a way to boost academic performance especially when exams roll around. (3)
A study done by Brigham Young University in 2013 revealed that the use of Adderall among college students appears to peak at the end of the fall semester when finals are coming up; at that point, it spikes to three times the average rate. (4)
What is Adderall really and why are so many people using it?
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication that is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. (5)
Both dextroamphetamine and amphetamine are central nervous system stimulants that affect the nerves and chemicals in the brain that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity.
This prescription medication is most commonly used to treat ADHD; however, it can also be used to treat narcolepsy. (6)
The brand name for this prescription medication is simply “Adderall”; however, there are other related medications, including Vivarin, Concerta, Didrex, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse. (7) While not all have entirely the same drug makeup, they do favor each other and might be used in the same scenarios.
Adderall can have both positive and negative effects on the brain, and the negative can especially come into play if the drug is being abused. Let’s look at a few of Adderall’s effects.
3 Positive Effects of Adderall
1. Adderall boosts overall energy.
Adderall increases the availability of specific neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These specific neurotransmitters are responsible for boosting overall energy levels. (8)
This gives the user the drive to finish the task at hand. Some users use Adderall when working all day, such as for a double shift. It is also used to help boost performance despite lack of sleep and adequate rest, which is why it can be such a dangerous drug.
2. Adderall boosts alertness.
The same neurotransmitters are also used to boost alertness. (9) This is what makes the drug so appealing to college students who need to study. After hours of studying, students tend to turn to coffee or other drugs that can wake them up a bit and boost their alertness.
For those who need to be sharp or alert for the duration of their work hours, Adderall becomes a crutch that users need to function optimally.
3. Adderall improves the user’s ability to pay attention.
Norepinephrine and dopamine, those energy boosters discussed above, also improve the individual’s ability to pay attention. This can be increasingly beneficial for children or adults with ADHD. (10)
Often, ADHD is characterized, in part, by someone’s inability to pay attention. They are very easily distracted, making it hard for them to focus on the task at hand.
Improved ability to pay attention, increases alertness and boosted energy all sound great—but is the price too high in the case of using Adderall?
There are plenty of negative side effects from taking this drug that might change your mind as to whether it’s “worth it.”
5 Negative Effects of Adderall
1. Adderall can put you at risk for cardiac arrest.
The energy boosting chemicals found in Adderall also increase your heart rate and the blood flow to your muscles. This increase in heart rate can lead to risk for cardiac arrest. Adderall can also disrupt your heart rhythm and increase blood pressure, leading to an even greater risk of cardiac arrest. (11)
Much like other stimulants, Adderall artificially boosts energy levels through various mechanisms. It is no less risky to use, not to mention harmful when used in the long-term.
2. Adderall can lead to difficulty sleeping or insomnia.
The boost of energy might be nice in the moment, but it can result in insomnia later. Amphetamine, the stimulant found in Adderall, is in the same classification as the illegal drug cocaine. (12)
This stimulant can cause your body to become incredibly active, sometimes being compared to the energy rush people feel when using cocaine. This can be a hard high to come off of, and it can negatively affect your sleep cycle.
Remember, sleep is essential for rest, recovery and repair. Without it, your body has no time to recuperate and prepare for the day ahead. Do this time and time again, and you will see some negative health effects.
3. Adderall can cause numbness or pain.
Adderall can cause your fingers or toes to feel numb or even hurt because of its interference with your circulation. Stimulants, such as the amphetamine found in Adderall, can cause your blood vessels to constrict, resulting in the skin on your fingers and toes turning red or blue. (13)
4. Adderall can negatively affect your digestive system.
Adderall increases the amount of glucose that gets released into your digestive system. As a result, you might experience constipation and stomach pain. Further, the increase in glucose could lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. (14)
5. Adderall can put you at risk for psychosis.
While Adderall is typically used to treat behavioral disorders, it can also cause them. Some clinical studies have suggested that the administration of Adderall in a patient who is already considered psychotic could exacerbate symptoms of thought disorder and behavior disturbance. (15)
While there are both positive and negative side effects, if you find that Adderall is not working for you, it might be a good idea to detox from it. There are plenty of natural and organic methods for boosting your energy and increasing your ability to focus. (16)
How to Detox from Adderall
Detoxing from Adderall is a straightforward process for the most part. If these methods don’t work for you, seek the advice of a professional to ensure that your recovery is a smooth and uneventful process.
1. Rid yourself of the drug.
Sometimes the easiest and most straightforward method is the last on the list because it is the most difficult to do. For users who have become dependent on the effects of Adderall, quitting the drug without any viable alternatives is a non-starter. However, this is usually when you absolutely must cease all use of the drug to avoid further dependence.
Under the advice and care of a medical professional, begin to wean yourself slowly from using the drug, allowing your body to rid itself of the toxins. (17)
2. Replenish lost nutrients and increase whole food intake.
Once your body has rid itself of the toxins from Adderall, it is important that you replenish your body with good nutrients–vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
One great way to quickly rehydrate yourself and start replenishing your lost nutrients is to try out a few detox water recipes. Detox water with blueberries is a simple way to pump nutrients back into your body while still enjoying something tasty. There are several detox water recipes that will give you an energy boost in place of Adderall, without chemical or negative side effects.
3. Pick up healthy habits.
Start exercising. Exercise is a great way to boost your energy and improve your ability to focus naturally. Exercise will also boost your heart rate and can give you something like that exhilarating stimulant experience because exercise also releases chemicals in the brain that help with anxiety, depression, and stress. (18)
Adderall is not all bad. There are a few reasons it has been deemed useful, particularly in helping those with ADHD and narcolepsy.
However, there are also plenty of natural options out there–such as a water detox–that can effectively improve your mood, boost your energy and improve your ability to focus without bringing all those negative side effects into your life.