3 years of continual use is considered long-term for the ADHD medication Adderall. The longer it is used, the higher the risk of dependence and health issues.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is one of the nation’s most commonly-diagnosed mental health issues in children. It is often diagnosed in childhood and is considered to last until early adulthood in many cases. There are many symptoms of ADHD, including attention issues, challenges managing impulsive behaviors, and being super-active.
There are three main types of ADHD. They are defined and grouped by how the disorder presents itself as well as what symptoms are strongest.
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: In this type, the patient finds that they wrestle with task completion and attention to detail. Also, following conversations or complex instructions is difficult. Distraction is common.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: In this type, there is nearly-constant fidgeting, as well as difficulty in staying still for long periods. The patient will feel restless and impulsive, often having problems with impulsivity. Running, climbing, and jumping are common activities. They may frequently interrupt others, grab at things, and speak at inappropriate or inopportune times.
- Combined Presentation: A combined presentation is any presentation that is a blend of the other two in relatively equal parts.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Most children will have trouble focusing and maintaining attention at one time or another. However, in those with ADHD those behaviors are never grown out of, and in some cases, they can become more severe. The symptoms experienced by children can often lead to behavior problems, issues at school, as well as trouble with family and friends.
Some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Constantly daydreaming
- Losing things, or forgetting them easily, sometimes even very important things
- Fidgeting, squirming, or “stimming”
- Talking too much or too little
- Difficulty following directions
- Making seemingly careless mistakes and often engaging in unnecessarily risky behavior
- Difficulty resisting temptation
- Challenges in taking turns with friends
- Finding it difficult to get along with others or work in a team
Common Treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
In most cases, ADHD is treated with a combination of therapy and stimulant drugs. Treatment can often start as early as four or five years old. It will involve behavioral therapy, training for parents to help development, and more.
The therapy methods that work the best will vary from one individual to another. The family unit can be a significant factor in how treatment works as well. Other treatments include social skills training, family therapy, and psychotherapy.
What is Adderall and How Does It Work?
Adderall is a stimulant that is only legally available by prescription. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for those living with ADHD. It is also used to treat the disorder narcolepsy. The function of Adderall is to raise the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain and central nervous system, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine is one of the most powerful “feel-good” chemicals that our brain can produce. It is used primarily in the brain’s reward centers and can have significant effects on higher thinking processes. Norepinephrine can help focus attention and affects stress responses. Despite Adderall being so widely prescribed, there are some fairly significant side effects and symptoms associated with misuse and abuse.
Adderall Statistics and Use in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 2015, close to 6 million of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetimes. Additionally, according to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of emergency department (ED) visits related to nonmedical use of stimulants, including Adderall, among adults aged 18 to 34 increased from 5,605 in 2005 to 22,949 in 2011.
How Extended Adderall Use Affects the Brain and Body
There are countless ways that using Adderall and Adderall XR long-term changes the body and the brain. Some of these ways are changes in blood pressure, heart rate, weight loss, blurred vision, and more.
One of the primary risks is addiction and physical dependence. Since the user will develop a tolerance, the dosage or frequency will eventually need to be adjusted. This deepens the cycle and creates a higher chance of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when Adderall use is eventually stopped. Some of the most common Adderall withdrawal symptoms are things like mood swings, depression, drowsiness, physical slowness, and increased appetite.
Mental Health Issues
There is the possibility that taking stimulants can change the behavior of the person taking them to a considerable degree. The potential for possible psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations is relatively high. It is encountered in nearly one-fifth of those surveyed.
Adderall raises the heart rate and blood pressure of the person taking it, which isn’t a problem in many cases. However, it can create the risk of a heart attack in those with preexisting cardiovascular problems. If someone taking Adderall begins to experience chest pains, it should be considered an emergency.
Adderall causing changes in the sex drive of those using it. Those changes can vary drastically from one person to another. It can cause frequent, long-lasting erections, and it can cause erectile dysfunction as well.
Powerful stimulants like Adderall slow down the growth of those taking them. This has been seen not only in children but also in young adults. While stopping use can allow this to normalize, it must be stopped before growth periods are missed.
What is the Outlook for Someone with an Adderall Dependence?
For someone with Adderall dependence, the outlook while battling the addiction alone isn’t the best. However, by leveraging options like a partial care program or outpatient detox program, that outlook could be dramatically improved. Professional help can make recovery much more effective and long-lasting.