Adderall Addiction: The Performance Edge That Cuts Too Deep

Everything was piling up. You had another massive project land on your desk and there just weren’t enough hours in the day to deal with it all. Over lunch you vented to a co-worker about how swamped you were feeling. His response was, “You don’t know?”

“Don’t know what?”

“Wow. I thought everyone knew.”

“Knew what?”

“About brain-doping.”

You were waiting for the punch line, but it never came. He was serious, and proceeded to tell you all about the “brain boosting” power of Adderall: an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug used to increase focus, but increasingly used illegally by college students and workers in an effort to maintain their focus for long periods of time.

Anything for an Edge

Elizabeth, the subject of a New York Times article on ADHD abuse in the workplace, was using Adderall to stay competitive in her health-tech job–it allowed her to stay focused and work for longer periods of time. Time she should have been sleeping. But she knew that if she were unable to meet the demands of her job, her clients would quickly find someone else. “It is necessary—necessary for survival of the best and the smartest and highest-achieving people.” She regularly slept three hours a night.

American college students have been brain-doping long before the high-achieving executive types, with 20 percent admitting they abuse Adderall–it helps them mitigate the sometimes insurmountable pressures placed on them by academia and their families. Furthermore, some students use ADHD drugs recreationally, and as an alternative to harder drugs. According to a student interviewed byNew York Magazine, “You swallow Adderall to study, and snort it for fun.” This cavalier attitude towards Adderall and other ADHD drugs can have deadly consequences.

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Adderall Up and Down

When used according to prescription guidelines, Adderall counteracts the effects of ADHD by boosting neurotransmitter performance and increasing heart rate and blood flow to muscles. This in turn improves focus and concentration. This improved cognitive functioning has led to illegal use by students and workers so they can extend the amount of time spent studying or completing projects. It also creates a high similar to what is experienced when good things happen in your life, like winning a competition or falling in love. The high can also be euphoric, which has increased its popularity as a recreational drug.

Yet the upsides don’t outweigh the downs. Adderall abuse can cause cardiovascular problems, be habit forming, and it can even lead to sudden death in patients with preexisting heart conditions. If used for extended periods of time at high doses, it can lead to a variety of serious physical and mental health problems, including aggressive behaviour, depression, and fatigue. When mixed with alcohol, Adderall poses a serious health risk by reducing the signs and symptoms of drunkenness, which can lead to over-drinking and alcohol poisoning. Some of these symptoms of unprescribed Adderall use can be avoided by a relatively simple activity: sleep. If you sleep, you won’t need Adderall.

But You’re not Sleeping

The overall message from students and workers in demanding fields is they need Adderall to compensate for their lack of sleep due to unrealistic expectations. Sleep deprivation impairs attention, memory, and decision-making: all the reasons why Adderall is used and abused. It’s a Catch-22: you can’t focus on work because you’re sleep deprived, but you can’t sleep because you have too much work to do. And the less you sleep, the more cognitive problems you experience. Down it spirals. Add in Adderall, and the downward trend drops off a cliff.

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Up from the Depths

The cumulative side effects of Adderall use and sleep deprivation can be life changing. A Texas lawyer related his story to the New York Times. He had increased his Adderall dose from 20 milligrams to 100 milligrams a day–twice the highest recommended dose–he was knocking his job performance out of the park, but this performance came at a cost. The high dose of Adderall would make his heart race, he would sweat profusely, and he was anxious all the time due to sleep loss. The side effects of Adderall canceled out all his positive gains, changed his personality, and, eventually, he lost his job and his marriage. He eventually sought treatment and spent six weeks in a recovery program.

Now you’re in the same boat. You’ve been using Adderall for almost a year now and your life is starting to crumble around you. After talking with the Human Resource manager at work and your family doctor about your addiction, you decide to enter a 30-day treatment program. The brain boost you got from Adderall might have been nice for a while, but the cost at which it came was too high. And according to your doctor, withdrawal from Adderall can be difficult depending on the duration and dose of exposure. People who have been abusing for long periods and at high doses can experience seizures, cardiac arrest, psychosis, and thoughts of suicide.

Dealing with these withdrawal symptoms on your own can be extremely difficult; therefore, it’s important to seek professional help, like the programs offered at Alta Mira, to ensure your recovery from Adderall addiction is safe and sustainable. The detox program at Alta Mira usually takes three to five days. During this time you will have your own private room where you will be supervised 24/7 by a team of specialists. You will be made to feel as comfortable as possible, which includes a wide range of medication options to ease you through your detox. Once you have completed your detoxification, you will have access to a variety of personalized programs that will address your mental health needs, and empower you to embrace positive changes for the future. By seeking help before everything fell completely apart, you’ve set yourself up for a successful recovery.

If Adderall is interfering with your health and happiness, there is help. At Alta Mira, we have a team of compassionate, reputable addiction treatment experts in various disciplines who are dedicated to helping people break free from substance abuse. Please contact us today.