Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs in the USA, with studies showing that nearly 40 million prescriptions are written every year. The drug is also one of the most abused drugs in the USA, popular with students and professionals who use it to boost concentration and energy.
Adderall combines amphetamines and dextroamphetamines to produce a stimulant that is prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and sometimes depression, but also one that helps users to feel alert, energetic, and powerful. As a result, some studies show that between 6.1 and 30% of college students across the USA use it recreationally.
Adderall releases dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain, creating energy, concentration and happiness, suppressing the appetite, and allowing users to stay up for long periods of time without feeling fatigue. However, while Adderall is relatively safe to use in prescribed amounts, recreational users often develop a tolerance, leading them to take more of the drug, resulting in addiction and prolonged heavy use.
What Are The Long-Term Effects of Heavy Adderall Use?
Heavy Adderall use consists of taking more than the recommended dose of either instant release or extended release Adderall. The drug is prescribed in doses of 2.5 to 60 mg per day, but doses over 40mg per day qualify as ‘heavy’ usage and are addicting.
Over time, heavy use can cause chemical changes in the brain, physical damage to the brain, and organ and gastrointestinal damage.
Heavy Adderall Use and the Brain – Adderall increases concentration and energy levels by increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are part of the brain’s reward system, and over time, as the brain becomes accustomed to receiving them from an outside source, it may stop producing them in enough quantities to maintain normal energy and happiness levels when not on the drug. Prolonged heavy Adderall use also damages the dopaminergic nerve endings, making it more difficult for the brain to produce dopamine. This damage can be permanent, or can take years to heal.
As a result of these changes to the brain, someone who is addicted may find that they have trouble sleeping, concentrating, no motivation, and may feel depressed or irritable whenever they are not on the drug. These changes can be permanent, and users may find that they are depressed even years after ceasing to take the drug. Heavy users also experience emotional changes, where they experience low moods and even have trouble feeling pleasure, and may have mood swings of this nature for years after quitting the drug.
The most common mental side effects are: