Recreational use of Adderall has become a growing problem on many college and university campuses. Adderall is in an amphetamine which can be prescribed for individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. With these conditions, the individual may have difficulty staying focused and on-task for an extended period of time, or may have difficulty retaining information. Adderall helps these individuals maintain focus and live a normal life.
However, for an individual who does not have one of the previously described conditions, this drug can have a dangerously hyperactive effect on the brain. Adderall is a stimulant and is often described as having effects very similar to cocaine. The drug speeds up brain activity, causing increased attention, alertness and energy while also increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. This can place immense strain on the heart, as blood pressure can reach dangerously high levels. Though it is less common, it is possible for heart rate and respiratory rate to reach dangerous levels as well. As such, misuse of Adderall has been associated with increased risk of heart problems, high blood pressure and stroke.
Moreover, there is a common misconception that because Adderall is taken daily by individuals with ADHD, it is not a dangerous and addictive drug. On the contrary, individuals who regularly take Adderall without a prescription are at high risk of becoming addicted, particularly when taking non-prescribed doses. Like many other drugs, recreational users can easily develop a tolerance to Adderall and become unable to function without it.
Dosage is also of concern for those who use Adderall recreationally. An adult individual with ADHD may take a range of 5-40 mg of regular Adderall per day by working with their physician and determining what is best for them. They may spread this out by taking more than one small dose throughout the day, as regular Adderall lasts six hours. It is of note that this maximum of 40 mg per day is only used in very severe cases, with 40-60 mg per day being taken only for extreme narcolepsy. It is also of note that regular Adderall is different from Adderall XR, which is extended release Adderall that lasts for 12 hours. The maximum prescribed dose of Adderall XR for ADHD is 20 mg per day, and is again only used in severe cases.
Even if you intend to only take Adderall one or two times to pull an all-nighter and get through a particularly busy week, misuse of prescription medication is a slippery slope: The National Council on Patient Information and Education found 90 per cent of recreational Adderall users in college to also be heavy binge drinkers, as well as three times more likely to use marijuana, eight times more likely to use cocaine or prescription tranquilizers, and five times more likely to use prescription pain medication.
It is not that those who take these recreational drugs are “bad people,” but rather it is important to recognize that these are powerful drugs which can greatly impact body chemistry and influence further drug use down the road. When entering this exam season, remember to put your body first and opt for good food, moral support and sleep rather than popping a pill. It will all get done either way.
Alyssa BeLong is Mount Allison Wellness Centre’s Health Intern, and this column is part of her duties as the Health Intern.