Adderall is the brand name of a prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults.
Adderall is a combination of two stimulant drugs, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
Adderall XR is an extended-release form of the drug.
Doctors also prescribe Adderall (but not Adderall XR) to treat narcolepsy.
Adderall may help people with ADHD control their activities and increase their attention spans.
The drug may also prevent symptoms of narcolepsy, which include excessive sleepiness and sudden attacks of daytime sleepiness.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Adderall in 1960. The agency also has approved the combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine as a generic drug.
DSM Pharmaceuticals makes the brand-name drug, and many drug companies make a generic version.
Adderall belongs to a class of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. The drug works by increasing levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which stimulates the brain.
This stimulation has a calming and focusing effect on people with ADHD.
Adderall 'High' and Abuse
Use of Adderall has surged in recent years.
Research shows that the number of ADHD medications prescribed to children increased 45 percent from 2002 to 2010.
Of these drugs, Adderall was the second most-prescribed medication.
Sales of the drug jumped more than 3,000 percent from 2002 to 2006. In 2010 alone, the total number of Adderall prescriptions topped 18 million.
One reason for the surge in Adderall prescriptions is that increasing numbers of children and teenagers are getting an ADHD diagnosis.
However, doctors also prescribe the drug to children and adults who do not have ADHD.
This increased availability of Adderall has led to widespread abuse of the medication.
Because Adderall increases dopamine levels, it can trigger a feeling of euphoria among people who don't have a medical reason to take it.
As a result, it has become a drug of choice among people trying to get "high," who often crush and snort the pills or mix them water and inject them.
Because stimulants like Adderall increase alertness and attention, a growing number of people who do not have an ADHD diagnosis are using the drug to enhance their ability to think and focus.
This off-label use of Adderall is a growing trend, particularly among high school and college students who are trying to study for exams or boost their academic performance.
Stimulants like Adderall, sometimes called “smart pills,” are currently the second most common form of drug use on college campuses.
Despite the widespread belief that Adderall can improve a person's ability to learn, the drug does not enhance thinking ability in people who do not have ADHD.
Young people who do not have ADHD but are taking Adderall to get better grades in school or gain an academic advantage are at risk for potentially deadly side effects.
Adderall and Weight Loss
Adderall also can suppress appetite, and a growing number of people who want to lose weight also abuse the drug as a diet pill.
However, using Adderall or Adderall XR for weight loss can result in severe side effects, including psychosis, addiction, stroke, cardiac arrest, and death.
Adderall can increase your risk for heart problems, high blood pressure, and stroke.
If the person taking Adderall has a history of a heart defect or other heart problems, there is a risk for sudden death.
Doctors need to check children for any heart problems before prescribing Adderall.
Adderall may increase your risk for mental health problems, including depression, bipolar disorder, and unusual behaviors including aggressive or hostile behavior.
Children on Adderall also may develop psychotic symptoms, which include seeing things that are not there (hallucinations) and believing things that are not true (delusions).
Adderall may be habit-forming. This is more likely if you take Adderall in larger doses, more often, or for longer than recommended by your doctor.
You may need to take increasingly greater doses to control symptoms, but taking larger doses increases your risk for heart and mental health problems.
Children younger than 3 should not take Adderall, and children younger than 6 should not take Adderall XR.
Always tell your doctor if you have allergies to any medications. Let your doctor know about any:
- Reactions you have had to other stimulants
- Family history of heart problems, high blood pressure, or stroke
- Family history of mental problems
- Previous drug or alcohol abuse
Several other conditions your doctor will need to be aware of before prescribing Adderall for you include any history of:
If your child is taking Adderall, you should talk to the doctor about the risk for delayed growth.
Some stimulants may delay growth and development in children. A doctor will need to check your child regularly while the child is on Adderall.
It's also important confirm a diagnosis of ADHD before treating a child with Adderall.
Sometimes, poor school performance or behavioral issues are symptoms of other problems that need treatment, such as trauma, dyslexia, or mental illness.
Medical experts do not know whether Adderall is safe for elderly people.
If you are older than 65, ask your doctor whether there are other drug options that might be safer for you.
If you suddenly stop taking Adderall, you may have Adderall withdrawal symptoms, also known as an "Adderall crash."
Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can include depression, insomnia or other sleep disorders, irritability, and extreme fatigue.
You are at higher risk for Adderall addiction if you have abused drugs or alcohol in the past.
Adderall withdrawal can be managed with help from your doctor, who may advise you to slowly taper off your use of the drug.
Adderall and Pregnancy
Adderall might be unsafe to take during pregnancy.
Because of this, talk with your doctor before starting Adderall if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, and call your doctor right away if you get pregnant while on Adderall.
Also, do not take Adderall while breastfeeding because the drug can pass through breast milk to a breastfeeding baby.
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