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Does Adderall Addiction Lead to Other Drugs?

Lately, prescription opioid painkillers have gotten a lot of attention, and with good reason. Opioid painkillers are addictive and addiction to painkillers often leads to an addiction to heroin. A less discussed but more frequently abused prescription drug is Adderall.

Adderall is sometimes prescribed for sleep disorders like narcolepsy, but is most commonly prescribed–and, many believe, over-prescribed–for ADHD. Adderall is prescribed for ADHD because it is essentially a long-acting amphetamine that improves concentration in people whose minds incessantly jump from one thing to another.

Adderall is easy to get. Most people who have abused Adderall have gotten it from a friend, family member, or classmate. Hardly anyone buys it from a dealer and so it has none of the stigma of an illicit drug.

Unfortunately, Adderall is addictive. With regular use, whether as a study aid or just for fun, you can become physically dependent. You need more to experience the same effect. When you try to stop using it, withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, lethargy, anhedonia, depression, and a general inability to think clearly or function. It can be very hard to quit, especially if you feel like your grades and your entire future depend on you being constantly at your best.

Adderall is an amphetamine similar to meth, often called its “cousin.” The effects of high doses of Adderall are often compared to meth or cocaine. People addicted to Adderall often try to get prescriptions by faking the symptoms of ADHD. This is sometimes an effective strategy, but people with ADHD typically remain at a steady dose, whereas Adderall addiction typically entails an escalating dose, something your doctor is not likely to accommodate.  

Adderall addicts may look elsewhere in desperation. A cheaper, more readily available alternative is meth. It has much of the same effect as Adderall with none of the paperwork. There are two main factors preventing the widespread abuse of Adderall from becoming widespread abuse of meth. The first is that there hasn’t been a broad crackdown on Adderall prescriptions as there has been with opioid painkillers, so Adderall is still relatively easy to get. As bad as Adderall addiction is, it doesn’t cause fatal overdose, although it can contribute to alcohol poisoning and prolonged use causes the same cardiovascular damage as other stimulants.

The second factor is that many people who abuse Adderall do so for a specific purpose, like getting through finals week. Winter break is a perfectly acceptable time to crash and level out, so students who use it two or three times during finals week don’t develop a strong dependence and have the luxury of recovery time.

Although addiction to Adderall and escalation to other drugs is rare compared to the escalation we commonly see in opioid painkillers, it does happen. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to Adderall or other stimulants, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at