When drugs are developed, they contain compounds which have been proven to treat a particular condition. But they might also have some properties that make them suitable for treating other conditions for which they are not technically licensed.
Adderall is a good example of this. It was originally developed for the treatment of narcolepsy and ADHD, but its unique properties also make it ideal for us as a so-called ‘smart drug.’
What is Adderall?
Adderall is categorised as a central nervous system stimulant. It is made up of 2 main chemicals; amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both these chemicals can alter the chemistry of the brain. The drug is approved for treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. In the case of ADHD, it helps a sufferer to focus and calms them. With narcolepsy, it reduces daytime sleepiness.
ADHD is one of the conditions for which Adderall is prescribed. The condition presents with symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
Symptoms of ADHD tend to first be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child has to interact with others and adhere to rules such as they do when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed in children when they are between 6 and 12 years old.
Sometimes, ADHD can continue into the adult years, but the condition presents differently in adults, and sleep and anxiety disorders might be experienced.
What causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but there is considerable evidence that it runs in families. Research has also identified that there are differences in the brains of people with ADHD compared to those who don’t have the condition.
How is ADHD treated?
There’s no cure for ADHD, but it can be managed with advice and support for parents and their children, along with medication.
Narcolepsy is a rare brain disorder that makes a person fall asleep at inappropriate times. The brain loses its ability to regulate sleeping and waking patterns, and this can result in sufferers feeling sleepy through the day, and falling asleep without warning.
Narcolepsy doesn’t usually cause serious physical health problems, but it can have an impact on everyday life and can be difficult to cope with.
What causes narcolepsy?
One of the main causes of narcolepsy is a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin which regulates the normal wake/sleep cycle. Immune cells attack the hypocretin cells and this means that the body doesn’t produce enough of it. This is just one of several causes of the condition, and stress and hormonal changes are also thought to play a role.
Narcolepsy is rare, and when it does occur, it affects men and women equally. It is most commonly diagnosed when someone is between 20 and 40 years old.
How is narcolepsy treated?
There’s currently no cure for narcolepsy, but improving your sleeping habits and taking medication can help to minimise the impact the condition has on your everyday life.
It is recommended that you take frequent naps during the day to manage any daytime drowsiness. This may be difficult if you’re at work or school, but your doctor or a sleep specialist can help you to come up with a realistic sleep schedule.
If your symptoms are particularly bad, you might be prescribed medication that will reduce daytime sleepiness and improve the quality of your sleep at night.
All about Adderall
So Adderall can treat some troubling conditions because of its unique properties. The drug’s ability to increase alertness and concentration and to reduce fatigue means that it is also used off license for other issues. It is often used by students as a ‘smart drug’ when they need to study hard for an exam. An American study found that around 14% of students on any given university campus might be using Adderall at any one time.
Adderall is classed as a stimulant. Here is what you need to know about the drug:
There is a lot of potential for abuse
Because Adderall is a stimulant, and it can give users a feeling of euphoria and of being energetic, there is a high potential of abuse of the drug. These effects are caused by the fact that the drug increases the levels of dopamine in the brain and dopamine is associated with pleasure. Adderall is easier to obtain, though in the US it is classified as a class 2 controlled substance, due to its habit-forming potential. There have also been recorded cases of users developing psychosis if they abuse the drug, even if they had no history of mental illness.
How much does it cost?
The branded form of Adderall is quite expensive, if you are planning on getting a 30-day supply. If The brand name Adderall IR (the immediate-release form) will set you back between $150 and $170 for 30 tablets in the US.
The branded Adderall XR (the extended-release form) costs around $220 for a 30-day supply. Adderall is available in a cheaper generic version though.
The generic version of Adderall IR costs between $25 and $40 for a one-month supply. Generic Adderall XR usually costs between $75 and $150 for a 30-day supply.
What dosages are available?
Adderall is available in “IR” (immediate-release) and “XR” (extended-release) formats. The immediate-release version of Adderall is available at dosages of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg. The extended-release version of Adderall is available in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30mg doses.
Once taken, the effects of Adderall IR last 4 to 6 hours and the XR format lasts 12 hours. Because there are more dosage options available, doctors will find it easier to manipulate doses to bring about the desired effect for a patient.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall increases the amount of the chemical dopamine in the brain, which can increase alertness and cognitive function.
Side effects of Adderall
Common side effects associated with the drug include appetite loss, dizziness, dry mouth, headache, insomnia, nervousness, stomach aches, and weight loss.
Levoamphetamine, the main compound in Adderall, is known to cause cardiovascular effects such as increased blood pressure and increased heart rate.
However, Adderall tends to produce stimulation without the ‘jittery’ side effects that are often associated with stimulants.
Withdrawal from Adderall
When people stop taking Adderall they can experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include fatigue, cognitive impairment, sleepiness, and a worsening of ADHD symptoms. It is even possible that some people can experience worse symptoms of their condition than they experienced prior to taking the medication.
The effects of withdrawal from the drug can last for months or even years. This is due to the effect it has on the chemistry of the brain. Manipulating dopamine levels for long periods can leave a person with low dopamine levels in the brain and they will find less pleasure in things, lack focus, and motivation. In other words, they will need Adderall to feel happy. However, because Adderall is available in many different dosages, it is easier to reduce dosages gradually to reduce possible side effects.
Drug overdoses can be accidental or intentional. An overdose occurs when a person takes more than the medically recommended dose of a drug or other substance. Some people may be more sensitive to certain medications, so even a low dose of a drug might be too much for them.
People can overdose on Illicit drugs when their metabolism can’t get rid of it fast enough to avoid side effects.
As everyone’s body chemistry is different, people will be affected differently by an overdose. Most overdoses occur in people who are in their teens to their mid-30’s.
What causes a drug overdose?
The cause of a drug overdose is either by accidental overuse or by intentional misuse of a drug or substance. Accidental overdoses can happen if a child gets hold of a medication for example. Or an older person can get confused and take the wrong dose of a drug. Intentional overdoses are often taken to get ‘high’ or to harm oneself (a suicide attempt, for example). for a desired effect, either to get high or to harm oneself. Teenagers and adults are more likely to overdose on one or more drugs to intentionally harm themselves. This is often the case where there is an underlying mental health issue.
The symptoms of a drug overdose
When a person takes an overdose of a drug, side effects are more noticeable, and other things can happen which wouldn’t occur if they had taken a normal dose. The symptoms and effects of an overdose vary according to who has taken it and what type of medication has been taken. For example, a small young child can easily be given an overdose due to having a smaller body size, and some medications can be very toxic and can cause death, even in the case of a relatively small overdose. These are common signs that a person has overdosed:
There are problems with the temperature pulse rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
A person can become sleepy, confused, or even comatose.
Their skin might be cool and sweaty, or hot and dry.
They might have chest pains and difficulty breathing. Breathing may become shallow, and rapid or it might slow down.
They may have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Some drugs can cause organ damage.
What to do if you have taken an overdose or suspect that someone has
If you or someone else has taken an overdose, or it is even just suspected, go straight to a hospital. There is no way of knowing whether an overdose is serious, so it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if there are no symptoms.
You should take all medication packets and containers to the hospital so that the doctor knows what has been taken.
What will happen?
A doctor will do a physical exam and order lab tests depending on what has been taken. They will ask about what has been taken, how much has been taken, and how long ago.
Drug Overdose treatment
Doing a stomach pump to remove any unabsorbed drugs from the stomach.
Activated charcoal may be given to help bind the drugs and prevent too much being absorbed into the blood. The drug is rendered harmless by the charcoal and expelled from the body.
For overdoses of some drugs, such as opioids, an antidote medicine may need to be given.
People who have taken a drug overdose as part of a self-harm or suicide attempt will need psychiatric assessment, as they are at risk of causing themselves further harm.
To prevent accidental overdoses, keep medications, over the counter remedies and vitamins in a safe and secure place. Intentional overdoses are harder to prevent as the underlying issues need to be addressed.
Adderall overdose is potentially life-threatening. The lethal dose of the drug, which results in the death of about half of people who have overdosed, is 1.6g. This is even less if the drug is mixed with other stimulants, which will increase its effects.
Adderall is a stimulant made up of mixed amphetamine salts. Overdose can cause:
tachycardia (a fast heart rate)
hypertension (high blood pressure)
These symptoms are extensions of the usual clinical effects of the drug.
Reported overdoses of Adderall are much less common than overdoses of methamphetamine or cocaine.
What you need to do in the event of an Adderall overdose?
The safe range for Adderall dosage is between 5 and 60 mg. Where this dose has been exceeded, you should seek medical advice, especially if symptoms are present. It is possible to overdose at doses under 60mg of Adderall has been mixed with another stimulant.
If a person has abused Adderall, they will have developed a tolerance, so they may be able to take much higher doses before it becomes dangerous.
Deaths from Adderall overdose are far less common than deaths from opioid overdose.
What happens if I can’t get to a hospital?
Take these steps if seeking emergency treatment is not possible, or it is delayed.
Stay cool: try applying a cold compress to your forehead
Use benzodiazepines if you have them to manage symptoms
atypical antipsychotics are useful if benzodiazepines fail to reduce the symptoms
Adderall Overdose Symptoms
Patients who take a mild-to-moderate amphetamine overdose might experience:
If someone has injected or otherwise taken a very high dose of Adderall, they can experience:
hyperthermia (can be life-threatening)
a fast, irregular heartbeat
sudden cardiac death
Organ failure which often leads to death
How is Adderall overdose treated medically?
In most cases, mild-to-moderate overdose can be managed by controlling agitation with benzodiazepines, giving intravenous fluids for mild dehydration, and monitoring airway, breathing and circulation. Activated Charcoal might be used to good effect if the Adderall has only just been taken recently. The charcoal should be avoided if patients do not have a sufficiently clear and healthy airway.
Adderall is classed as a central nervous system stimulant. It is made up of 2 main chemicals; amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both chemicals can alter the chemistry of the brain, especially the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The drug is approved for treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. In the case of ADHD, it helps a sufferer to focus and calms them. With narcolepsy, it reduces daytime sleepiness.
Adderall has unique properties which means that it is often used for other purposes. Its ability to increase alertness and concentration and to reduce fatigue means that it is often used as a ‘smart drug’ for students who might need to write a lengthy paper of study for an exam.
Because Adderall is a stimulant, and it can give users a feeling of euphoria and of being more energetic, there is a high potential for abuse of the drug. These effects are caused by an increase in the levels of dopamine in the brain and dopamine is associated with pleasure. Over time, users enjoy the feeling it gives them so much that they start to need, and seek, higher doses to get the same effect. Adderall is easier to obtain, though in the US it is classified as a class 2 controlled substance, due to its habit-forming potential. There have been recorded cases of users developing psychosis if they abuse the drug, even if they had no history of mental illness.
The potential for the development of a tolerance and addiction to the drug is high and with this comes an increased risk of overdose. An overdose of Adderall can, in mild cases, produce slightly more intense side effects than a therapeutic dose, and in severe cases, it can cause heart problems, and organ failure which ultimately leads to death. As with any drug, follow the rules and stay safe. A few hours of euphoria is not worth your health or your life.