Adderall Abuse Symptoms and Use Among College Students

As technology continues to evolve, the amount of information we are able to ingest is increasing at an incredibly high rate. Mobile devices, music streaming services, the internet, and a flood of social media apps constantly work to overload our senses. Children, teens, young adults, and older people all feel that there is never enough time to do what they need to do, and when they do get some time to get things done, they are constantly battling the pull of distractions. Over the years, psychologists and doctors have diagnosed people of all ages with a slew of mental disorders linked to hyperactivity, or the inability to stay focused on one thing for a long amount of time.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 9 percent of kids ages nine to 17 and 2.5 percent of all adults experience symptoms and some disability from ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (1). These people are often prescribed stimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, which help calm the overactivity of a brain with ADD or ADHD. Outside of the doctor’s office, college students and others obtain these drugs illegally and use them for a variety of reasons: as a study drug that increases focus, as a weight loss assistant, or as a pick-me-up. Adderall, or any amphetamine salt, often does what the user wants it to do: increases focus, energy, and wakefulness, as well as decreases appetite. But, like with any drug, Adderall abuse and addiction is a possibility. Adderall abuse among college students is on the rise, so it’s important to inform young and old alike to the dangers of Adderall abuse and how Adderall addiction is as serious as any other addiction. 

A male college student on Adderall is sitting at a table working on his laptop.

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall was created to treat those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder- or ADHD. It can also be used to treat narcolepsy. People who suffer from ADHD have a hard time paying attention and settling into situations that require them to be still. These individuals have a lack of dopamine, meaning they are constantly seeking out stimulation. Hence a drug like Adderall can help. Adderall belongs to a group of drugs called stimulants, which can help increase the ability to pay attention, stay focused on activity, and control behavioral problems. It may also help one to organize tasks and improve listening skills. A doctor will prescribe you Adderall in pill form. Some people who abuse the drug may crush it up and snort it, as you would cocaine.

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Adderall has a number of side effects even when taken as prescribed, but especially with Adderall abuse. As listed on Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s website, some Adderall abuse side effects can include: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, feeling “spacey”, decreased appetite, dehydration, restlessness, dry mouth/unpleasant taste in the mouth, high blood pressure, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, nausea, lack of motivation, excessive fatigue, impotence, aggression, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, slowed speech/speaking in broken sentences. (2) Again, a lot of these side effects only come about through Adderall abuse, which means you’re taking more than the amount a doctor is prescribing you, or you are obtaining Adderall through non-medical avenues and taking it for recreational purposes or simply self-dosing the amount you think you should take. Adderall abuse can quickly lead to an addiction to Adderall symptoms. But what does an addiction to Adderall look like?

Adderall Addiction Symptoms

Addiction to Adderall symptoms can be both physical and mental. The biggest sign one has developed an addiction to Adderall symptoms is hyperactivity. If you notice someone has manic behaviors, such as not eating or sleeping, or is hostile and aggravated a lot, they may be in the midst of an Adderall addiction. Some other addictions to Adderall symptoms are: Nervousness, uncontrollable shaking or seizures, headache, insomnia or restlessness, loss of appetite / weight loss, nausea, stomach pain, dry mouth, diarrhea, and constipation are all signs of an addiction to Adderall symptoms. (3)

A cartoon image of a female college student contemplating taking an Adderall pill surrounded by graphics representing the signs and symptoms of the medication.

Adderall Addiction Among College Students

Unfortunately, it appears that Adderall abuse has affected a certain population of people the hardest. Adderall abuse among college students is at dangerous levels. College students have to cope with many pressures, including tests, socializing, debt, and the search for employment after college. Students want to be able to ace their exams in the morning while also having fun at parties, so Adderall can seem to help in both these cases. Since Adderall increases attention span and calms the brain down, college students feel they are able to stay up all night studying with the drug, take a test the next day while on the drug, then be social at a party afterwards all the while needing less sleep and less food to sustain themselves. Some college students view Adderall as a “healthier” alternative to cocaine because it is prescribed by doctors and has side effects and symptoms that are less severe.

For all these reasons, it makes sense that Adderall abuse among college students is high. Another reason that Adderall abuse among college students is high is that Adderall has been known to help people with weight loss since the drug has a stimulant effect and can increase the metabolism while decreasing appetite. College students are usually young adults, prone to self-consciousness and preoccupied with success in school and in their private lives, causing them to seek out maximum fulfillment in these areas. Lastly, Adderall abuse is high among college students because some students may ingest it with alcohol, which presents another level of danger. According to the American Addiction Center website, “When combined with alcohol, the drug can be deadly. This is because alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant. Taking these two in combination may initially mask some of the early effects of each leading to dangerous overconsumption.” (4)  

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  1. Adderall Addiction, Abuse and Side Effects | Hazelden Betty Ford
  2. Adderall Addiction, Abuse and Side Effects | Hazelden Betty Ford
  3. Signs of Adderall Addiction | Turnbridge