increase in Adderall usage - pills on table

Adderall is a prescription that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. A combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are two central nervous system stimulants, Adderall is often prescribed to treat both children and adults that are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) It can also be prescribed to treat patients that have narcolepsy.

Most individuals use Adderall because it helps them stay focused, complete tasks, or combat the symptoms of ADHD. ADHD is often demonstrated by behaviors that include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, and includes symptoms such as:

  • Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet settings
  • Being unable to concentrate on tasks or activities
  • Constantly fidgeting
  • Excessive talking
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Difficulty waiting
  • Acting without thinking

Adderall works well for people with ADHD. While not all symptoms of ADHD will go away, the drug helps to improve symptoms like the ability to stay focused on a task to completion. For example, students with ADHD often have difficulty sitting still or learning in class without Adderall.  However, when prescribed the medication, they will see an improvement in their ability to focus in class, to study, and ultimately see an improvement overall in their school work and grades.

However, Adderall is a stimulant and carries major risks for misuse and abuse. It is also often used by people illegally, without a prescription, in order to get high. Many high school and college students use Adderall as an upper to focus on their schoolwork, when those students do not have ADHD. Other people use Adderall in place of things like cocaine, crack cocaine, or crystal meth. Over the last several years, numerous studies have found that there has been an increase in Adderall usage and by nature the prescription rate, as well as non-medical use of Adderall (taking the drug without it being prescribed) rose 67% and emergency room visits due to Adderall went up 156%. Additionally, of the non-medical (or non-prescribed) Adderall usage, 60% was occurring in young adults between the ages of 18-26.

This overall increase in Adderall usage, both from legitimate prescriptions as well as from what seems like more people buying and using Adderall off the streets, creates a greater risk for addiction. Adderall, after all, can be an addictive substance with potential for abuse. For those with a history of addiction, Adderall can be extremely dangerous. There are a number of reasons that Adderall can be worrisome or dangerous, which include:

  • Potential for Misuse or Abuse. Individuals that take Adderall through a prescription from a doctor may take more than prescribed or use it in ways other than intended, such as crushing and snorting it to achieve a more intense and rapid high.
  • Risk of Dependence. Ongoing or continued misuse or abuse of Adderall can lead to both physical and psychological dependence.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms. If a person becomes physically dependent on Adderall, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the medication or even if they attempt to take less.
  • Increased Cravings. Adderall can increase the cravings for other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. Stimulants activate the brain’s reward system, making those that take Adderall more susceptible to cravings for other drugs.
  • Risk of Polydrug Use. Polydrug use is taking multiple substances either simultaneously or sequentially, meaning that a person may use or misuse other drugs along with Adderall.
  • Psychological Effects. Adderall can exacerbate certain psychological symptoms that are common in those that suffer from addiction, such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, or hallucinations.
  • Risk of Overdose. Misusing or overusing Adderall can put someone at risk of overdosing, just like someone might with cocaine. However, a greater risk is buying and using Adderall off the streets, where the pills being purchased may not be Adderall at all, but rather counterfeit pills made to look like Adderall and that often will contain dangerous or deadly amounts of the synthetic opioid Fentanyl.

Due to many individuals getting diagnosed with ADHD, or many individuals having an ADHD diagnosis from childhood, we are seeing an increase in Adderall usage as well as more and more prescriptions for Adderall are being written as use becomes more prevalent.

Additionally, due to the accessibility of the drug and a society desensitized to think prescriptions are not necessarily dangerous, there is absolutely an uptick in both Adderall prescriptions and the availability of Adderall being bought off the street taking place in the United States.

While the drug often works wonders for individuals that deal with ADHD, it can also be a dangerous substance, especially for someone susceptible to addiction. For anyone that may be suffering from addiction involving Adderall, or for parents or family members who may worry their loved one is suffering from Adderall addiction, it is important to seek help, guidance, direction, and treatment.

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at