What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication that’s designed to soothe symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since this disorder often appears in childhood, Adderall is a medication that many young people have access to. They may have a prescription due to an ADHD diagnosis, or they may have a close friend or a family member who takes an ADHD prescription.
While it might be easy enough for kids to get Adderall, the drug isn’t designed for most kids. It’s meant as a solution for one specific problem at one specific time. Teens can forget this basic fact, and they might use Adderall for addictive purposes. When they do, they’ll need the help of a treatment program in order to get better.
The average teen has access to all sorts of drugs, and many are tucked away in the family medicine cabinet. While there are some teens who pick and choose medications depending on the sensations they’re craving, there are some teens who are exclusively focused on Adderall. There are all sorts of reasons why a teen might choose this specific drug to abuse. Firstly, Adderall changes chemical signals inside the brain. A teen taking Adderall can feel energetic and strong, capable of handling almost any challenge, and that might be appealing to some. Adderall can allow the brain to release chemical signals of pleasure, producing a sensation of euphoria and bliss. Teens taking Adderall can feel incredibly rewarded, and that sensation might push them to seek out the drug over and over again. While most teens are aware that recreational drug use is wrong, they can get mixed messages concerning Adderall. For example, the National Football League reports that Adderall is among the most popular drugs of abuse among professional football players. In 2012 alone, the NFL reports, eight players were suspended due to an Adderall abuse issue.
Teens who idolize professional athletes may see these sorts of statistics and walk away with the impression that Adderall isn’t dangerous. After all, these people can abuse the drug and still compete at an elite level, which seems to suggest the drug doesn’t cause lasting damage. That’s far from true, of course, but it’s an easily understandable misconception a teen might have. And more and more teens might be coming to this faulty conclusion. Every year, as part of the Monitoring the Future Survey, researchers ask teens about the dangers of Adderall. In 2012, 6% fewer high school seniors said that trying the drug from time to time was harmful, when compared to the year prior. That’s a scary statistic, as it indicates teens are misinformed about the dangers of Adderall.
Teens may also abuse Adderall because it’s relatively easy to purchase. That’s a vital part of keeping an active addiction alive, as teens with a deep-set chemical need for Adderall might need to take large quantities of this drug every single day, and they might exhaust the supply they can get from friends and family members. News reports suggest teens can buy Adderall for as little as $3 per pill. Prescription painkillers like Vicodin can sell for much higher, and that rising expense could keep some teens from developing an addiction. But when Adderall is so cheap, there’s no expense pushing down on an addiction. That low price might be due, in part, to the fact that the vast majority of Adderall is produced in the United States. According to Iowa State Daily, about 88% of amphetamines are produced in the United States. Drugs made here come with no import fees and extra travel charges, so they’re less expensive to buy. That could, unfortunately, make an addiction issue easier to support.
First Stage of Recovery
While teens might truly believe Adderall abuse isn’t harmful, either in the long-term or the short-term, maintaining that addiction could impact a child’s:
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Academic success
- Social support structure
- Employment opportunities
But it’s hard for some teens to escape the allure of Adderall, and sometimes, that has to do with geography. A report from Frontline suggests some states have remarkably high levels of Adderall prescriptions. In states like New Hampshire, it might be very difficult for teens to get away from the drug. Almost everyone they know might have an active prescription.
In addition, these sorts of abuse problems tend to come with a great deal of denial. As the brain changes due to the constant presence of drugs, teens lose the ability to make good decisions about their current behavior and future goals. The brain becomes fixated on the drug, and the use becomes compulsive. The best way to start a teen on the path to recovery, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is to taper the teen’s dose of Adderall. That slow move to sobriety allows the brain to amend its chemistry gradually, and as that happens cravings for the drug and dysfunction due to the drug might begin to fade away. The length of that taper can vary, depending on the amount of Adderall the teen has taken and the length of time they were abusing the drug. Teens can get sober with this type of measured approach, which should take place in a detox program supervised by a medical professional.
A teen who has moved through an Adderall detox program might be sober right now, but they may not have the skills needed in order to maintain sobriety. When a teen like this is presented with the opportunity to use Adderall again, all of those synapses in the brain that are accustomed to drugs can spring to life, and they can call out for drugs in loud voices that are hard to ignore. Psychotherapy can help, and it’s the mainline approach for a stimulant addiction, according to Harvard Medical School. This kind of therapy is designed to educate and coach teens.
In the education portion of the therapy, teens have the opportunity to learn more about what Adderall is, what it’s designed to do and how it can become addictive. They will also learn about addiction, including scientific definitions of drug abuse and addiction, and they will begin to understand how addictions occur. Most importantly, they’ll learn about the dangers of Adderall abuse. Next, therapists help teens to build skills they can use to resist Adderall. In some cases, that involves breaking apart the situations in which teens tend to abuse drugs. Are certain places or people triggers of their Adderall abuse? These are the specific examples of things teens need to stay away from in order to stay sober and that might become clear in therapy.
Teens may also need help with specific life skills. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that full-time college students ages 18–22 were twice as likely as non-full-time students to abuse Adderall. This seems to suggest that many young people abuse this drug as a form of stress modification. They think the drug makes them smarter, more energetic or more capable. This belief can keep them using Adderall when they should stop.
In therapy, teens might build skills they can use to combat these worries. Teens might learn:
- Time management skills
- Study skills
- Communication skills
- Stress management
They’ll be stronger and more capable of handling the difficulties of life, and that will make them much less likely to use any drug in the future, including Adderall. Family therapy might be another important part of the recovery process for teens. Adderall abuse can come with a great deal of lying and hiding, and that can erode the important relationship a teen has with his or her parents. That teen will need the help of parents in order to move through adolescence, especially if addiction has been a problem in the past. Family therapy allows parents and their child to come together to mend those relationships so the group can function in an optimal way and the addiction can fade.
Help for an Adderall Issue
It’s important to note that teens with ADHD need Adderall in order to grow up healthy and happy. In fact, the drug might help these teens to avoid drug abuse in the future. According to a study in Pediatrics, teens with ADHD and access to medication had a 1.9-fold reduction in the risk of future substance abuse. So parents of teens with ADHD shouldn’t try to wean their kids away from Adderall. They need it. But parents of a child with an active Adderall addiction do need to take action. And teens that know that their use of this drug isn’t quite right can take action on their own. The whole group needs to come together to discuss the problem openly and come up with a plan of action. An interventionist may be a helpful facilitator in this discussion, as these experts know a great deal about how addictions work and how families heal. But even informal talks about Adderall can help, as long as both parties are committed to firming up sobriety plans.
That plan might include a trip to Next Generation Village. Our facility is designed just for teens, and all of the therapies we use have been tested and proven effective in adolescent patients. The help provided here could be remarkable for teens in need. They walk away with sober life skills, confidence and good health. All it takes is a phone call to get started. Our admissions counselors are happy to answer questions and start enrollment paperwork. Please call to get started.