Adderall is the brand name for a mixture of amphetamine salts that were developed for treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Since 2007, prescriptions have doubled in the U. S and even those who don’t have a prescription are using it. An estimated 30% of university students used Adderall at some point as a study enhancer. So, what affect does this substance have on a person?
As Adderall is a combination of amphetamine salts, it is a close relative of methamphetamine, commonly known as meth. When the drug is ingested, it takes effect on the brain within an hour of use. It affects neuroreceptors in the central nervous system, increasing the effect of serotonin and dopamine. In patients with ADHD, genetic studies have indicated that these individuals may have dysfunctional dopamine release. Because of the lack of dopamine, it is theorized that the brain is constantly seeking out stimulants, resulting in the distractibility commonly seen in ADHD patients. The dopamine and serotonin released by Adderall overcomes this deficit in ADHD patients, causing increased focus and making you feel less distracted.
Adderall also causes the release of norepinephrine, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, initiating your fight-or-flight response. This results in your body moving blood and energy towards the major organs and away from your limbs and digestion, which essentially increases alertness. Although some studies have found that the substance can increase repetitive learning tasks, it does not make a difference when it comes to most cognitive tasks or complex learning techniques like those needed for an exam. So with students taking Adderall, any increase in studying skills may be from the fact that the drug gives you energy, and can help keep you awake for a night of studying because it is similar in chemical structure to meth.
The benefits of Adderall in academic circles is still up for debate, however the long-term detrimental effects of abusing the drug are clear. Consistent release of serotonin and dopamine causes the brain to stop producing them naturally over time. Therefore, you would need to keep taking more and more of the chemical to get the same effect, making it highly addictive. Long-term users of Adderall developed an inability to feel pleasure without a chemical stimulant, and these effects can linger even after you stop taking the drug.
Adderall abuse is a growing problem, so much so that millenials have sometimes been referred to as Generation Adderall. The abuse of Adderall in our culture is following a similar pattern to the current opioid crisis. This means that, as a society, we may need to seek measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones.