The psychostimulant Adderall is an amphetamine drug that’s most commonly utilized in the treatment of the symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults. It is also sometimes used for other health ailments, such as narcolepsy and other sleep/wakefulness disorders. Keep reading to find out how it functions and what it is formally used for.
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for Adderall. This medication is only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical ailments, and may only be obtained by prescription and with supervision from a licensed medical practitioner. We’ve written this article for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science supporting Adderall’s consequences, mechanisms, current medical uses, and potential risks.
What is Adderall?
Adderall — otherwise known as dextroamphetamine-amphetamine or simply “D-amphetamine” — is among the most frequently prescribed drugs used to treat the signs of ADHD and lots of other health conditions. It belongs to a class of compounds called amphetamines, which act as stimulants in the central nervous system (CNS) via a huge variety of different mechanisms, such as by increasing levels of the major neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, along with serotonin.
More than 3 million children have been prescribed Adderall or other stimulants treat psychiatric conditions such as ADHD. Signs of ADHD include lack of focus, impulsiveness, and trouble staying still.
Mothers have also commonly prescribed Adderall. The number of American adults that choose Adderall for ADHD increased by over 90% between the years of 2002 and 2005.
Adderall is so widely-used in large part as it’s believed to be extremely powerful and well-tolerated (i.e. it causes comparatively few side-effects when utilized properly).
Adderall is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs for ADHD.
Potential for Abuse and Addiction
But, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug by the FDA, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. This also suggests that it can only be lawfully purchased and possessed with a physician’s prescription.
Additionally, there are potential downsides to stimulants like Adderall — especially when they’re abused (i.e. obtained without a prescription, or outside of continuing medical oversight ). In fact, stimulants are the second-most commonly abused drugs by college students, who use Adderall and other stimulants illegally in order to better their ability to research for extended periods of time.
The entire extent of Adderall abuse among college students isn’t easy to know for sure, but it’s been estimated that between 2-8% of university students have mistreated it within the last month, even while 3-16percent have abused it at some point during the last year.
A lot of men and women abuse Adderall to boost college or work performance. Student-athletes also have been reported to misuse Adderall so as to better their exercise performance and boost energy.
When not being used for performance improvements, it’s also illicitly used by some people to induce a euphoric “high”.
While there are lots of distinct reasons that people decide to misuse Adderall, it’s been estimated that a substantial percentage of the abuse occurs because students mistakenly believe that the illegal use of Adderall is “physically benign” — that it certainly is not!
Being a stimulant, Adderall is often abused for physical and cognitive improvement. Even though it carries a high risk of dependence, many individuals mistakenly feel that it’s harmless even when taken without a prescription.
Adderall consists of a mixture of several different dextroamphetamine and amphetamine salts:
- Dextroamphetamine (d-amphetamine) saccharate
- D-amphetamine sulfate
- Levoamphetamine (l-amphetamine) sulfate
- L-amphetamine aspartate
“D-” (right) and “L-” (left) amphetamine would be the same molecule, but they’re mirror images of exactly the identical structure (“enantiomers”). Though this might sound like a minor difference, it is actually rather important that Adderall contains both L-amphetamine and D-amphetamine components. That is because they all have subtly different molecular properties and effects on the nervous system, and can, consequently, complement each other in treating disorders like ADHD.
For instance, one little study of 11 children reported that L-amphetamine appeared to work better in some kids, while D-amphetamine was more effective compared to others. Therefore, having both elements is useful since it caters to both types of patients.
Ritalin vs. Adderall
According to a preliminary study, Adderall was reported to relieve certain ADHD symptoms (for example, disruptive behavior, reduced academic productivity, etc.) more effectively than another commonly-prescribed stimulant, Ritalin (methylphenidate). The differences in those drugs’ effects were particularly evident at comparatively low doses.
Adderall’s effects have also been reported to last longer throughout the day — sometimes as much as twice as long at higher doses. This potential longer-lasting effect is one of the reasons that physicians have been reported to advise Adderall around three times more often than Ritalin.
Similarly, another study comparing Adderall into Ritalin (methylphenidate) at 58 children reported that Adderall had been reported to work better and last longer overall.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, and its stimulant properties stem from several different mechanisms.
Adderall stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, by activating α- and – β-adrenergic receptor websites. Adrenergic receptors are such that specifically release the neurotransmitters noradrenaline or adrenaline.
Stimulating the α-adrenergic receptor sites triggers:
- Constriction of blood vessels throughout the entire body
Whereas stimulating the β-adrenergic receptor websites causes:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood circulation into the muscles
- Increased output of blood from the heart
Adderall additionally releases adrenaline in the body, which results in increased perceived energy levels.
Together, each of the above-mentioned effects results in some of the physically “stimulating” effects of the drug.
Adderall also prevents neurotransmitters from being consumed (transported), broken down (metabolized), and kept within neurons. This is generally accomplished by blocking the molecular transporters that bring neurotransmitters from the outside of the cell to the interior of the cell, which prevents their action in the neural synapse. Especially, Adderall blocks:
- The dopamine reuptake transporter, resulting in increased dopamine concentrations outside of neurons
- The noradrenaline reuptake transporter, resulting in increased noradrenaline concentrations outside of neurons
This contributes to increased neurotransmitter activity at the neuron’s link to the next cell (the synapse), which is a part of why the medication is known as a “stimulant” (i.e. that it”arouses” neuronal action).
Amphetamines also prevent the storage of dopamine in compartments within the cell (vesicles). This increases the availability of dopamine for later use.
Ultimately, Adderall also inhibits the action of various proteins and enzymes which break nitric oxide (for instance, monoamine oxidase-A and –B), which further increases the amount of dopamine available for use in the mind.
Scientists think that Adderall works by stimulating norepinephrine release while preventing the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into neurons.
Official Medical Uses of Adderall
1) Treating ADHD
Adderall is one of the most commonly-prescribed stimulants for ADHD. The drug is used mainly to raise attention and concentration, and lessen overactivity and distractedness — both the core behavioral and cognitive symptoms of ADHD.
There are various studies that support Adderall’s therapeutic effects in treating ADHD. By way of instance, a number of studies report that educator, clinician, and parent ratings of how successful Adderall is currently at treating kids with ADHD are significantly higher than the ratings are given when the kids are only given a placebo.
Additionally, one study of 154 kids reported that Adderall was successful in 89% of children diagnosed with ADHD.
In accordance with another study of 25 children with ADHD, Adderall reportedly improved:
- Rates of disruptive behavior
- Academic productivity
- Staff/parent ratings of behavior
Additionally, Adderall was reported to improve math test scores, according to one small-scale analysis of 30 pupils with ADHD.
Adderall is also widely-prescribed for adults and adolescents for short-term management of ADHD symptoms. 1 study estimated that Adderall treatment could be considered successful in 70% of adult and adolescent ADHD patients.
Most patients who are prescribed Adderall use it to increase focus due to conditions like ADHD. But some people also use (or misuse ) Adderall to fight the lack of attention brought on by sleep deprivation.
Among Adderall’s main uses is to increase a sort of focus known as”sustained attention” or”vigilance,” which identifies the ability to remain attentive to some task for prolonged periods of time.
Enhanced Impulse Control
One of the key subtypes of ADHD is ADHD with combined inattentive/hyperactive-impulsivity.
Adderall helps to enhance impulse control by decreasing impulsivity, hyperactivity, and sometimes even aggression.
For example, one study of 287 teens noted that Adderall significantly enhanced hyperactivity/impulsivity in these patients.
Furthermore, as demonstrated by a study of 18 children experiencing hyperactivity and aggression, Adderall was reported to reduce both signs in 14 of their 18 children. By comparison, another medication tested in this study — methylphenidate — was reported to work successfully in 11 of their 18 kids, while also generating a comparatively higher rate of unwanted side-effects.
2) Treating Narcolepsy
Although less common than cure for ADHD, Adderall can also be used medically to treat sleep- or wakefulness-related disorders, such as narcolepsy.
Generally, narcolepsy is a disease that could cause a sudden onset of sleepiness and/or chronic extreme drowsiness throughout the day. Adderall is a commonly-used stimulant to combat narcolepsy, particularly when wakefulness needs to be sustained for long intervals. One particular form of Adderall — Adderall “XR,” brief for extended-release — is often preferred by clinicians, as it works for longer periods of time, and is thought to have a relatively lower potential for abuse.
“Off-Label” Medical Uses of Adderall
Occasionally, physicians will prescribe medications to help treat conditions that fall outside of the official uses approved by the FDA — also called “off-label” medication use. Ordinarily, this is achieved because there is actually decent evidence that the drug may help in a specific condition, but this evidence may not be quite strong enough to get full FDA approval (which generally has quite rigorous and extensive demands).
As always, but remember that the decision to use medications this manner can only be produced by a licensed medical practitioner.
Some of the comparatively more common”off-label” medical uses of Adderall include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Some eating disorders, for example, bulimia
Other Uses / Effects of Adderall
Limitations & Precautions
Psychostimulant medications like Adderall also have a number of other effects and uses that have not been widely embraced by medical practitioners.
Therefore, it’s important to note that these programs are not officially accepted, and aren’t well-established in conventional medical practice.
In fact, some of these uses might even be harmful to an individual’s health, and frequently involve abusing this medication illegally. Therefore, the following programs have not been shown to be clinically beneficial, and are not recommended or encouraged at all.
Before Adderall became widely-used for the medical care of ADHD, it was prescribed to help lose excess weight.
It’s generally believed that Adderall ultimately contributes to weight loss by curbing or diminishing appetite . However, its impacts on body fat may also be due to the fact that Adderall helps control impulsivity, which could theoretically play another role in weight loss by preventing users from impulsively snacking or eating.
Whatever the situation, this program is no more considered medically legitimate. In large part, this is because the dangers involved in using Adderall and other psychostimulant drugs in such a way — like the possibility of creating an addiction or experiencing potentially-severe negative side-effects — do not necessarily outweigh the theoretical advantages.
Ultimately, when it comes to weight control particularly, there are lots of substantially more powerful and more effective methods than abusing drugs in order to artificially suppress one’s appetite — and using psychostimulants like Adderall to attain weight loss is not recommended.
Notice: The information in this section refers to typical dose advice for medical uses of Adderall: it is not a guide to recreational or other non-medical use. Anyone carrying Adderall by prescription should be careful to adhere to the directions of the doctor as completely and accurately as you can to ensure optimum treatment.
Generally, Adderall comes in 2 main forms for medical use:
- Extended-release capsules (Adderall XR): If taking Adderall in this form, it is suggested to select the capsule in the morning, otherwise sleeplessness may happen at nighttime. The pill can be taken with or without food, but it has to be taken exactly the same way each time. XR tablets should be taken once each day. They peak at 4 to 7 hours and continue for approximately 12 hours.
- Immediate-release pills (Adderall IR): make certain to follow the medication guide which comes with the prescription. It’s advised to select the pill in the morning or early afternoon, differently, insomnia may occur at night. IR tablets are usually taken two times a day. They reveal effects after 45 to 60 minutes and peak at 2-3 hours.
The different doses of Adderall offered are 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg. They may be in pill form or the extended-release form. Extended-release tablets are labeled Adderall XR, while immediate-release tablets are tagged Adderall IR.
Notice that if using the tablet form, these should be in a closed container away from direct sunlight heat, heat, or moisture, and kept at room temperature (in order to protect against the active chemicals from being degraded, and so becoming less powerful).
If a dose is missed but it’s near the opportunity to take the next dose, then wait till then and choose the dose. Otherwise, take the dose when you remember. Do not “double-up” into account for a missed dose.
Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. It’s a fantastic safety profile compared to other stimulants if used properly. However, it also includes a high potential for addiction. Abuse is relatively common, and it includes serious health risks.
Official medical signs for Adderall include ADHD and, less commonly, narcolepsy. Some physicians may also prescribe Adderall off-label for mental health ailments such as anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, Adderall shouldn’t be used for weight reduction. No legitimate evidence confirms the medical use of this medication for weight loss, while much more data suggest it could be dangerous.