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How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Adderall?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 26, 2023

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How long does it take to get addicted to Adderall? This prescription CNS stimulant is known for its addictive nature and similarities to methamphetamine (meth). Due to its potency and widespread availability, the potential for Adderall addiction and misuse is substantial.

While not everyone who uses Adderall will develop addiction (stimulant use disorder), those who consistently use the medication in doses not prescribed by a healthcare professional face an increased risk of developing Adderall addiction.

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Over time, frequent use of Adderall causes tolerance to the drug. This means higher doses are needed to deliver the initial effects. Over time, tolerance can lead to dependence, where individuals find it challenging to function without the drug and may experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.

Individuals using Adderall should closely follow their healthcare provider’s instructions and only use the medication as prescribed to minimize the consequences of becoming addicted to Adderall.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy. It contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, stimulants that affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, especially norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals play a role in attention, focus, and impulse control.

Adderall’s stimulant effects can include increased alertness, improved concentration, and heightened energy levels. This makes it beneficial for those with ADHD, as it helps them with symptom management and can also improve daily functioning.

That said, when Adderall is misused or taken without a prescription, it can trigger an array of adverse effects. The DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and addiction. People who misuse Adderall often do so to experience its stimulating effects or improve cognitive performance, such as increased focus and productivity.

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Can You Become Addicted to Adderall?

Is Adderall addictive, then? The medication has the potential for addiction due to the amphetamine and dextroamphetamine content. These are stimulants that affect the brain’s neurotransmitters or chemical messengers.

Over time, individuals taking Adderall may develop tolerance to the medication. This means that they may require higher doses to achieve the same effects they initially experienced with lower doses. Tolerance is a common early sign of potential addiction.

Dependence on Adderall can develop even when someone takes the medication as prescribed. Dependence is not the same as addiction, but it involves the body adapting to the presence of the drug. People who are dependent on Adderall may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. These symptoms can include fatigue, nightmares, increased appetite, and a depressed mood.

Addiction occurs when the use of Adderall becomes compulsive and harmful, despite negative consequences. It can lead to a range of physical, psychological, and social problems. Misusing Adderall, such as taking it without a prescription or in higher doses than prescribed, significantly increases the risk of addiction. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall addiction, seeking professional help and support is crucial for recovery.

The Timeline of Adderall Addiction

How long does it take to become addicted to Adderall and how addictive is Adderall? Adderall addiction typically progresses through various stages, and the timeline can vary from person to person. Here’s a general overview of the timeline of Adderall addiction:

  • Initial use: It often begins with legitimate medical use, prescribed to treat conditions like ADHD or narcolepsy. During this stage, individuals may experience increased alertness and focus.
  • Recreational use: Some individuals may start to misuse Adderall recreationally, taking it without a prescription to enhance concentration, energy, or performance in academics or work. This stage can lead to more frequent use.
  • Tolerance: With continued use, tolerance to Adderall develops. Many people find that they need higher doses to achieve the desired effects they initially experienced with lower doses. This can lead to increased consumption.
  • Dependence: Dependence can develop, where individuals rely on Adderall to function normally. They may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using it, leading to a cycle of continued use to avoid discomfort.
  • Addiction: At this stage, the individual’s use of Adderall becomes compulsive and uncontrollable. They may prioritize obtaining and using the drug over other aspects of life, even when it causes negative consequences.
  • Health and social consequences: Adderall addiction can lead to physical and mental health issues, strained relationships, and problems in various areas of life.
  • Seeking help: Some individuals realize the need for help and seek treatment, while others may continue in the cycle of addiction.
  • Recovery: Recovery from Adderall addiction is possible with professional treatment, therapy, and support. It is a process that requires time and commitment.

Not everyone who uses Adderall will progress through all these stages, and some may become addicted more quickly than others. Recognizing the signs of addiction and seeking help early can greatly improve the chances of successful recovery.

Adderall Addiction Symptoms

Addicted to Adderall symptoms are outlined in American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5-TR (fifth revised text of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as follows:

  1. Individuals may take Adderall in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  2. They may express a desire to discontinue use but find it challenging to do so.
  3. A significant amount of time may be spent in activities related to obtaining, using, or recovering from the after-effects of stimulants.
  4. Individuals may experience strong cravings for Adderall.
  5. They might start failing to fulfill important obligations due to stimulant use.
  6. Despite stimulant-related social or interpersonal problems, individuals may continue to use the substance.
  7. They may give up or reduce activities because of Adderall use.
  8. Individuals may use stimulants in dangerous situations.
  9. Ongoing Adderall use even though it is causing or worsening a physical or psychological health condition.
  10. Tolerance may develop, meaning that increased amounts of Adderall are required to achieve the desired effects.
  11. When stimulant use is reduced or stopped, withdrawal symptoms may manifest.

Signs of Adderall Addiction

Signs of Adderall abuse and addiction include:

  • Physical symptoms: These may include weakness, blurred vision, drowsiness, and poor judgment or thinking.
  • Behavioral signs: Look for signs like doctor shopping, where individuals visit multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions. They may also ask friends, family, colleagues, or classmates for pills.
  • Isolation: Stimulant abuse can lead to social withdrawal, isolation, and neglect of responsibilities.
  • Mood changes: Individuals may experience mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
  • Continued use despite adverse outcomes: This includes using stimulants despite health, social, or legal problems.
  • Cravings: A strong desire or craving for Adderall can indicate addiction.
  • Changes in appearance: Neglect of personal hygiene and changes in physical appearance may be noticeable.
  • Financial problems: Individuals may face financial difficulties due to excessive spending on stimulants.
  • Unusual sleep patterns: Sleep disturbances and unusual sleep patterns can be signs of stimulant use disorder.
  • Poor work or academic performance: Deterioration in work or academic performance may be observed.
  • Lack of interest in hobbies: Individuals may lose interest in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities.

Recognizing these symptoms and signs can help inform early intervention and seeking professional help for stimulant use disorder.

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Get Treatment for Adderall Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

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You’ll have access to medication-assisted treatment, as well as psychotherapies, holistic therapies, and counseling to help you address the root cause of your addiction.

We’ll help you build a firm foundation for sustained recovery whatever the scope and severity of your addiction, and we’ll also ensure you have the right aftercare in place. We understand that recovery is a lifelong journey, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. All you need to do is reach out to admissions today at 866.693.3821.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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