Adderall. It’s one of the most widely abused prescription drugs of all time. Though most commonly used in the treatment of ADHD, it’s occasionally prescribed for depression and narcolepsy too.
But how does it work?
Adderall effects the dopamine pathway, a key neurotransmitter in your brain’s reward center. People diagnosed with ADHD usually have lower levels of dopamine, which forces them to constantly seek rewarding stimulation, and we all know what that looks like. Adderall solves this rogue stimulation pathway by activating the release of dopamine with its main ingredient: amphetamine. Once the dopamine gets flowing to the right place, focus is restored with a jolt of energy.
In the 1940s, the U.S. army actually used amphetamine in the form of “pep pills” to boost morale. It’s reported that Hitler got daily injections of the stuff to maintain his fury. The production of Adderall remained steady throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s but began to soar in the 90s when more and more children were being diagnosed with ADHD.
Adderall prescriptions rose from 1.3 million in 1996, to nearly 6 million in 1999. And those numbers are only growing as the rate of ADHD diagnoses in children has gone up by 5% each year from 2003 to 2011. That is to say, about 10% of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetime.
But get this, while kids were the ones hogging all the Adderall prescriptions in the ‘90s, by the mid-2000s it was actually adults who were the fastest growing group of people being prescribed the drug. In 2012, 16 million Adderall prescriptions were written for adults between 20 and 39. This kinda makes sense, since it’s commonly used by college students as a study drug.
A study at the University of Kentucky found that 30% of its students admitted to using Adderall, and those are just the ones who admitted it!
And while it has proven efficacy, like all drugs, Adderall comes with its side effects. It can cause appetite suppression, which may inhibit growth in children who take it. And prolonged Adderall use can cause heart problems like an irregular heart rate and high blood pressure.