Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, is a neurologically based behavioral condition that affects both children and adults. Some of the prescription medications used to treat this disorder have gained attention and controversy due to the unwanted effects and potential for abuse of these powerful drugs. One such medication is Adderall, which, like most pharmaceuticals, has both pros and cons.
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Adderall is a brand-name medication that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), hyperactive conditions and narcolepsy. Drugs.com advises that when taken as prescribed by correctly diagnosed patients, Adderall can help control symptoms of ADD and related conditions.
Symptoms of ADD, often interchangeably referred to as ADHD, vary in range and severity among individuals. RxList.com notes that this disorder is generally characterized by hyperactivity, impulsive or erratic actions and an inability to stay focused and pay attention for normal durations.
Diagnosis of ADD is largely based on chronic symptoms and in some cases by brain scans. Some children are diagnosed because they are unable to sit still or stay calm for normal periods of time. ADD has been a popular diagnosis among high school and university students, some of whom self-diagnose and insist that they are suffering from the symptoms. As Bryn Mawr University notes, however, many individuals are incorrectly diagnosed with ADD and prescribed medications such as Adderall.
Bryn Mawr University adds that doctors are not certain about all the complex causes of neurological disorders such as ADD. Brain imaging scans reveal that individuals with ADD may have malfunctions in the frontal cortex of the brain. This area is primarily involved in reasoning, problem solving, planning and focusing tasks, and a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger call dopamine is thought to relay the needed signals between brain nerves. Thus, if concentrations of dopamine are too low, ADD symptoms can occur.
The active ingredients in Adderall include amphetamine salts. According to Bryn Mawr University, the chemical amphetamine helps to treat ADD and related disorders by blocking the reuptake of the chemical messenger dopamine from certain neural synapses while increasing the uptake into subsequent neurons or nerves in the brain. The increased levels of dopamine in the brain are thought to reduce attention deficit and hyperactivity, thereby treating conditions such as ADD. However, a primary controversy concerns the powerful stimulatory effects of Adderall on individuals that do not actually have a deficiency of this neurotransmitter.
Adderall can lead to side effects, particularly in individuals who may not require this medication. RxList.com lists several side effects of Adderall, including fainting, irregular heart beat, increased blood pressure, tremors, insomnia, loss of appetite, impotence, low libido, diarrhea and constipation. Drugs.com warns that Adderall is also considered highly addictive due to its active ingredient, amphetamine. As with other stimulant drugs, it causes an increase of adrenaline and stress hormones in the body causing a ‘high’ feeling that can become addictive.