A drug's potential side effects are usually considered carefully by both patients and physicians. Yet for some individuals, those side effects may be considered beneficial. That's certainly the case with Adderall, a drug used to treat certain mental health issues. This medication may be abused by those wanting to lose weight or stay alert for long periods of time. The risks associated with abusing Adderall in this way are substantial.
Purpose of Adderall
Adderall is the brand name for the drug combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It's primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of the most prevalent mental health conditions among minors, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The disorder can continue to be an issue for adults as well. Adderall's active ingredients are stimulants, which affect the central nervous system. Although it may seem contradictory, these stimulants actually calm ADHD patients, helping them better control their attention and behavior.
Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine work by increasing the amount of dopamine released in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, involved in many important functions such as movement and motivation. It also sends the signal that you are satisfied -- which has significant implications when it comes to appetite. In fact, research released in February 2001 in "Lancet" suggested that dopamine deficiency may contribute to obesity. On the flip side, people taking Adderall have a reduced appetite because they have higher dopamine levels.
The obvious effect of this suppressed appetite is weight loss, which partly draws casual users to the drug. A Canadian monograph for the medication, available through Health Canada's Drug Product Database, states that Adderall XR -- an extended-release formula -- led to a weight loss of between 1.1 and 2.8 lbs. in teen patients taking 10 to 20 mg doses during the first four weeks of treatment. Weight loss is more substantial as dosages increase. The potential effect this weight loss has on minors' normal growth and development is a concern and requires medical supervision.
The effect dextroamphetamine and amphetamine have on appetite and weight loss make Adderall a prime drug for abuse, particularly among college students. An April 2009 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that full-time college students ages 18 to 22 were twice as likely to use Adderall for non-medical purposes than their peers who weren't full-time students. Yet these students and others may not understand the serious risks of taking this prescription drug. As a stimulant, it raises the risk of having cardiac problems. It may also trigger mental health issues, including increased aggression, depression, hallucinations and mania.
- PubMed Health: Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine
- National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- HelpGuide.org; ADD/ADHD Medications: Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child?; Lawrence Robinson, et al.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse; Dopamine Receptors Implicated in Obesity; February 2001
- Health Canada; Product Monograph: Adderall XR; September 2009
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; The NSDUH Report: Nonmedical Use of Adderall among Full-time College Students; April 2009