It’s widely known that Adderall is similar in chemistry to its more dangerous counterpart methamphetamine, which is one of the most abused drugs in the world. Methamphetamine use has a more than 40-year history in the United States, and like other drugs, methamphetamine use rises and falls over time. If methamphetamine is as dangerous as they say, why is it that drugs similar to it are available through prescription and so widespread? An article recently released by Kaiser Health News highlights how our country is struggling with a drug epidemic, but the media are covering only one.
Methamphetamine use is skyrocketing throughout the country, and the use of drugs like Adderall is abused without the knowledge of what they can do. There is no correlation between Adderall use leading to methamphetamine abuse in the way prescription opioids lead to heroin, but with a drug so similarly structured, there has to be some concern.
Adderall abuse is on the risk according to a John Hopkins study, and that should be a significant concern for those monitoring the methamphetamine crisis that is developing. Abuse and emergency room visits associated with Adderall have risen dramatically in young adults, even though prescriptions dispensed by doctors have remained stagnant in the past couple of years.
Adderall misuse is highest among those 18-to-25-years-old, who receive the medication from friends or family members without a prescription. Adderall is typically prescribed for conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactive disorder and narcolepsy. The popular conception has been that Adderall abuse is the most prominent among older children, but 60 percent of non-medical Adderall use for ages 12 and up was happening among 18-to-25-year-olds.
Cases of ADHD continue to rise each year, and 9.4 percent of children in the United States have ADHD, but the diagnoses among adults continue to increase. The percentage of children to have ADHD has changed over time, and the measurement can vary according to The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Children ages two to five report 388,000 reported cases, six to 11 showed 2.4 million children diagnosed, and young adults ages 12 to 17 showed the highest number at 3.3 million.
With the statistics showing an increase over time, Adderall has been one of the main tools in the battle. For some, they will use the drug and grow out of their ADHD and give away their prescription to friends; this can become a problem.
With a drug that is so commonly prescribed, one might wonder if there are long-term issues that can result from use. One of those concerns is the neurotoxicity on the brain, and those who use Adderall responsibly may wonder how to protect their brain. Prolonged use of Adderall does cause long-term effects. Let’s get a better understanding of how to protect the brain from the neurotoxic effects of Adderall.
How Does Adderall Affect the Brain?
While studies related to Adderall and brain damage are difficult to come by, initial reports have shown that Adderall does cause brain damage. A small study released by the National Institute of Health showed that chronic users of methamphetamine, (which shares many characteristics as Adderall), have multiple abnormalities in brain chemistry, function, and structure in the brain region with the highest concentrations of dopamine.
More testing is necessary to understand better the extent of damage that Adderall causes, but other small studies have shown nerve damage as a result of misuse.
While nerve damage is a possibility, abuse of the drug continues to skyrocket, and addiction is a possibility.
Physical Side Effects of Adderall
While stimulants in the preliminary stage of testing have shown signs of brain damage, there are other physical effects more common. Adderall has the potential to raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Those who have prescribed the drug to treat ADHD may not understand the risks that Adderall carries, and it can also cause damage to the heart and cardiovascular system when used for prolonged periods. Some other side effects of Adderall can include:
- Heart disease
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling jittery or “on edge”
Adderall and Neurotoxicity
While prescriptions have remained stagnant in the past few years since 2007, there has been a 40 percent rise in stimulant prescriptions. These drugs were created to increase concentration and energy levels while decreasing the need for sleep and suppressing appetite. Adderall increases the activity of many neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The changes in dopamine activity will impact the brain’s reward center and alter the ability to experience pleasure without the drug.
Someone that becomes either dependent on or addicted to Adderall will experience depression, an inability to sleep and notice a lack of motivation if they stop using the drug. Abusing Adderall can cause neurotoxicity and increase aggressive behavior or suicidal thoughts. Those abusing the drug for prolonged periods will experience the emotional toll during withdrawal. Natural dopamine production is reduced, and this can be permanent if abused for too long.
A lack of dopamine will translate to low moods, and inability to feel pleasure, and mood swings once Adderall leaves the system. These changes can be overcome in time when someone abstains from Adderall.
Protecting From Adderall Neurotoxicity
While some need to take Adderall and abstinence may not be the best option, there are methods to protect the brain from Adderall neurotoxicity. These include:
Vitamin C is a blood-brain barrier permeable antioxidant that can help with Adderall neurotoxicity. Vitamin C has the potential to acidify the urine and promote clearance of the drug. Vitamin C is required to synthesize dopamine, and Vitamin C supplementation can help regenerate dopamine synthesis and block neurotoxic effects.
Keep Your Body Temperature Down
Staying cool and avoiding exercise can be one way to negate the effects of neurotoxicity. Keeping the body cold can help the brain from having a traumatic brain injury or a stroke. Something as simple as keeping the body cool can protect the brain.
Consuming melatonin in the evening after using the medication as prescribed helps with sleep and circadian rhythm. Melatonin is also described as one of the most potent antioxidants. Since melatonin has a short half-life and is rapidly cleared from the central nervous system (CNS), most will benefit from extended-release forms of the substance.
Avoid Alcohol Use
If you are using Adderall, do not use it in conjunction with alcohol. Alcohol on its own is dangerous, and using it in conjunction with a drug proven to be neurotoxic can only make it worse. Concurrent alcohol use can potentiate both Adderall neurotoxicity by inhibiting enzymes in the body, which alcohol can intensify.