Formulation and Use
According to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus, Adderall is made from a mixture of salts called amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. As mentioned above, these two substances are both nervous system stimulants that increase neurotransmitter availability in the brain; the drug is usually prescribed to help people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), improving their focus and concentration.
Another use of Adderall is for narcolepsy, an illness in which people are excessively sleepy and may fall asleep suddenly in inappropriate circumstances. By increasing brain activity, the drug can help prevent these “sleep attacks” from occurring.
How It Works
As described in an article from Quora, Adderall works through two mechanisms. First, it stops the brain from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin so they can’t be used by the body. In other words, the drug makes sure that there are plenty of these neurotransmitters available in the brain for use, increasing the activity of the brain and resulting in the feelings of energy, focus, and alertness, as well as a mild sense of wellbeing. The other action of Adderall is to enter certain parts of the brain and encourage the release of more of these neurotransmitters.
As described by the expert in the article, Adderall has an equal preference for dopamine, which is part of the pleasure and reward mechanism, and norepinephrine, which is a stress hormone that increases awareness and brain response. It has a slightly lesser action on serotonin, which helps to control a person’s sleep and wake patterns.
How Long It Lasts
Adderall has two forms – short-acting and long-acting formulations – as described on WebMD. However, when compared with cocaine, both forms act significantly longer. The short-term version of Adderall works for 4-6 hours, while the long-acting version can last 8-12 hours. This results in a milder high for people who are abusing Adderall, but it lasts longer.
Also, as a result of its longer action, Adderall takes longer to be eliminated from the body. It can take up to three days, depending on the formulation, for Adderall to clear from a person’s system. This means that withdrawal symptoms will also potentially last longer.
Using or abusing Adderall for the long-term can result in some serious health risks. These include:
- Cardiovascular damage and illness, including stroke and heart attack
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Anhedonia, or inability to feel pleasure
This last risk is the result of the fact that, in the long-term, drugs like Adderall can damage or destroy dopamine receptors, making it harder and harder to feel pleasure. This process, described in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, often results in increased cravings for the drug, resulting in a self-sustaining cycle. It is through this type of misuse that addiction to Adderall is most likely to develop.