Formulation and Use
According to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus, Adderall is made a combination formula containing amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. As mentioned above, these two substances are both central nervous system stimulants that increase activity in the brain; the drug is usually prescribed to help people who have ADHD, improving their focus and concentration.
Another use of Adderall is for narcolepsy, a condition 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
Adderall affects several different neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain responsible for communication between neurons. Adderall increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain; dopamine plays an important role in memory, reward, and pleasure, while norepinephrine leads to an increase in energy and attentiveness. Research also indicates that Adderall enhances the action of serotonin, which impacts a person’s mood, sleep, appetite, sexual desire, and social behavior. The surge in concentrations of these neurotransmitters are responsible for the effects people experience.
How Long It Lasts
Adderall has two forms – short-acting and long-acting formulations. However, when compared with cocaine, both forms produce effects that last significantly longer. The short-acting version of Adderall works for about 4-6 hours, while the long-acting version can last 8-12 hours. The extended-release formula, Adderall XR, results in a milder, less intense high than the immediate-acting.
Also, as a result of its longer action, both formulations of Adderall take longer than cocaine 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 issues, including stroke, irregular heart beat, and heart attack.
- Insomnia and fatigue.
- Anxiety and paranoia.
- Malnutrition and serious weight loss.
- Aggressive or violent behavior.
- Intranasal effects, such as sinusitis, nose bleeds, and perforation of nasal septum.
- Intravenous effects, such as track marks, hepatitis, and HIV.
- Inhalation effects, such as coughing and bronchitis.
- Depression and suicidal ideation.
- Anhedonia, or inability to feel pleasure.
This last risk could possibly be the result of the fact that chronic Adderall use can damage or destroy dopamine-containing neurons and nerve endings, making it more difficult to feel pleasure. Conversely, some research also indicates that individuals who have higher rates of anhedonia are more sensitive to the subjective, rewarding effects of stimulants. This greater response to the pleasurable effects makes it more likely that these people will develop dependence and addiction.