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Medically Reviewed

Can You Get Addicted to ADHD Medications?

- 11 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

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medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Millions of children and adults in the United States are diagnosed with neurobehavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The medications used to treat the symptoms of ADHD are often safe and effective when used as prescribed. But several ADHD medications also pose a risk for abuse and addiction if people misuse them.

It’s essential to understand the risk of becoming addicted to ADHD medications and know how to find the help you need to stop using them safely. Contact the caring team of specialists at the Carolina Center for Recovery to explore your treatment options and find the support you need during recovery.

Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral condition that causes a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person.[1]

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Inattention to details at school, work, or other activities
  • Trouble focusing on tasks or chores
  • Fails to follow through on instructions
  • Difficulty completing projects or tasks that require attention
  • Disorganization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained focus
  • Losing things like glasses, keys, phones, etc.
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Interrupting others or talking excessively
  • Easily distracted

About 5% of US adults–roughly 11 million people– have been diagnosed with ADHD.[2] The condition is incurable, but people can take medications and make lifestyle changes to manage symptoms.

What Medications Are Used to Treat ADHD?

There are several medications commonly used to treat the symptoms of ADHD.

Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts)

Adderall is an amphetamine-stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which stimulate the central nervous system. This medication may help people reduce hyperactivity and increase their impulse control.[3]

Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

Vyvanse is a prescription amphetamine medication used to treat ADHD and binge eating disorders. It stimulates the central nervous system but was formulated to limit its risk of abuse and addiction.[4]

Ritalin (methylphenidate)

Ritalin is a stimulant drug used to treat ADD, ADHD, and narcolepsy. It stimulates the CNS and affects chemicals in the brain’s nerves associated with impulse control and hyperactivity.[5] Methylphenidate may also be sold under the brand name Concerta.

Strattera (atomoxetine)

Strattera is the first non-stimulant drug used to treat ADHD that boosts levels of norepinephrine in the brain which helps with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.[6]

More Nonstimulant ADHD Medications

In addition to Strattera, there are other non-stimulant medications that may help reduce ADHD symptoms. These include Clonidine, a blood pressure medication, guanfacine, a non-stimulant created for ADHD treatment, and viloxazine, another non-stimulant ADHD medication.

Can You Become Addicted to ADHD Medications?

It is possible to become addicted to stimulant ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. People who take medications to manage the symptoms of ADHD are less likely to become addicted to ADHD medications than people who use them recreationally.

But even people with a prescription for these medications can become dependent on them if they misuse them. Misuse may include:

  • Taking higher doses of the medication
  • Taking the drug more frequently
  • Taking it in a different way than prescribed, such as crushing and snorting it

Over time, people who misuse stimulant ADHD medications may develop tolerance, meaning they must take more to get the desired effects.

Some of the risks of becoming addicted to stimulant ADHD medications include the following:

  • Overdose
  • Psychosis
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Nervous system problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Cardiovascular problems

To avoid the risk of becoming addicted to ADHD medications, take your medications exactly as prescribed and tell your doctor about side effects or concerns you have. If you take ADHD medications like Adderall, Vyvanse, or Ritalin recreationally, seek substance abuse treatment immediately to avoid the risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms or relapse.

Why Do Some People Misuse ADHD Medications?

Millions of people take medications for ADHD under medical supervision, meaning these drugs are widely available. People may take ADHD medications to self-medicate or to get perceived benefits, such as having more energy or sustaining focus for longer periods. Students or people in demanding professions may take ADHD medications without prescription to enhance their performance or increase their attention when studying.

Many people mistakenly believe that all prescription medications are safe to use, whether or not you have a prescription for them. This is simply not true. Misusing ADHD medications can lead to physical dependence, addiction, and other serious mental and physical health complications.

ADHD medications are stimulants and can cause long-term harm to people who misuse them. The side effects and risks of ADHD are significantly increased when people take them in higher doses, for longer or more frequently than prescribed.

Recognizing ADHD Medication Abuse

It can sometimes be challenging to determine if someone is abusing prescription medications. Drug abuse is often recognizable because it causes significant changes in a person’s behavior, appearance, and mood. If you know the signs of ADHD medication abuse, you may be able to seek help sooner.

Some of the signs of ADHD drug abuse to watch for include:

  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • A decreased appetite may lead to weight loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increase alertness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Poor decision-making or judgment
  • Doctor-shopping
  • Stealing, selling, or forging prescriptions
  • Hostility or aggression

Certain risk factors, including a history of drug abuse, family history of substance abuse, and mental illness, can increase a person’s risk of becoming addicted to ADHD medications. But anyone who misuses these drugs can develop dependence and addiction. It’s crucial to recognize the signs of addiction and seek treatment as quickly as possible.

Find Help Now

If you are concerned that you or a loved one are addicted to ADHD medications, don’t wait another day to get the treatment you need to regain control of your life. Reach out to the Carolina Center for Recovery team today to learn about our supportive, comprehensive treatment programs. The help you need is just a phone call away. Call now to take the first step toward a healthier future.

References:

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  3. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873712/
  5. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/010187s077lbl.pdf
  6. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Atomoxetine-(Strattera)

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