Can MAT patients safely take Adderall®?
Adderall® has a reputation for producing euphoric feelings when taken recreationally and helping people focus, making it popular among students. That focused feeling is connected to the medication’s intended use as a common prescription for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If you’re wondering whether Adderall is truly addictive, you’re not alone. And if you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD while experiencing addiction, you might have even more questions about continuing treatment while also receiving medications for addiction treatment (MAT).
Should those taking MAT plus Adderall be worried about addiction or possible interactions between the medications? What are the options for safe, effective treatment? We’re here to detangle this complicated topic.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is the brand name for a prescription medication comprising dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It's approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
How does Adderall work?
People with ADHD tend to have lower dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that stimulates good feelings. A person whose brain doesn’t produce enough of this chemical is always looking for stimulation.
Adderall increases levels of dopamine, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine.
In an ADHD-diagnosed individual, this brings the brain to a normal state of stimulation. However, someone who doesn't have ADHD will experience a different sensation. Common effects include heightened euphoria, increased wakefulness, and greater stress resilience, to name a few effects.
How Adderall can be abused
Adderall can be hugely helpful to people with ADHD. However, the drug is also abused. The substances in Adderall are technically central nervous stimulants. So, people who don't have ADHD may take it to feel a "high" that gives them energy and a sense of euphoria. For example, there have been reports of college students abusing Adderall for its stimulant effects, taking it to pull all-nighters when studying or completing last-minute assignments.
While it might seem like a "quick fix" at the time, using Adderall—or any prescription drug—when a doctor does not prescribe it poses a risk.
Dangers of Adderall abuse + addiction
Unfortunately, taking large amounts of Adderall over time can pose serious health risks, like heart problems. Adderall also has the potential to create dependency issues. Signs of an Adderall addiction can include:
- Taking more than the prescribed dose
- Taking the drug for longer than prescribed
- Taking the drug more often than prescribed
- Spending excess time and money to obtain Adderall
- Becoming secretive or withdrawing from usual social activities
- Using methods to hasten Adderall's effects, like crushing and snorting it
- Going to different doctors or pharmacies to get an Adderall prescription filled
Unfortunately, individuals who have become dependent on Adderall may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. These include insomnia, racing heart, dizziness, fatigue, panic attacks, blurred vision, paranoia, weight loss, dry mouth, and seizures.
Adderall withdrawal can also lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, so seeking immediate help from a qualified mental health professional is imperative. You can call a crisis or suicide hotline or, in an emergency, 911.
The link between ADHD + addictive behaviors
Research suggests that people with ADHD are already more prone to substance abuse problems than those without ADHD. One study showed that about one in four teenagers with substance abuse issues also presented with diagnosable ADHD. Other studies have shown correlations between ADHD, alcoholism, and drug abuse. For example, individuals with alcohol addiction are up to 10 times more likely to have ADHD than individuals without alcohol addiction.
The links between ADHD and addictive behaviors aren't apparent. One reason may be that people with ADHD symptoms are self-medicating. The fact that people with ADHD are more likely to be impulsive or have behavior issues may also be a contributing factor. Finally, there are potential hereditary factors, as alcoholism and ADHD seem to have genetic components. Researchers have even suggested that some of the same genes are responsible for both issues.
Given the links between ADHD and addiction, some people may suggest that ADHD medication, like Adderall, could be a gateway drug. However, it’s been shown that people who get ADHD treatment are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than their undiagnosed counterparts.
How MAT patients can also be safely treated for ADHD
Individuals dealing with substance abuse disorders may wonder if they can use medications for addiction treatment (MAT) while also taking Adderall for ADHD. One common medication used for MAT is Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone). Unfortunately, taking Suboxone® and Adderall simultaneously can be risky. While the two medications don't have any active ingredients that would create an adverse chemical reaction when taken appropriately as prescribed, there is still the potential for misuse.
Given Adderall's abuse potential, some healthcare providers may advise unique measures, like allowing a trusted loved one to dispense medications to the patient to prevent misuse.
Ultimately, it's essential to address ADHD and substance use disorders. Don't rule out MAT as an option for you if you have ADHD. Ophelia’s care model is tailored to your needs for safe, effective treatment that factors in other aspects of your health and lifestyle. Our clinical care team gets to know you so they can provide truly personalized treatment and support.