Adderall (or Adderall XR) is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that is used in the treatment of ADHD and the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The drug is available in an immediate-release version (Adderall IR) and an extended-release version (Adderall XR). When taken as prescribed, the effects of the immediate-release version are felt for 4-6 hours, whereas the extended-release version lasts about 12 hours.
Extended-release versions of drugs designed to treat ADHD attempt to avoid having to give children the drug several times a day while they are in school. They can take the drug once in the morning and avoid interruption to the school day.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance. This designation indicates that while the drug does have medicinal uses, it is also considered to be a drug that has a significant potential to be abused and for the development of psychological and physical dependence in people who use or abuse it.
Abuse of Adderall
The abuse of stimulant medications, such as Adderall, has become an issue for younger individuals in high school or college. These drugs are typically ground into powder and then snorted, and they are often used in combination with other drugs. The data provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that college students were more than two times more likely to abuse Adderall in this manner compared to individuals of the same age who do not attend college.
In addition, the nonmedicinal use of stimulant medications like Adderall is also associated with polysubstance abuse that includes alcohol abuse (the drug that is most often abused with Adderall) and/or abuse other central nervous system depressants, such as benzodiazepines or narcotic medications. Individuals who mix amphetamines with alcohol are often attempting to cover up the stimulant effects of Adderall with alcohol. However, the situation can lead to a number of potentially dangerous issues, including issues with overdose and the development of seizures.
Dangers of Snorting Adderall
Nasal insufflation (snorting) of Adderall occurs when an individual grinds up the pills into a powder and then inhales them through the nose. Whenever an individual snorts a drug or medication, this method of ingestion results in a much more rapid effect of the drug because the drug bypasses the digestive system and liver where it is initially processed during oral administration (referred to as the first-pass metabolism). The drugs immediately enter the bloodstream through the vessels in the nasal cavity, and from there, they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly enter the central nervous system. This increases the effects of the drug and results in a more rapid onset of the effects of the drugs. When Adderall XR is snorted, the extended-release aspect of the drug is negated, and the entire dose of the drug is subject to entering the bloodstream.
Because snorting the drug results in amplified and more immediate effects of the drug, it also leads to amplified and more immediate dangerous side effects that can even be life-threatening. These include:
- A greater potential to develop issues with accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, which can increase the risk for heart attack or stroke
- A greater risk for issues with breathing
- A greater risk to develop issues with dehydration
- A greater potential to develop issues with altered brain pathways as result of drug use and its effect on the neurotransmitters affected by Adderall (e.g., dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, etc.)
- An increased potential for bingeing on Adderall as the effects of the drug also wear off much more rapidly than they do when the drug is taken orally
- A greater likelihood to develop stimulant psychosis, which is the development of hallucinations and delusions as a result of taking large amounts of Adderall
- A greater likelihood to develop both short-term and long-term mental health issues as a result of the intensified effects of the drug, such as long-term issues with suspiciousness, hallucinations, delusions, depression, anxiety, etc.
- Individuals who snort Adderall are more likely to engage in aggressive and potentially self-destructive behaviors that include impulsive behaviors and even suicidal behaviors compared to individuals who abuse the drug orally
- An increased potential to overdose on the drug because the effects of the drug occur rapidly and wear off rapidly (Overdoses can result in severe issues that can include seizures, paranoia, heart attack, and a number of other issues.)
- A much more rapid development of tolerance to the drug
- Increased potential to develop physical dependence (tolerance and withdrawal) as a result of abusing Adderall
- An obvious increased potential to develop a serious stimulant use disorder as a result of abusing Adderall in this manner
- An increased potential to use other drugs of abuse to get the intensified stimulant effects of Adderall
What to Look For
Signs that an individual may be snorting Adderall include:
- The person presents with a consistent runny nose.
- The person frequently presents with a stuffy nose or symptoms of a cold.
- The person has frequent issues with a runny or stuffy nose combined with hoarseness.
- The person displays frequent bouts of hyperactivity, pressured speech, and increased energy followed by episodes of extreme lethargy.
- The person has frequent nosebleeds for no apparent reason.
- Empty containers for the drug are found around the house along with drug residue on smooth surfaces, such as mirrors, glass tables, wooden tables, etc.
- Numerous devices that can be associated with snorting the drug, such as straws, rolled-up paper money, and other similar devices, are found.
Because the drug is not intended to be snorted, individuals who snort the drug are obviously misusing it. The development of a formal substance use disorder is determined by a specific set of diagnostic symptoms that are associated with the nonmedicinal use of a drug. Anyone who is suspected of misusing Adderall is at an increased potential to develop a formal substance use disorder and should be formally assessed by a licensed mental health professional.