ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin are safe to take while in recovery as long as you’ve been diagnosed with the disorder. Individuals who don’t have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) should avoid taking drugs like Adderall while in recovery. ADHD medications can be highly addictive, especially for individuals who don’t have ADHD or a related mental health issue. This article covers the effects that ADHD medications have on the body and the evidence supporting it’s prescribed use during alcohol and drug recovery.
How ADHD Medications Function in the Brain
ADHD has been linked to an under-activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.
Ritalin and Adderall are in a class of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. They function by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters can only achieve their effects while they’re bouncing around in the synaptic gap between neurons. By inhibiting the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, Adderall allows them to act on the brain for an extended period.
Dopamine and norepinephrine affect cognition and mood through slightly different mechanisms. When they join forces, they can improve focus and motivate the user to become more productive. In addition to treating ADHD, central nervous system stimulants are commonly prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes individuals to lose consciousness spontaneously.
ADHD Medications Can Be a Healthy Part of Recovery
As long as you have ADHD or a similar disorder, studies show that continuing your medication regimen throughout drug recovery decreases the risk of relapse. Central nervous system stimulants have a high rate of addiction, but for someone with ADHD, they can stabilize brain chemistry and improve impulse control.
Patients must be closely monitored by doctors and counselors while taking Adderall during alcohol & drug recovery. During the stress of recovery, it can be tempting to take a little more than the prescribed dose to catch a buzz. Risk levels for such behavior are higher when the patient’s drug of choice is a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine.
Researchers at Indiana University found that individuals diagnosed with ADHD are between 31% to 35% less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when taking their ADHD medication as prescribed. The study, originally released in the American Journal of Psychiatry, was calculated from approximately the data of three million people in the United States with ADHD.
A similar 2014 Swedish study provided similar results . The study analyzed the medical history of roughly 39,000 adult individuals, mostly men. It concluded that the longer a patient complies with their ADHD medication, the lower the rate of addiction to other substances.
If you think that you may fit the bill for having ADHD but haven’t yet been diagnosed, it’s critical that you talk to your doctor immediately. Many adults have undiagnosed ADHD. It’s common for people with undiagnosed ADHD to self-medicate with other substances. Getting on a controlled dose of Adderall may be the safest and most effective way to manage addiction in such individuals.
Side Effects and Warnings About ADHD Medication
Think you might have undiagnosed ADHD? Before you seek out an Adderall prescription, you should consider the potential side effects . Central nervous system stimulants like Adderall can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and difficulty sleeping.
More serious side effects can also occur. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience rapid or pounding heartbeat, suicidal ideations, mood swings, or restricted blood flow to the extremities. Poor peripheral blood flow is characterized by cold/pale fingers, toes, hands, and feet.
Before taking Adderall, share with your doctor if you have a medical history of uncontrolled muscles movements, heart attack, blood circulation problems, high or irregular blood pressure, heart attack, congenital heart abnormalities, or a family history of heart problems. Existing mental health issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression should also be disclosed.
ADHD Medication Abuse and Withdrawals
ADHD medications are commonly abused on college campuses. The potential for progressive addiction is highest in individuals without ADHD who take these drugs.
Signs of addiction to ADHD medication can include feelings of paranoia, verbal ticks, agitation, uncontrolled movement, feelings of hostility, difficulty urinating, and dangerously high body temperatures.
If you fall into this category, the time may someday come for you to stop taking them. Post-acute withdrawals from stimulant use are never enjoyable. Symptoms can include depression, vivid nightmares, insomnia, dizziness, poor motor control, headaches, increased appetite, fluctuations in heart rhythm, dry mouth, and constipation.
Withdrawals can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on the quantity and duration of use. Adderall withdrawal can begin within the first 24 hours of the last dose and peak in intensity around day two. Patients under the age of 25 should be monitored closely for suicidal thoughts. This demographic experiences significantly higher rates of suicide when stopping a wide range of medications, including Adderall.
Managing ADHD Medication Withdrawal Symptoms
Detox and withdrawals from unprescribed Adderall use can be minimized with the right strategy. Exercise is a great way to normalize stress hormone production and encourage healthy brain function during recovery.
Certain antidepressants may also be helpful. Individuals in stimulant recovery who have depression may benefit from taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) like Prozac. SSRIs have been proven to be effective at reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms from a variety of substances. Naltrexone is another option to help ease the symptoms of stimulant withdrawals. Naltrexone may be similarly helpful for individuals recovering from opioid and alcohol abuse.
Treatment Options For Methylin Addiction Symptoms
Treatment for addiction to Adderall and similar medications may require intervention with family and friends, medical detox, inpatient therapy, intensive outpatient therapy, and attendance of Alcohol Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.