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What is Ritalin/Adderall Abuse?
Ritalin and Adderall are prescription drugs commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is a brand name for the drug methylphenidate; another brand name for the drug is Concerta. Adderall is a brand name for a combination of drug dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Both drugs are stimulants that affect the brain and central nervous system.
Both Ritalin and Adderall work by increasing the levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, specifically the chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells communicate with one another. As a treatment for ADHD, the drugs help to normalize the levels of neurotransmitters in the patient’s brain. The result is increased alertness and ability to focus mentally.
High levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine can also cause feelings of euphoria or extreme well-being. When used as prescribed, the drugs don’t usually have this effect, but higher-than-prescribed doses can produce a “high.” It’s this effect that leads people to abuse drugs.
Prolonged use of stimulants can alter the user’s brain chemistry so that the brain becomes resistant to the drug’s effects. This condition, called tolerance, drives the user to seek higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect. Tolerance often leads to abuse of the substance, and when the abusive behavior becomes extreme–and has a detrimental effect on the user’s life–the behavior is considered to be addicted to the drug.
Symptoms of Ritalin Abuse
When used in higher than intended doses, Ritalin can produce a long list of harmful side effects, including:
- Panic attacks
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Irritability or agitation
- High blood pressure and rapid heart rate
Symptoms of Adderall Abuse
Side effects of Adderall abuse include many of the same effects attributed to Ritalin. However, because Adderall is, in general, a more powerful stimulant, additional harmful impacts are possible, including:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Skin problems
- Sleep issues: falling asleep and staying asleep
- Excessive fatigue
Users who have developed a dependence on either drug may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Extreme hunger
- Panic attacks
There is a danger of overdose with both drugs, and an overdose, which often results in a heart attack or seizure, can be fatal. The overdose risk is especially high when the pills are crushed into a powder and snorted through the nose. Taking drugs with alcohol also increases the risk of overdose.
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