Nearly 5 percent of adults and 5-10 percent of children in the United States suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, CBS News reports. ADHD is a disorder characterized by hyperactivity, restlessness, and an inability to stay focused. Regions of the brain that are involved in impulse control, decision-making, attention, and movement may actually be smaller in individuals suffering from the disorder than in those who don’t have it, ADDitude Magazine reports. The brain’s chemistry is also impacted by ADHD as those battling the disorder likely have lower levels of dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters involved in feelings of pleasure and the regulation of movements and emotions.

Dexedrine & ADHD: Is it Abused?

ADHD Medication Abuse

At the time of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1 million Americans, aged 12 and older, were currently abusing a prescription stimulant drug (not including methamphetamine). As with most drugs, the largest percentage of individuals misusing these drugs were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Teens are abusing these drugs at high rates as well. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of 2015, as published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), reports that close to 8 percent of high school seniors misused an amphetamine drug in the previous year. Teens may see these drugs as “safer” than illicit drugs since they come from a doctor through a prescription.

 “smart drugs,” or “study drugs,”

Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Adderall are often called “smart drugs,” or “study drugs,” by students, as these drugs can help to keep a person up all night to study and focus better on the material at hand. Between 5 percent and 35 percent of college students may misuse prescription stimulant drugs, the journal Postgraduate Medicine publishes.

In addition to being used to try and get ahead in school, these drugs may also be used recreationally as “party drugs” and in combination with alcohol or other drugs. They can enhance pleasure and create a euphoric “high” when abused in high doses. Dexedrine may also be abused as a method of losing weight, or as a “diet drug,” as it is also an appetite suppressant.

Adolescents and college students are not the only population who may be abusing stimulant ADHD medications like Dexedrine to try and get, or stay, ahead of their peers. The New York Times publishes that prescription stimulant drug use is up in professional adults and use of AHDH medications has doubled among those between the ages of 26 and 34. Visits to emergency departments due to the misuse of prescription stimulant drugs for those between the ages of 18 and 34 tripled from 2005 to 2011, and addiction treatment centers report a rise in the number of individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 who are seeking care for stimulant abuse.

Adults may take a drug like Dexedrine to increase productivity and to stay awake, focused, and alert for longer periods of time. Individuals may also take Dexedrine without a prescription as a means of self-medicating undiagnosed ADHD, which has traditionally been considered a childhood illness. It is just recently making headlines as a disorder that adults too can, and do, suffer from.

Immediate Risks of Dexedrine Abuse

Dexedrine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is stronger than its counterpart Ritalin, ADDitute Magazine reports. While under the influence of Dexedrine, individuals will be more alert, talkative, excitable, and awake. Individuals experience enhanced sociability, laser-like focus, and pleasure, as well as an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and raised body temperature when taking Dexedrine. Cardiovascular complications may arise from Dexedrine abuse, causing extreme body temperature, an irregular heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure, and possible stroke or heart attack. Tremors and seizures may be addition medical side effects of Dexedrine abuse. At high doses, Dexedrine may cause hallucinations, delusional thinking, paranoia, aggression, hostility, and violent behaviors that are out of character and erratic.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that in 2011 over 17,000 individuals received medical care in an emergency department (ED) for the misuse of an amphetamine or dextroamphetamine drug (which includes Dexedrine). Dexedrine abuse can also lead to a toxic overdose that the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) prescription labeling for the drug warns may include the following:

  • Tremors and convulsions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attack
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Heightened aggression
  • Fever
  • Coma
  • Death

Dexedrine may also be regularly mixed with alcohol, which can make it possible for a person to stay awake and drink for longer periods of time, potentially causing alcohol poisoning, a blackout situation, and increased risk for overdose. Dexedrine intoxication is often followed by a “crash,” wherein users may feel fatigued, depressed, irritable, mentally sluggish, and hungry. Abusing Dexedrine can impair a person’s ability to make good decisions; therefore, the risk of getting into a potentially hazardous situation, being injured, or involved in an accident increases. Similarly the Clinical Advisor reports that teenagers who abuse stimulants are twice as likely to participate in delinquent behaviors than their peers who don’t misuse these drugs.

Dexedrine abuse can have a myriad of short-term adverse consequences even from one-time use. The potential side effects are compounded with prolonged and regular misuse of Dexedrine.

Long-Term Side Effects of Dexedrine Abuse

Long-term use of a stimulant drug can damage the heart and cardiovascular system as well as the brain. Malnutrition and unhealthy weight loss may be additional results of chronic Dexedrine use.

While individuals may take a drug like Dexedrine as a cognitive performance enhancer, high school and college students who misuse prescription stimulants generally have lower grade point averages (GPAs) than those who don’t abuse these substances, NIDA warns. Dexedrine can interfere with the way the brain functions normally, and with regular use, individuals may disrupt the manner in which the brain’s chemical messengers are transmitted and produced. Dependence can occur, and individuals may suffer from drug cravings and difficult withdrawal symptoms when Dexedrine wears off. Sleep disturbances, mood swings, trouble feeling pleasure, depression, and anxiety are possible withdrawal symptoms from Dexedrine. What may have started out as a “quick fix” for a term paper or to get a good grade on an exam may turn into an inability to regulate the amount and length of time Dexedrine is taken. Individuals may then lose any semblance of control over use of the drug and continue to use Dexedrine even though they are fully aware of the negative ramifications associated with it. Risk-taking behaviors may increase, and mood swings are common. These are all potential signs of a Dexedrine addiction.

Spotting Abuse of Dexedrine

Dexedrine is a helpful medication to a person suffering from ADHD; however, it can be dangerous and has many significant side effects when misused. Medical News Today reports that most students who abuse prescription stimulants get them from a friend.

Common indicators of Dexedrine abuse include:

  • Mood swings from excited and happy to fatigued and down
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Staying awake for long periods of time and then sleeping for an extended amount of time
  • Change in social circles
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Potential money problems
  • Violent and aggressive outbursts
  • Paranoid or delusional thoughts
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Exaggerating or inventing symptoms of ADHD to try and get a prescription of Dexedrine
  • Lapses in memory
  • Mental confusion
  • Skin picking
  • Preoccupation with one’s own thoughts
  • Hyperactivity
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Difficulties in school and a drop in grades
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Legal troubles
  • Needing to take more medication more often
  • Disinterest in things and activities that were once important

Getting Help for Dexedrine Misuse

Often, one of the first things treatment providers will perform is a detailed assessment – a medical and mental health evaluation in order to better understand the individual’s circumstances and needs. Treatment plans can range from an outpatient program that is flexible around existing schedules and obligations to a more structured and comprehensive residential program where individuals stay on site for a length of time to allow the brain time to heal and for new habits to become ingrained.

Medical and mental health evaluation

Each person has different treatment needs. For instance, someone who is heavily dependent on Dexedrine and been using it in high amounts for a long time may first need help via a medical detox program to aid in the safe processing of the drug out of the body while managing difficult withdrawal symptoms. A residential treatment program after detox may be ideal to help prevent relapse. Individuals who suffer from co-occurring medical or mental health disorders, and who have been misusing multiple drugs and/or alcohol, may also benefit best from medical detox followed by a residential treatment program. Residential treatment programs generally provide the most comprehensive form of care for addiction recovery.

Detox services, behavioral therapies, support groups, life skills training, anger management workshops, pharmaceutical tools, nutrition planning, complementary techniques, and stress coping mechanisms may all be included as part of a complete addiction treatment program. Both traditional and holistic methods may be employed to enhance healing and recovery. During a Dexedrine addiction treatment program, individuals can heal both physically and emotionally, with a care plan tailored to them specifically.