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The Dangers of Abusing Adderall and Caffeine

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

January 23, 2019

Adderall is an upper that increases the heart rate and brain activity, however, when mixed with other stimulants like caffeine, those effects are intensified. Continued abuse of these stimulant drugs can lead to several adverse effects like dependence, withdrawal, and possibly even death.

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant most commonly prescribed for ADHD. Caffeine is also a central nervous system stimulant. Stimulants raise the heart rate and can also lead to high blood pressure and damage the kidneys. Abusing stimulants can intensify their effects and lead to dependence, withdrawals, and even death. Adderall is sometimes referred to as academic cocaine, because of its use in college settings and is one of the most common illegally used drugs in the United States–it is highly addictive, and dangerous.

For nearly every ailment in the United States, there is a pill. Each of these pills has medical value, but prescription drugs are often abused and can be dangerous. A person with a fractured bone might get a script for some form of hydrocodone like Vicodin, and a person with frequent anxiety attacks and depression might be prescribed something like Zoloft or Xanax. A person suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy might be prescribed Adderall (Food and Drug Administration).

Hydrocodone is a painkiller that can help a person feel numb–which is the euphoria leading to the abuse of the drug. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are central nervous system depressants, and can help a person feel relaxed–which is where abuse comes in. Unlike Xanax, Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant (or amphetamine) and is typically abused because it makes a person feel an ability to accomplish more.

What Is Adderall Used For?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is better understood as an inability to focus or stay still, and acting without thinking. It can make home life, school and work difficult for a person, and oftentimes they are prescribed potent drugs like Adderall to help them settle down because it directly affects the neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of the other symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities.
  • Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading.
  • Seem to not listen when spoken to directly.
  • Fail to not follow through on instructions, fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked.
  • Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as doing tasks in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, keeping work organized, managing time, and meeting deadlines.
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers.
  • Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones.
  • Become easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments.

(National Institute of Mental Health)

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Adderall Abuse In College

In the world of higher education, Adderall is sometimes referred to academic cocaine, because of its so-called benefits and the drug’s tendency to help students pull all-nighters to study while having a greater ability to stay on task and focus.

One student at Boston University admitted to using Adderall to help her perform better and went on to estimate that about 30 percent of her peers used the drug. “I use study drugs because they keep me up to study; I don’t even have to think about it,” she says. “They put me on autopilot” (BU Today).

Adderall Academia Debunked

Let’s face it, school can be stressful–and study drugs are sometimes just what people need, right? Not necessarily. David McBride was the director of Student Health Services at Boston University, he had a much different take on the popularity of Adderall.

“Stimulants help people stay awake longer,” said McBride. “The trouble is, they disturb your sleep, they can make you jittery, you may have racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, and further difficulty concentrating. Using something like this, you may get more than you bargained for” (BU Today). It isn’t uncommon for a student to stay up all night drinking energy drinks or coffee either, and even though Adderall does the trick on its own, sometimes a person will mix the dangerous combo for an even greater stimulant effect.

Can Adderall Be Addictive?

Yes. Like many mood-altering drugs, Adderall can be addictive and those using it begin to seek it out every time they need to study or whip up a thesis. If a drug has a high success the first time, then we will likely do it again. Before we know it, our brains and behavior have been trained and we start taking the drug with greater regularity.

Adderall is a schedule II drug, because of its potential to be highly addictive. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) “Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” Furthermore, “Ongoing use can lead to dependence, which can be as hard to recover from as dependence on heroin or cocaine” (U.S. National Library of Medicine).

Quitting Adderall can lead to a dysphoric mood and other withdrawal symptoms such as: “Fatigue; insomnia or hypersomnia; psychomotor agitation or retardation; increased appetite; and vivid, unpleasant dreams” (Australian Government Department of Health).

Caffeine’s Effects On The Body

We have spent a significant amount of time talking about Adderall and the dangers of abusing stimulants, but what about caffeine? Like Adderall, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant but is often marginalized, because caffeine is a natural substance found in plants and food. “Caffeine occurs…in more than 60 plants including coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts used to flavor soft drink colas, and cacao pods used to make chocolate products” (FDA).

Even though the average American only consumes two cups a day, caffeine is still a mood-altering stimulant and can even cause withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Make you jittery and shaky
  • Make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get a good night’s sleep
  • Make your heart beat faster
  • Cause an uneven heart rhythm
  • Raise your blood pressure
  • Cause headaches, nervousness, and/or dizziness
  • Make you dehydrated (dried out) especially after a workout
  • Make you dependent on it so you need to take more of it

(Food and Drug Administration)

What Happens When You Mix Adderall And Caffeine?

Since both Adderall and caffeine are stimulants that can affect the brain’s motor function, mixing the two can intensify the adverse effects like raised heart rate and euphoria. Not only is there a potential for increased euphoric effects of these drugs, but there is also a likelihood of intensified withdrawals.

Amphetamines like Adderall constrict blood vessels which raises blood pressure, and can also increase heart rate. High blood pressure is known to severely damage the kidneys. Even people who are prescribed Adderall are advised to be careful about their caffeine intake while on the drug. By itself, Adderall is known to lead to addiction, and in some cases even overdose and death. In summary, mixing Adderall and caffeine can be dangerous.

Finding Treatment Is Easier Than You Might Think

Drug abuse and addiction are dangerous, and the withdrawals can often lead a person back to using. Sometimes without help, addiction can become too much, and quitting seems almost impossible. Treatment for amphetamine addiction is best when lead by professionals who understand the potential dangers of substance abuse, and know how to help you detox and live a sober life.

If you or a person you love is in the throes of Adderall addiction, and feel like there is no answer, please Contact us today at 877-683-2152 to speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members. An addiction-free life is the best kind of life.

Boston University Today - The Other Side of Adderall

Food and Drug Administration - Adderall and Adderall XR (amphetamines) Information

National Institute of Mental Health - Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Basics

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling

U.S. Library of Medicine - Treatment For Amphetamine Withdrawal

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