Abusing Xanax and Adderall
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Abusing Xanax and Adderall

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

Xanax and Adderall are prescription drugs that can have many benefits. Used as prescribed, they are highly efficient and when used in the correct fashion, they are safe. However, when these drugs become misused and abused, the potential for harm, including addiction, skyrockets.

When people hit the party scene today, it’s not just normal drugs and alcohol that is being passed around. Many of the new “party” drugs are found in an orange bottle with a prescription label. Quickly becoming the new norm, prescription medications are passed out for a different kind of high. Beyond this, some of these drugs have other startling applications—an increasing number of people, including youth, are using them to self-medicate as performance-enhancing drugs—this is far too often the case with Adderall.

Why Is Prescription Drug Abuse Happening?

This is a complicated situation. The more comfortable and familiar society becomes with these types of drugs, the more awareness, acceptance, and even access there is to them. Within America today, the number of prescriptions for many medications are rising, thus creating even greater opportunities for diversion and abuse.

Far too often, the abuse happens when a person begins misusing their own prescription. They may begin to feel their medication is not fully addressing their concerns and attempt to change the dosage on their own. As this happens, they may invariably continue to increase their use, developing a tolerance, physical dependence, and even an addiction.

The prevalence of the internet within people’s day-to-day lives presents unique concerns. With the click of a button and a few keystrokes, anyone can access the world of information on the internet that pertains to these medications—good and bad. Though you can surely learn about the dangers of nonmedical, recreational use of prescription drugs, the unfortunate truth is that you can also learn about how to abuse these drugs as well from these sources. What is perhaps even more scary, is the easy access to prescription drugs such as Adderall or Xanax by a quick online search. Today, people may even choose to order these drugs online and the company simply ships it to your home in a unmarked package.

When a drug is diverted, a person may obtain it various ways, however, one of the predominant means of obtaining these drugs is from a friend or family member. Often the fastest route for teens or adults is the medicine cabinet of a family member or friend. Forgotten prescriptions or expired ones can be an enticing invitation for someone looking for an easy high. In many cases, these individuals may actually give you the medication—because they think that it will help you or so you can use it for recreational purposes.

The hard facts are, you should never attempt to medicate yourself—not with your own medication or that of someone else who has the same condition or similar symptoms. Everyone’s bodies are different, and the way a medication affects your friend, may not be the same way your body reacts to it. If you have a medical concern or should you think your medication is not working the way it should, speak to a medical professional—this is the only way you should ever start a new medication or make changes to an existing one.

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This Abuse Presents Specific Concerns To Younger Populations

Many parents have no clue about their children’s interactions with these prescription drugs for pleasure, partying, or as self-medication. Parents are often unaware of the danger their own medicine cabinet presents, as they are often left unmonitored and containing potential drugs of abuse for anyone to access. These issues are affecting children of all ages, from youth, to teens, and even young adults.

This type of behavior young people are displaying is not just one of them simply making a mistake with their dosage. In many cases, this is plain and simple drug abuse—your child may be using these pills for the sole purpose of obtaining a high or pleasurable effect. In addition, some young people may be seeking out drugs like Adderall as a means to moderate or increase their performance, most notably in terms of academic capabilities. At times, this may be self-medication, as some individuals may genuinely struggle with legitimate concerns, however, others, who have no need of this assistance, are actually seeking out the drug solely for getting ahead.

If your child makes it a normal habit of getting in the medicine cabinet and taking pills that are not prescribed to them, for any reason, detrimental things can happen such as: a dramatic rise in blood pressure and heart rate, damage to the organs, addiction, breathing challenges, seizures, overdose, coma, and possibly death. Because of this, it is very important you monitor any medications within your house, cutting off access to them, while also striving to be keenly aware of your child’s life, should any questionable behaviors or patterns arise. The worrisome thing is, according to a DEA report, when asked how they obtained their illicit prescription drugs, “70% of 12th graders said they were given the drugs by a friend or relative.”

If your child is actually struggling with mental health concerns that would warrant support from these medications, such as anxiety or ADHD, it is important that you connect them to medical care and support, in order to circumvent the possibility of drug misuse, abuse, and addiction.

Xanax Abuse And Addiction

Xanax (alprazolam) is typically prescribed for those who deal with anxiety disorders, including those caused by depression; panic disorder, and in more limited cases, chronic insomnia, agoraphobia (a phobia of open spaces), depression and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This drug is within the benzodiazepine class and is also considered a depressant, due to the way it affects the central nervous system. Of these drugs, it is considered to be one with the highest potency and a short half-life. It creates a relaxed, sleepy feeling quickly after it has been taken. These and other effects also create a temptation for someone to abuse it and a higher potential for addiction, when that sensation or self-medication is desired.

Xanax is considered one of the most addictive and prescribed prescription drugs. Due to this, it sets itself up to be a drug that is far too easy to abuse, in a way that often precedes addiction. In order to better understand the severity of this abuse, here are several facts about Xanax abuse and addiction, many of which have been extracted from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s DAWN Report.

  • They are considered schedule IV of the Controlled Substance Act
  • According to reports from Business Insider published this fall, alprazolam is the 9th most popular selling drug in the United States.
  • The number of emergency department (ED) visits due to nonmedical alprazolam use doubled from 2005-2011, from roughly 57,419 to 124,902.
  • Within the age group of 25- to 34-year olds, this use spiked three times what it was, equaling almost one third of the total visits in 2011.
  • Of this amount, 19 percent was due to only alprazolam, with the remainder encompassing concurrent drug use of one or more other drugs.
  • In 2011, non-medical ED visits due to alprazolam equated to 10 percent of the total for all prescription drugs.
  • In 2011, it was the most frequently prescribed psychiatric medication.

Xanax abuse and addiction can be very dangerous. Alone, Xanax can still pose great threat to a person’s health and wellbeing. The American Family Physician (AFP) reports that prolonged use may cause depression, suicidal ideation, and “emotional anesthesia.” They continue to tell us that the latter “effect may be sought by drug addicts who become progressively more incapable of tolerating their emotions and life stressors.” Increasing research illustrates that Xanax may affect a person’s cognition, and that long-term benzodiazepine use may increase a person’s risk of dementia. Overdose may occur, accompanied by a coma and even death.

Xanax is often a secondary drug, in that many individuals choose to mix it with other drugs, namely depressants such as alcohol or various opioid drugs, in an attempt to seek a bonus or enhanced high. In fact, the AFP tells us that roughly 80 percent of the total benzodiazepine abuse occurs with other drugs, most notably opioids. This not only creates further risks for addiction but an increased risk of serious and even life-threatening interactions and side effects, including overdose. This is because of the way Xanax, as a depressant, works on your central nervous system (CNS) in conjunction with these other drugs that also weigh heavily on your CNS functionings.

Adderall Abuse And Addiction

Adderall, a combination stimulant medication of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, is normally used for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. This drug has a high potential for abuse and addiction; due to these things, Adderall is considered a Schedule II drug under the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Controlled Substance Act. The DEA elaborates, stating that drugs within this classification are “considered dangerous,” with their “ use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Used properly, under medical supervision, this drug may have a beneficial medical and therapeutic use, however, used improperly and illicitly, this drug can cause harm.

In terms of abuse, this drug is primarily used as study aid, most notably within college students, however, use has been reported within professionals who seek to increase their focus and productivity within their job. Subsequently, as reported by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health earlier this year, Adderall abuse has been found highest in 18- to 25-year olds who are receiving this medication from a friend or family member without having been prescribed this drug by a doctor.

The report, which focuses on a study published by The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, notes that abuse and emergency room visits having to do with Adderall have also risen in young adults-—even if the prescriptions for this drug have not. While many people may believe that this abuse is spread mostly across older children and adolescents, the Hopkins researchers discovered that 60 percent of Adderall abusers were among this age bracket, while treatment and ED visits for abuse in adolescents actually decreased.

The study reports that from 2006-2011, researchers came to realize that nonmedical usage went up 67 percent in adults and emergency room visits increased by roughly 156 percent. At the same time, normal treatment visits associated with Adderall abuse stayed the same.

What Are The Dangers Of Abusing Adderall?

Stimulants like Adderall are thought to be a harmless study aid by these college-aged students, but there are many serious health problems they should be made aware of. The study’s co-author asserts that Adderall should be put under the same treatment as prescription painkillers in order to prevent “doctor shopping,” which is where a patient gets more than one prescription from different doctors.

Some of the side effects are sleep disruption, a suppressed appetite leading to malnutrition and its accompanying negative consequences, and an increased risk for mental health problems, including depression, bipolar disorder, and aggressive and even violent behavior. There is not much research available for Adderall’s long-term effects on the body.

Repeated abuse of amphetamines can create feelings of hostility and paranoia, with as the DEA notes, “a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia.” Adderall can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, and at a higher dose it can lead to serious cardiovascular complications such as stroke.

Stop The Damage

If you or a loved one is experiencing Xanax or Adderall abuse, contact us today for help and more information. Rehabcenter.net can offer you even more information on treatment options, support, and other resources that can help you find a drug-free life.

United States Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet

American Family Physician - Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - Adderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults

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