Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects many children and adults alike. It affects their ability to focus and pay attention, and often these people are more impulsive than others. While some people with ADHD choose not to take any medication, a significant number do turn to medication to help them function better.
Both amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidates (Ritalin and Concerta) are commonly prescribed medications. Although these drugs are stimulants, they actually have a calming effect on people with ADHD. By increasing the level of dopamine in the brain, the person is able to better focus and pay attention. When used as prescribed, these medications are safe and generally do not lead to addiction. However, when used incorrectly, they can have harmful results.
Taking more than prescribed
Side effects of ADHD medications can include loss of appetite or a sense of euphoria. This can lead people to take greater quantities in order to amplify these effects. For people who do not have ADHD, taking these medications can provide similar results because their brain does not need the excess dopamine. When taking larger doses, it can produce a feeling of being high. Sometimes people use it as a complement to weight loss efforts as well.
People who become dependent on these medications may begin to take it more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed because they think it will increase their focus even more or they want this euphoric feeling. However, taking more than prescribed can lead to addiction, and it can also have negative health results. These medications can increase the person’s heart rate and blood pressure and contribute to insomnia and feelings of paranoia or anger.
Changes in behavior, attitude, and actions
It is important that people taking ADHD medications are monitored closely by their doctor. The goal is to take the lowest possible dose while still achieving the desired effects. If someone is on a higher dose than necessary and is not regularly following up with their doctor, it may go unnoticed. Taking too much of these drugs can cause unusual behavior changes such as becoming more withdrawn or secretive, having aggressive outbursts or sudden mood swings, or experiencing memory problems or confusion.
Physical symptoms of abuse include weight loss, fatigue, heart problems, dilated pupils, dry mouth, and even seizures. Sometimes people start down the dangerous path of thinking that more is better and if they increase the amount they are taking, they will feel better or have more focus and drive. Family, friends, and medical providers should stay alert to physical and mental signs that the person may be taking too much.
Parents who have children with ADHD should carefully control their medication. The parents should provide it to the child at the appropriate times. During the school day, the nurse can administer the medication. With teenagers, parents should monitor how long the prescription should last and ensure that their child is only taking as much as prescribed. Discard any unused or expired prescriptions.
Talk to children about taking medication responsibly and never sharing with friends. Discuss the purpose of the medicine and how they should only take the prescribed amount because taking more is unsafe. Adults should also understand the risks and benefits of these medications and talk to their doctor if they have questions or concerns.
If you feel that you may have an addiction to ADHD medication or any other drug – prescription or not – Chapters Capistrano can help. We are skilled in treating clients with addictions to many different substances. Contact us today to find out more and take control over your substance abuse or addiction.