Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. As a prescription drug, it should be taken after getting a prescription from a doctor familiar with your case and medical history. However, Adderall is commonly abused, taken without a prescription, and used in high doses.
These people may not take Adderall for a therapeutic reason. Instead, they are taking the drug for recreational purposes, hoping to achieve and sustain a feeling of euphoria or bliss.
People who abuse Adderall may do so in a binge pattern, in which they take a great deal of the drug all at once within a short period. Binging on Adderall like this comes with some significant risks, and often, it can take days for your body to recover from a binge.
Here’s what you should know about an Adderall binge and what you can do to feel better in the aftermath of a binge.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall is the brand name for a drug containing four amphetamine salts. Amphetamines are stimulants primarily used to treat ADHD and attention problems. Adderall is one of the first-line pharmacological options for children and adults with ADHD. It increases activity in the central nervous system. More specifically, it works by blocking the removal of dopamine from your system, causing a buildup that increases dopamine’s rewarding effects.
People with ADHD may have low dopamine levels that cause them to experience distractions and hyperactive impulses that are hard to control. Increasing dopamine levels with Adderall can increase reward, motivation, and focus. Adderall also increases norepinephrine levels, which is another natural chemical that can increase your heart rate. This can aid in wakefulness and feelings of stimulation.
Why Would People Binge on Adderall?
Adderall is commonly misused and abused. Misuse is common on college campuses and in other places where people might try to gain a cognitive or performative edge. Increasing alertness and awareness may be beneficial in some sports, but Adderall is often used in academics to increase alertness through long study sessions. It may also be used with the thought that it will increase cognitive ability, such as memory retention and cognition, but the evidence that Adderall has mental benefits to people without ADHD is limited.
However, people don’t usually binge on Adderall when it’s misused for its potential cognitive benefits. Instead, an Adderall binge is likely to achieve a recreational high. As a stimulant, Adderall can cause some potentially euphoric effects, similar to cocaine or methamphetamine. However, Adderall is a much weaker stimulant than illicit recreational stimulants. To achieve a high, people have to use it in high doses.
What Is the Adderall Max Dose?
Adderall is prescribed in standard release tablets and extended-release forms. A standard release tablet is prescribed in several doses depending on the use. Children between ages 3 and 5 start with a 2.5-milligram dose. Children age 6 and older start with a 5-milligram dose. For adults, 10 and 30-milligram doses are available. It’s recommended that you take the lowest recommended dose when you first start, and your doctor may increase the dose as needed. It’s rare to exceed a 40-milligram dose of Adderall, and 40 milligrams may be the upper end of safe doses for most people. High doses can cause restlessness, insomnia, confusion, anxiety, panic, and other symptoms consistent with an overstimulated nervous system. The most dangerous symptoms you may encounter when you exceed a max dose involve the heart, including hypertension, arrhythmia, and circulatory collapse.
Does Adderall Build Up in Your System?
Binging Adderall can make dopamine build up in your system, causing more intense effects. However, your body can only release so much dopamine at once before you need to rest and recharge. At that point, taking more Adderall may not produce more desirable effects, but it can continue to cause stimulating side effects. As you use Adderall more and more, it will take longer for your body to process it. This buildup can increase the amount of time the drug may be detectable in your system.
Bingeing on Adderall is Common
Adderall is a stimulant medication, and it has a chemical structure similar to illicit amphetamines. These drugs can help to bring about a sense of focus or concentration, but they can also spark the production and uptake of chemicals that the brain associates with pleasure. When this pleasure pathway is engaged, you might feel powerful, comfortable, and euphoric.
Unfortunately, this feeling can be fleeting. Stimulant medications are processed through the digestive system, and they are excreted by the kidneys and out of the body as urine. The move from ingestion to excretion can take a very short time, and when the brain regains control, and the euphoria wears away, people can feel desperate for another hit and a return to bliss.
As experts writing for the journal ADDitude point out, it can be hard for even doctors to determine the proper dose of a drug like Adderall. It’s not surprising then that there are no formal, hard-and-fast rules about bingeing. There is no specific amount of Adderall you must take to qualify as bingeing on the drug.
The amount you must take to overwhelm your body for a long time can vary from person to person, and it can even vary from day to day.
But in general, if you find that you are taking one dose of Adderall followed by other doses in rapid succession, without allowing your body to fully heal between each dose of drugs, you are probably engaging in bingeing behavior. That could be very dangerous for your body.
An Overdose Can Follow a Binge
Adderall is a powerful drug that can work on your body as well as your brain. If you take too much of the drug all at once, you can overwhelm your body with active ingredients, and that can lead to an overdose.
An Adderall overdose can lead to specific symptoms such as:
- Jerking muscles
- Fast heart rate
In an article published in the journal CNS Drugs, researchers suggest no medication can be used to stop a stimulant overdose once it starts. Instead, doctors work to offer relief for each symptom they see. They may prescribe benzodiazepines to stop twitching muscles from worsening into seizures. They may give medications to slow the heart and keep a heart attack from coming. They may also offer sedative medications to keep people from harming themselves or others.
These aren’t solutions available to the average person at home. That means people in the midst of a binge who develop overdose symptoms need emergency help. Calling 911 and reporting the emergency is the best way to help in these situations. Medical professionals can transport the person to the hospital for care and monitoring.
A Binge Can be Uncomfortable
Even if you avoid an overdose, you can still develop symptoms during your binge that can make you extremely uncomfortable. While your brain is processing the active ingredients in Adderall, pleasure chemicals are coursing through your body and changing the way you feel about yourself and the world around you. When your supply of pleasure chemicals is depleted, or you run out of Adderall to take (or both), you can develop symptoms of a crash.
People experiencing an Adderall crash may deal with:
- Cravings for Adderall
These symptoms can make you feel desperate to find and take more Adderall, and you might make decisions that would seem odd to you if you were sober. You may also feel like you can’t control your thoughts.
A person with a long-standing stimulant habit reports in an article published in The Guardian that she gets thoughts embedded in her mind for days after a binge. She might worry about something she said or a task left undone, and she may feel unable to reassure herself about that particular thought. It is a little like having a record on repeat, playing the same tune over and over again. After a time, people might do almost anything to make the tune stop.
For some people, those desperate thoughts and the sense of anxiety that accompany them can deepen into a form of mental illness. Back in 1997, researchers writing for the Journal of Neuroscience reported on a form of psychosis that developed after people binged on amphetamine substances.
They appeared agitated and disorganized to the people around them, and they could not clear their minds with time. A form of psychosis such as this can come with hallucinations as well as a deepening sense of unease. Even if someone has no history of violence, they can harm someone else very quickly if they are in the grips of an episode like this.
During this portion of a binge recovery, it is vital to have a sober person nearby who can offer reassurance and reality checks. Someone in the midst of a hallucination about spiders, for example, might be soothed to hear that the sober monitor sees no spiders. A sober monitor can also step in and call in professionals if a binge begins to go wrong. This person could call an ambulance if someone begins to have a seizure, for example. Listening to the advice of this sober monitor is vital for you to stay safe.
What To Do When The Binge Ends
At some point, you may decide to brave the impact of a comedown and stop yourself from taking more Adderall. At this point, you can begin to support your body as it moves from intoxication to sobriety in a slow and controlled way.
Since your body processes Adderall through the digestive tract, and since Adderall can speed up the heart and raise body temperature, drinking plenty of cool water is a wise step to take. The water can help to lower your body temperature while helping your kidneys to push the rest of the drug out of your body through your urine. If you’re not queasy, a light snack can also help to deplete the vitamins and minerals you may have pushed out of your body during the binge.
According to the Australian Government Department of Health, a study of 102 people in early withdrawal from amphetamines found that craving for sleep was the most common symptom that people experienced. You may feel extremely tired, but you may have such a busy brain that you cannot fall asleep.
Engaging in a soothing activity, such as meditation or yoga can help you to calm your mind and slow down your thoughts. That could help you feel calm enough to nod off into sleep. You could also try keeping your room both cool and dark, as that type of environment can help you to both fall asleep and stay asleep. Asking your roommates and neighbors to help you stay asleep by keeping the noise level down might also be wise.
What To Do Over The Next Week
Feelings of withdrawal might stick with you after a binge. In fact, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation in Australia, feelings of withdrawal from amphetamines can last for two to four days after use. In addition to feeling sluggish and tired, you might also feel paranoid or irritable. You may also feel aches in your muscles.
If it’s difficult for you to spend time with others during this time because you’re not certain what is real and what is a hallucination, spend time at home with people you trust in an environment in which you feel safe. You can surround yourself with people who love you and want you to get better, and you can support your body with nourishing food, plenty of water, and lots of sleep.
During this time, you might be highly tempted to access more Adderall to make your discomfort fade away. This is, you should know, a sign of Adderall dependence. Your body is coming to need Adderall to achieve peak performance, and your brain cells are calling for the drug when it is not present. These cravings can be very difficult to ignore, and you might need help to move past them.
This is where drug rehab can be wonderful. In rehab, you can learn more about how addictions develop, and you can learn more about how you can control your cravings when they appear. You can also learn from other people who have a similar addiction, and the support of your peers could inspire you to stay sober no matter what comes your way.