The active chemicals in Adderall, mixed amphetamine salts, are stimulant drugs similar in mechanisms of action to methamphetamine. Meth has been shown to be significantly neurotoxic, causing damage to brain cells, when used in large amounts for a long period of time.
Abuse of Adderall can increase the risk of brain damage and neurotoxicity, which can lead to psychological and physical complications that are not completely reversible. Many of the neurotoxic effects can be reversed with complete abstinence from Adderall.
A prescription stimulant drug containing both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, Adderall is dispensed to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
The prescribing information for Adderall published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the medication is not recommended to be taken long term. Regular use of Adderall can lead to drug dependence, as the medication is extremely habit-forming and has a high potential for abuse.
Adderall is less potent than methamphetamine, even though the two drugs have similar effects and mechanisms of action, the journal Psychopharmacology explains. Adderall is likely to be less toxic than meth and has a lower potential for neurotoxic effects.
Even so, large doses of Adderall taken for an extended time can have a neurotoxic impact, especially if the drug is being misused and not taken in therapeutic doses for medicinal purposes.
Stimulants interact on levels of dopamine in the brain, raising them and blocking reabsorption. Over time, interaction with the chemical balance of this neurotransmitter can lead to damage at the dopamine nerve terminals or neurotoxicity.
The journal Frontiers in Psychology reports that neurotoxicity related to meth use is caused by neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and excitotoxicity. All of these factors are related to the way that the stimulant drug interacts with brain chemistry.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger used by the brain to regulate emotions. It is involved in the reward-processing pathway, which can also relate to impulse control, decision-making abilities, and feelings of pleasure. Dopamine also helps to regulate sleep functions, working memory, learning processes, and movement abilities.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) publishes that the exact mechanism of neurotoxicity of amphetamines is not clear. These stimulants cause damage to monoaminergic neurons, which can trigger disruptions to the normal dopaminergic functions of the brain.
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Neurotoxicity as related to other amphetamines like methamphetamine can have far-reaching consequences. The journal Behavioral Neurology explains that it can cause cognitive and emotional deficits as well as increased risk-taking behaviors that can lead to social, legal, and medical issues.
Adderall neurotoxicity may lead to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, a nerve and movement disorder, or to impaired memory functions similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Damage to dopamine cells and the way the neurotransmitter is produced, transmitted, and reabsorbed can be side effects of Adderall neurotoxicity. Damage to brain structure and function are additional effects.
The following are signs of Adderall neurotoxicity:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published studies showing that after more than a year of prolonged abstinence, some of the neurotoxic effects can be reversed.
Not all brain damage was completely reversed, which shows that amphetamine neurotoxicity can have very long-lasting effects.
To avoid Adderall’s possible neurotoxic effects, be sure only to take the drug as directed by a medical professional and limit use to a short period of time in the lowest doses possible.
Behavioral therapies and other non-stimulant treatments for ADHD can be explored to minimize the use of Adderall altogether.
Misuse of Adderall increases the risk of neurotoxicity and addiction.
Adderall addiction is ideally managed through a comprehensive addiction treatment program that can address drug abuse and teach coping skills to minimize drug cravings and instances of relapse.
Drug use needs to stop completely to reverse neurotoxicity from Adderall. This may need to be managed through a medical detox program that can help to lessen the side effects of withdrawal.
As soon as any adverse reactions to Adderall are recognized, contact your medical provider and discuss possible dosage changes or a new treatment plan.
(March 2007). Adderall. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf
(September 2007). A Comparison of Amphetamine- and Methamphetamine- Induced Locomotor Activity in Rats: Evidence for Qualitative Differences in Behavior. Psychopharmacology. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2423722/
(June 2018). The Main Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Methamphetamine-Induced Neurotoxicity and Implications for Pharmacological Treatment. Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5994595/
Excitotoxins and the Neurotoxicity of Amphetamines. U.S. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 2019 from http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-DA006236-01
(March 2015). Recent Advances in Meth Neurotoxicity Mechanisms and its Molecular Pathophysiology. Behavioral Neurology. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bn/2015/103969/
(September 2013). What are the Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse