It’s all too common in the American culture — a child is out of control at school and complains about their inability to focus on tasks related to school work. Out of concern, the parents’ immediate concern is to get the answer to their questions and find solutions. Parents always want what’s best for their children, and when a physician suggests medications to treat the ailment, it’s not uncommon for a parent to accept medical advice.
In these scenarios, a child is most likely struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD).
After the doctor offers medical expertise to the parents, the professional will likely then suggest that the child take a stimulant drug such as Vyvanse and go from there.
A prescription is then dispensed; the child reports more energy, an improved focus, and a happier mood. Win, win, right? Not quite.
The percentage of children and adolescents who struggle with ADHD has changed over time, and its measurement of the disorder can vary. The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) that 5 percent of children have ADHD. Various reports challenge that number, however, and show a much higher figure.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in 2016, 6.1 million children had ADHD. Additionally, about 9.4 percent of children 2-17 years of age had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. The way it breaks down is 388,000 children ages 2-5 were diagnosed, ages 6-11 2.4 million, and ages 12-17 3.3 million. The percent of children 4-7 years of age ever diagnosed had previously increased from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007, and 11 percent in 2012.
Treatment for ADHD and ADD can include behavioral therapies as well as medication. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavior therapy and medication to treat ADHD; however, these recommendations are usually ignored, and medication is prescribed as the single treatment.
Among children who struggle with ADHD, 18 percent of children ages 2-5 were taking medication, 69 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds, and 62 percent of 12- to -17-year-olds. A staggering number of developing minds are being prescribed highly addictive and potentially dangerous stimulant medications to treat these disorders without the use of behavioral therapies according to the CDC. The question we often fail to ask is, “Do drugs like Vyvanse cause lasting damage?”
According to a study from the medical journal of Molecular Psychiatry, “effects of prolonged stimulant treatment have not been fully explored, and understanding such effects is a research priority.”
Furthermore, it is a formal understanding that amphetamines can cause strange effects to one’s behavior and brain and that these effects become more pronounced and problematic when a person is abusing the drugs.
It is crucial for a person prescribed to medication like Vyvanse to use it as prescribed and to be conscious of the potential effects of abuse.
Prescription stimulants and amphetamine compounds have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and are classified as Schedule II substances because of their high potential for abuse and dependence. Stimulants are designed to increase concentration and energy levels while decreasing the need for sleep and suppressing the appetite.
Vyvanse does this by increasing the activity of several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The changes in dopamine activity trigger the brain’s reward center and the ability to feel pleasure without the chemical support of the drug.
Those who become dependent on Vyvanse can experience feelings of depression, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or notice a distinct lack of motivation as a result of running out of Vyvanse. Abusing Vyvanse can increase suicidal thoughts or aggressive behavior, and someone who is abusing the drug for extended periods will experience the emotional toll it takes during withdrawal.
Natural dopamine production will be inhibited, which causes low moods and the inability to experience pleasure without the drug. The longer Vyvanse is used, the more intense the mood swings will become when it is absent from the body. These problems can be fixed over time with long-term abstinence.
Vyvanse can be beneficial in the treatment of ADHD when it is prescribed and monitored by a physician. A majority of those who use the medication over extended periods can live without an issue, but when Vyvanse is misused or abused, it can speed up the development of tolerance, have a negative impact on mental and physical health, or lead to a pattern of abuse.
A study released by the U.S. National Institutes of Health highlights abuse of amphetamines and structural abnormalities in the brain. It also states that amphetamines constitute a serious public health concern and that the drug is mostly abused in prescription form by young adults. The problem continues to rise throughout the country, and we are slowly becoming more aware of the effects on the brain.
The more that is being learned about amphetamine use is that yes, Vyvanse can be harmful if it is abused in extremely high doses. Significant doses of amphetamines can produce hyperemia hemorrhage and glial proliferation in monkeys, and enlarged chromatolytic medullary neurons in cats. There was also shown to be a reduction in serotonin as well as dopamine.
The same study highlights that long-term administration of prescription amphetamines at doses abused by humans produces similar alterations in the dopaminergic system. The studies that have been conducted tested for extreme doses of the drug and not enough testing has been provided to determine whether long-term brain damage can occur.
It is important to remember that one person may experience something completely different than another because of their brain chemistry. Drugs affect everyone differently.
Vyvanse is more difficult to abuse than other prescription stimulant drugs, but that does not mean the risk isn’t there. When someone takes more than the recommended dose, users can experience a range of adverse effects on their health.
Those who use the drug for long periods can experience withdrawal upon stopping use of the drug. While withdrawal symptoms from Vyvanse are not deadly when compared to alcohol or benzodiazepines, they can cause suicidal ideation, which could become fatal.
If you or someone you know is trying to stop using the drug on their own, they must immediately consider treatment. Detoxing from drugs should always be done under the supervision of medical professionals so that they can administer medications that alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and mitigate any dangers.
If you or someone that you care about is dependent on stimulants such as Vyvanse, The Palm Beach Institute is here to provide all of the resources, care, and support needed to get on the road to long-lasting sobriety. We offer medical detox treatment with a smooth, seamless transition to ongoing treatment in a rehabilitation program.
The risk for brain damage is real when high doses are being regularly consumed, and you shouldn’t have to worry about this for another day. If it’s happening to you, just give us a call when you’re ready.
OUR ADDICTION SPECIALISTS ARE ON-CALL 24/7, SO CALL NOW AT (844) 449-4685 TO GET CONNECTED TO THE HELP YOU NEED, OR CONTACT US ONLINE.
Berman, S., O'Neill, J., Fears, S., Bartzokis, G., & London, E. D. (2008, October). Abuse of amphetamines and structural abnormalities in the brain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769923/
Weyandt, L. L., Oster, D. R., Marraccini, M. E., Gudmundsdottir, B. G., Munro, B. A., Rathkey, E. S., & McCallum, A. (2016, October). Prescription stimulant medication misuse: Where are we and where do we go from here? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5113141/
Berman, S. M., Kuczenski, R., McCracken, J. T., & London, E. D. (2009, February). Potential adverse effects of amphetamine treatment on brain and behavior: A review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2670101/
Data and Statistics About ADHD | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html