Dextroamphetamine is the generic active ingredient in the branded drug Dexedrine. Like Adderall, Dexedrine is a central nervous system stimulant that is indicated for the treatment of certain disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Dexedrine belongs to the amphetamine class of drugs. Amphetamines are also indicated for the treatment of depression, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, and narcolepsy. Dexedrine is most closely linked to the treatment of ADHD or ADD, and it helps to alleviate the following ADHD symptoms:
- Trouble maintaining focus or concentration
- Impulsive, hyperactive behavior
- Susceptibility to distractions
- Forgetfulness regarding day-to-day things and responsibilities
Researchers remain uncertain as to the precise biological cause of ADHD; however, studies reveal how Dexedrine works in the brain for individuals with ADHD. According to research findings, individuals with ADHD may have lower levels of dopamine in their brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is a key player in the brain’s ability to maintain focus, regulate attention, and support motivation. The presence of Dexedrine in the brain causes a slower removal of dopamine in the synapse (the area between neurons). Since dopamine remains in the synapse longer, it can have greater effect and help to correct any dopamine deficiency in the brain.
About Dexedrine Addiction
It is important to understand that individuals who take Dexedrine under the care of a prescribing doctor are not immune from abuse. Dexedrine is addiction-forming and has a Schedule II designation under the Controlled Substances Act. In other words, it has a legitimate medical value but it also has abuse potential.
However, when Dexedrine is taken for a medical purpose under the supervision of a doctor there is little potential that the patient will develop an addiction to this drug. The patient may develop a physical dependence, but this condition is not synonymous with a psychological addiction.
Many individuals, such as those who are prescribed prescription pills (sedatives, pain relievers, and stimulants) experience physical dependence but no impairment of day-to-day functioning. If the patient develops an addiction to a prescription medication, their ability to conduct day-to-day activities will very likely be disrupted.
An individual can get started on Dexedrine abuse through any number of pathways. In some instances, individuals who are lawfully prescribed this drug for a diagnosed condition may lapse into taking too much of the drug, such as taking high doses during a short period or frequently taking smaller doses. In other instances, individuals may not have a diagnosis for which Dexedrine is indicated but may obtain this drug from doctors through subterfuge or from friends, neighbors, or the illicit street drug market. In short, if a person takes Dexedrine for any reason not related to its clinically proven therapeutic effects for certain health conditions, then there is a considerable risk of addiction.
But why do people abuse Dexedrine if they don’t need this drug for a legitimate medical condition? The short answer is that Dexedrine abuse can induce euphoria. To understand how people who abuse Dexedrine can get a high, it is illuminating to consider the different forms of this stimulant drug and how these forms can be manipulated to get the drug to the brain faster and potentiate the high.
Dexedrine comes in a short- and long-acting forms (immediate release and extended release). The doses for short-term tablets are 5 mg whereas the long-acting forms come in doses of 5 mg, 10 mg, and 15 mg. Dexedrine typically comes in tablet or spansule form (a capsule with little beads). But note that the generic drug dextroamphetamine is the active ingredient in different branded drugs. Those drugs may come in different forms, such as ProCentra, which is a liquid.
There are numerous firsthand stories online that reveal how Dexedrine is abused. Although these personal accounts are only anecdotal, they illuminate Dexedrine abuse patterns and trends that people who do not abuse this drug might not otherwise find out about. Bluelight is one of the more well-known forums in which individuals who use different drugs exchange information and tips related to drug consumption. According to one Bluelight thread about Dexedrine abuse, individuals can manipulate and consume long-acting/time-release Dexedrine in various ways in order to get high:
- Open a spansule and swallow the beads
- Open a spansule, grind the beads with a mortar and pestle, and snort the powder (railing)
- Take the spansule beads, crush and dissolve them in liquid, and then inject them into a vein (mainlining)
- Crush the spansule beads, filter through a screen/sieve, collect the fine powder, and smoke it
Additional personal accounts involve crushing or chewing tablets. Some contributors to the thread advise about potent drug combinations, such as taking Dexedrine with Ritalin (a prescription drug also indicated for the treatment of ADHD). The accounts shed light on the many dangers of Dexedrine abuse and only support the need for an intervention for a person who is currently abusing this drug, or prevention services for someone who is at risk for abuse.
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Who Is at Risk for Dexedrine Addiction?
Anyone, at nearly any age, is at risk for Dexedrine abuse, or amphetamine abuse more broadly. Firstly, those who take Dexedrine or other amphetamines for treatment of a disorder, such as ADHD, are at risk, but again, not if they strictly follow the doctor’s directions for use. In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11 percent of Americans in the 4-17 age group had received an ADHD diagnosis. In the adult population, an estimated 1-6 percent of people had an ADHD diagnosis in 2005.
The next question is then: How many of those individuals diagnosed with ADHD take Dexedrine or other indicated medications? There does not appear to be any specific statistics in response to this question. Regarding Dexedrine, most trials focus on amphetamines rather than a particular branded drug. For this reason, it is difficult to say with accuracy how many individuals have a prescription for Dexedrine. Typically, a pharmaceutical manufacturer runs trials on its drugs, but findings may not be easily accessible to the public. It is known that pharmacological treatment for ADHD is typically divided into the stimulant and nonstimulant class of drugs. Stimulants drugs are often recommended as these medications have been shown to be effective in 70-80 percent of ADHD patients.
Part of the reason that the US is steeped in a prescription drug epidemic is that prescription pills are being diverted in droves to the illegal street market. Anyone who is looking for an amphetamine high on the street is at risk for addiction. In some instances, people who buy drugs on the street may only be aware that they are buying an upper, and not differentiate between Dexedrine, Adderall, Ritalin, or other prescription amphetamines that are sold to them. The most basic principles of economics apply on the street. For instance, if Dexedrine is in ample supply or in significant demand, it will likely be available; if not, another drug, such as Adderall, may be the foremost amphetamine drug in circulation. Typically, individuals who are addicted to a certain class of drugs, such as amphetamines, will supplement one branded type for another.
A consideration of what an amphetamine high is like can shed light on which demographic groups may be at particular risk for abuse. According to firsthand accounts, an amphetamine high can include an intense sense of wellbeing, a feeling that one is invincible, a perception of closeness to others, motivation to party, and/or a profound love for everything and everyone. But these intense feelings can soon be followed by a crash, which is characterized by paranoia, fatigue, anxiety, and/or depression.
Based on the type of high amphetamines can induce, Dexedrine and similar drugs may be attractive to teens and young adults who want to stay up late and party. But Dexedrine can also be attractive to individuals with a goal that seems to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from partying; some students are drawn to this drug to enhance their studying and exam or essay writing performance.
Of the student group that abuses Dexedrine or other amphetamines to improve study, some will have an ADHD diagnosis while others will not. Research shows that college students with ADHD who abuse prescription stimulants risk experiencing hyperactivity symptoms, thus undermining any goal to have greater focus. Among college students who do not have an ADHD diagnosis, one survey found that those enrolled fulltime were 200 percent more likely than non-fulltime students to have consumed Adderall for a nonmedical use. This statistic supports that many students may have a benign perception of amphetamine abuse, or at least believe that the reward (a desired higher grade) outweighs the risk. However, amphetamines are only one chemical group different from methamphetamine, a drug that has a strong negative perception among college students and the general public.
Students who use amphetamines for a nonmedical reason are not only at risk for physical dependence and addiction, but also a host of serious side effects. According to Japheth Hessler, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, students who use amphetamines nonmedically may also be depriving themselves of sleep. The combination of amphetamines and sleep deprivation can lead to seizures or psychosis. Individuals under the care of doctors who are placed on amphetamine-based medications have been screened for conditions such as seizures or psychosis. So, when people who are not approved for amphetamines abuse them, they face serious health risks.
Although in the public eye, the abuse of Dexedrine and other ADHD medications is most closely associated with students, athletes may also be vulnerable to abuse. The stimulant elements of amphetamine medications can increase core temperature that in turn can increase the risk of injury to the heart. The stimulants can also prevent the athlete from recognizing fatigue and dangerously drive up the duration of exercise or game time.
Different groups may have different reasons to be drawn to amphetamine abuse, it is clear that anyone who abuses this drug is at risk for physical dependence, psychological addiction, and a host of negative short-term and long-term health consequences.
The signs of Dexedrine addiction can be one and the same as the side effects of this drug. Dexedrine addiction signs can be organized into the following main categories: physical, psychological, and behavioral. Individuals may become aware of their own or another person’s Dexedrine abuse at different points along the continuum from recreational use to physical dependence to addiction.
The most severe physical and psychological signs of Dexedrine abuse are often the most obvious. The hope, however, is that people will become aware of their own or another person’s Dexedrine abuse before serious symptoms emerge, such as what happens during an overdose. An awareness of the signs of a Dexedrine overdose can help to avert a fatality.
Some of the most common symptoms of a Dexedrine overdose are:
- Irritability, panic, and difficulty concentrating
- Fever and muscle spams or cramps
- Feeling prone to violence
- Depressed mood, feeling discouraged, and mood changes
- Rapid breathing
- Dark urine, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and sweating
- Delusions or hallucinations (tactile, auditory, or visual)
- Loss of consciousness
The signs of addiction to Dexedrine or other amphetamines are manifest in different perceivable behaviors. Some of the most common actions associated with Dexedrine or prescription amphetamine abuse are:
- Doctor shopping
- Not eating, displaying poorer nutritional habits than usual, or weight loss
- Filling prescriptions at various pharmacies
- Poor dental health or possibly decayed teeth
- Missing school or work
- Borrowing money or stealing items from home, work, or school
- Poor performance of familiar tasks
- Making excuses to protect the drug use
- Substandard grooming or poor hygiene
- Recognition that it’s time to stop using the drug but being unable to do so
There are often many stakeholders involved in a person’s health, such as family, friends, employers, colleagues, and classmates. In some instances, concerned individuals may have an intuition or actual evidence that substance abuse is occurring, but they may not know which exact drugs are being abused. A recognition of substance abuse, even short of knowing which drugs are involved, signals the need for an informal or formal intervention. If Dexedrine abuse is suspected or known, the best practice is to know about the treatment options available to guide the informal or formal intervention.
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Treatment for Dexedrine Addiction: Medications
Approaches to addiction treatment are unique in that they are both broad and targeted to treat the specific drug of abuse. Addiction treatment services have evolved in such a way that there is a general architecture to treatment plans that can be complemented by any research-based methods that have been developed to treat a specific drug of abuse. There are two main pillars of treatment across most recovery centers: medication (pharmacological interventions) and therapy. Stated most broadly, the phases of treatment are: medical detoxification, primary treatment, and aftercare.
At this point in addiction science and rehab service delivery, medications are typically involved when the drugs of abuse are heroin, opioid prescription medications, alcohol, or benzodiazepines (e.g., branded drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin). When medications are used in the recovery process, they may be introduced during the medical detox phase alone or be maintained throughout primary care and even the aftercare phase. At present, Dexedrine and other amphetamine abuse are not treated with targeted medications; there are no FDA-approved drugs for this purpose.
However, it is important to note that during medical detox from Dexedrine and other amphetamines, the supervising medical staff may prescribe palliative medications, such as muscle relaxers, to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. In addition, as Healthline notes, a detoxification doctor may prescribe specific research-based medications to alleviate certain features of the withdrawal process. Methylphenidate may be prescribed for individuals who intravenously used Dexedrine or other amphetamines. Fluoxetine can decrease cravings for amphetamines during the withdrawal process. Imipramine may be prescribed, as it has been shown to help individuals in amphetamine recovery to maintain commitment to the recovery process.
As needed, doctors may also prescribe psychiatric medications to alleviate any feelings of anxiety, depression, or aggression. If a dual diagnosis is made, treatment for the mental health disorder as well as the substance abuse disorder will be necessary.
Therapy for Addiction
Amphetamine addiction can be responsive to a host of research-based therapy approaches. It is helpful to think about therapy less as focused on a specific drug of abuse and more as a way of getting at the traumas, thoughts, memories, and other psychological components that underlie drug abuse in general. For this reason, therapy does not necessarily have to target amphetamine abuse, although a therapist will work with a client to learn why that particular drug type became a drug of abuse.
Typically, a rehab center that offers comprehensive services will provide clients with one-on-one counseling as well as group counseling. The therapist involved in the individual or group sessions can employ different research-based therapies or focus on one; it often depends on the rehab center’s treatment philosophy. The therapy modalities that may be used for individuals in recovery from Dexedrine or other amphetamine addiction include but are not limited to:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)
- Seeking Safety (a therapy focused on trauma relief)
Again, therapy is a main pillar of treatment for Dexedrine and other amphetamine addiction, but there are many different supporting beams in the treatment framework. The following are supportive services that a rehab program may offer:
- Treatment that accommodates a dual diagnosis (such as dual treatment for amphetamine abuse and depression, eating disorders, or other mental health disorders)
- Onsite or off-site group recovery meetings (not therapist-led, based on mutual aid)
- Family therapy, family drug education, and social events
- Expressive arts therapy
- Wellness treatments (such as yoga, acupuncture, and massage)
- Support for identity-based groups (such as LGBT group meetings)
- Drug education for the recovering person
- Psychoeducational groups
- Aftercare services
Recovery does not end when a person graduates from a structured rehab program. Engaging in aftercare services, such as ongoing counseling and participation in group recovery meetings (e.g. Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery), not only helps recovering individuals to avoid a relapse but also helps them build the infrastructure for a drug-free and fulfilling life.
Life doesn’t come with a manual on how to live it, and addiction can make life’s path bumpy. But participating in a well-structured and supportive recovery program can give individuals many of the tools they need to become successful architects of their own future.