Adderall: it's not yo momma's amphetamine

Adderall: it's not yo momma's amphetamine

CultureSeptember 14, 2013

Doctors call it a practice for a reason, so before you practice the recreational (or even prescribed) use of medications like Adderall, be a true Coloradan and know your drugs.

Face it, you’ll hear good reviews of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder meds from fellow students or partiers, and bad ones from medical professionals or the adults whose experiences have included the severest of consequences. If you’re not suffering consequences, but enjoying magical ups, then it might be hard to care what’s happening behind the scenes.

“Nobody’s taking it for the first time,” said long-time prescription Adderall user Dave Miller, 28, a Colorado resident. “That is the drug of choice in college. Hands down, it’s the one thing that everybody will take. It’s the one thing that med students will take"... Everybody will take it.

“People don’t take it to enjoy it. You’ve got to think about what the drug’s for, when you’ve got to concentrate and get shit done. That’s what it’s made for, that’s what it’s marketed for, that’s why it works well for people with (Attention Deficit Disorder)," said Miller.

Most students know what they’re getting with Adderall: heightened concentration for studying or a hyper-alert state that allows them to party harder, longer and more lucidly. It’s true, amphetamines can offer that.

Adderall contains d-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine) and l-amphetamine (levoamphetamine) salts in the ratio of 3:1, but a handful of amphetamine salts to effectively treat as many ADHD/narcolepsy-affected brains (they all respond a little differently) as possible. The idea being that with the blanket of salts, at least one or a few will help the patient.

The amphetamine family also includes, but is not limited to: ecstasy/MDMA/molly (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), speed (amphetamine), meth (methylamphetamine), dexies (dexamphetamine) and death/PMA/PMMA (paramethoxyamphetamine). Especially at recreational (read: high) levels, amphetamines like those found in medications used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy also notoriously stress the cardiovascular and neurological systems. We could break down the chemistry, but it’s boring whether or not you’re already failing chem, and you’re probably fully capable of using Wikipedia.

It’s simple: increased cardiac output, increased blood pressure and the over-firing of neurons are side effects most amphetamine abusers can expect. Miller, whose ADD prescriptions track back to age 6 or 7, said he’s experienced the drugs’ side effects personally.

“Adderall is all robotic and efficient and ridiculous,” Miller said. “... I can’t even tolerate even a fraction of a fraction of what I used to take.” A friend piped in about him “freaking out” on 10 milligrams.

“That was too much,” Miller said. “When you’ve actually taken too much, you can hallucinate and you feel like your heart’s going to explode.”

Proper dosage is typically weight based, with an FDA-approved maximum at 40 mg/day for ADHD and 60 mg/day for narcolepsy in adults (normal doses often start at 5 mg/day). High-dose exposure, especially long-term, is reportedly dangerous, resulting in psychosis, delusions, paranoia, even hallucinations; that’s outside of the stresses to the body’s renal and cardiovascular systems.

Hard evidence of side effects from regular, prescription use varies and remains hard to decipher as many of the problems ADHD sufferers encounter following long-term use of ADHD medications may be related to the ADHD as much as the drugs.

Amphetamine psychosis is real, however, and it is, in fact, caused by long-term, high-dose use of, you guessed it, amphetamines. Lucas Siegel, 22, was so motivated by amphetamine’s side effects while attending the University of Colorado he designed what he hopes to be a comparable nutraceutical supplement to be released this year.


“Sophomore year, I realized there is something deeper and darker about this stuff, this miracle stuff I used to study, and it’s more than just a performance-enhancing study drug,” said Siegel.

Siegel’s friend shot himself in the chest at home at the end of a two-day amphetamine binge. “They were all sitting there watching TV in their three-bedroom house,” Siegel said. “(He) said, ‘Hey guys, I’ll be right back.’ Walks into his room, closes the door, and puts a shotgun to his chest and blows his chest out. Dead. “So my friends run into his room and put pressure on the wound, trying to save him, and (he’s) twitching out ... and they call the cops. The cops were there in a minute. The second the first cop walks through the door, (he) stops twitching. He’s gone.”

(For legal reasons, he asked the drug not be named; and for everyone’s privacy, he asked we not use names, though we verified the death and cause of death.)

Siegel and his business partner soon began field testing alternative precursor neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters in powder form as well as concentrated supplements and amino acids, then worked with a lab and eventually designed Alleradd hoping to phase recreational amphetamine use out of colleges.

“We were like, let’s create a company that creates over-the-counter alternatives to America’s most abused prescription drugs,” Siegel said. “I think the first thing we’re going to do after launching Alleradd is launch an Alleradd (for) kids. I don’t think 7 year olds should be given concentrated amphetamine salts.”

Miller argues they truly do serve a purpose, even in children. “I was put on Ritalin when I was like 6 or 7; it’s very similar,” Miller said. “It’s highly beneficial for some people. Shit, I wouldn’t have graduated high school if I wasn’t taking amphetamines. I have ADD, and it sucks, it’s a pain in the ass. There are ways around that, and alternatives, but it’s the easiest. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on therapy and alternative education for a kid, or you can give them a medication as a parent and be fully aware of the consequences.”

Miller, who says he’s also used Adderall to stay up when going out drinking and shared them for recreational use, said he still doesn’t believe the everyday person should take Adderall.

“Drink fucking coffee,” Miller said. “It’s a real fucking drug. It should be treated like a drug. ... You’re not taking it just to see what happens. Nobody fucking does that with Adderall. Whereas meth, it’s ‘I’m going to smoke meth just because!’ (Adderall) is not a ‘just ‘cause’ substance.”

So there you have it: In small doses or under the care of a doctor, you, like millions of amphetamine users out there, will likely be fine, though you are dosing your brain with a serious drug that can have lasting effects more fatal than, say, your marijuana or coffee habits. Doctors don’t advise you use amphetamine salts such as Adderall to stay up while drinking as the signs of drunkenness are designed to let you know when you’re doing real damage to your body, and amphetamines can distract from and add to the damage. They also fuck with your brain chemistry. High doses of any amphetamine can make you trip, and not always in the fun way you enjoy, before they potentially kill you.

Oh, and if/when you decide to (responsibly) use (reasonable amounts of) Adderall or other similar drugs, keep in mind amphetamines and dextroamphetamines used in these medications make them schedule II controlled substances. In Colorado, unlawful users may be charged with a class 5 felony. C.R.S. § 18-18-405 makes it a class 4 to class 2 felony for any person to knowingly "manufacture, dispense, sell, distribute, possess or to possess with intent to manufacture, dispense, sell or distribute a controlled substance."

Are options like Alleradd a safer, legal answer? It pre-launched in August, and is set to fully launch at roughly 20 schools across the country this month. The company makes no promise Alleradd will work for everyone, but it’s coming to a school (University of Colorado) near you. Ingredients include GABA, alpha lipoic acid, caffeine, B vitamins and even peppermint, among others, but no amphetamine salts.

“Alleradd works for me, and it works for every single person we’ve tried it on, but the one thing I’m very confident about is that it will not work for everyone because we’re not putting amphetamine salts in there,” Siegel said. “I know it won’t work for everyone. It’ll work for a certain brain chemistry.”

There it is again, kids, chemistry. Failing the class or not, all of your collegiate fun comes down to it: drug use, sex and, sadly, whether or not you graduate.