a person cluethces their chest which may be a sign of prolonged adderall abuse

Adderall Abuse Can Lead to a Heart Attack

For people with attention disorders, Adderall can provide significant relief. The drug helps people focus and direct their energy into productive activities. However, many people abuse the drug as a study aid or for its perceived energetic effects. When someone begins abusing Adderall, they take it against prescription directions or even without a prescription. After a period of Adderall abuse, they often fall into the cycle of a full-blown Adderall addiction. Adderall addiction can have severe effects on someone’s body, including serious risks to heart health. Trying to break the cycle of Adderall addiction can be challenging; many people are unable to do so on their own. Recovery Ranch Tennessee has an Adderall addiction treatment program for people who need support to stop using the drug. Trying to stop using drugs can be more challenging than many people think. If you’ve tried to quit before, you may know how impossible it may seem. Our team provides compassionate support every step of the way. Find out why the road to recovery is a happier, healthier way forward. Get started today by calling us at 1.844.876.7680 and speaking with a recovery specialist.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand name of a prescription medication containing amphetamines and a closely related stimulant called dextroamphetamine. This medication is commonly used to control the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Doctors also sometimes prescribe it for treatment of the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Adderall has gained significant popularity among some high school and college students as an illicit study aid. When abused in this or any other way, Adderall can lead to a heart attack. 

Amphetamines primarily come in two basic forms: levoamphetamine (commonly known as amphetamine) and dextroamphetamine. Essentially, the molecules of these chemicals are mirror images of one another; this means they contain the same chemical configuration but have different orientations in three-dimensional space. Doctors and scientists refer to these types of closely related molecules as stereoisomers. 

Inside the body, the difference in spatial orientation between levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine produces a difference in drug effects. Even at low therapeutic doses, levoamphetamine is significantly more potent than dextroamphetamine. For this reason, Adderall contains 75% dextroamphetamine and only 25% levoamphetamine. The drug comes in forms that include both a standard-release tablet and an extended-release capsule.

Heart Attack Basics

A heart attack occurs whenever the heart muscle is robbed of its oxygen supply and doesn’t have the means to function properly or stay alive. In most people, oxygen starvation in the heart muscle stems from a blockage in the blood-bearing arteries that extend into the muscle. The main underlying cause of this blockage is the hardening of the arteries and the subsequent formation of a cholesterol-based substance, plaque, on the artery walls. 

When plaque forms, it encourages the abnormal accumulation of blood components called platelets; when enough platelets accumulate, a blood clot can form and stop oxygen-rich blood from passing through the affected artery and feeding the heart. In addition to this process, potential causes of oxygen starvation and a heart attack include: 

  • Heart failure – Insufficient blood pumping from the heart to the arteries 
  • Arrhythmia – Dangerous instability in a heartbeat 
  • Vasospasm – Abnormal, restrictive spasming in the heart’s arteries

The Health Effects of Adderall

Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine produce spikes in the body’s levels of neurotransmitters. In the brain, the main affected neurotransmitter is dopamine, which primarily creates euphoric effects associated with amphetamine use. In the body, the main affected neurotransmitter is norepinephrine, which plays a primary role in activating a portion of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. Dextroamphetamine achieves most of its effect by boosting dopamine levels in the brain, while amphetamine achieves most of its effect by boosting norepinephrine levels in the sympathetic nervous system. Regarding heart attack risk, the most important ingredient in Adderall is amphetamine. When this drug increases norepinephrine levels, the resulting rise in sympathetic nervous system activity triggers changes in heart function that include elevations or intermittent surges in blood pressure, an abnormally rapid heartbeat, and varying degrees of vasospasm. According to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, additional damaging changes caused over time by the presence of amphetamine can include direct injury to the cells in the heart muscle and rapid hardening of the heart’s arteries.

Contribution to Heart Attack Risks

Heart damage associated with the proper use of Adderall is extremely rare. However, people who abuse Adderall as a study aid (or for any recreational purpose) typically take much more medication than a doctor prescribes for ADHD or narcolepsy treatment. They also take the drug without the benefit of a medical review that can catch potential heart susceptibilities in candidates for Adderall use.

These factors can produce significant heart attack risks in any given Adderall abuser. In addition to a heart attack, Adderall abusers also increase their risk for cardiac arrest. This condition occurs when the heart muscle suddenly stops pumping, and blood flow to the body ceases. People experiencing a heart attack or cardiac arrest can die in a narrow window of time with little or no warning.

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