One in eight Americans is now hooked on Adderall, the powerful stimulant made available online with just a few clicks of a button following COVID pandemic policies during the Trump administration.
The federal government relaxed rules for prescribing drugs in March 2020, just as the virus began to take off in the US, allowing telemedicine companies to sell the drug online without in-person consultations.
The aim was to keep people out of hospitals and doctors’ clinics while ensuring access to medicines. But this inadvertently created a booming market for start-ups, who openly advertised their ’60-second assessments’ and aggressively marketed the drug on social media.
Today, about 41 million Americans have a prescription for Adderall, estimates show, a 16 percent increase from before Covid arrived. Four million new patients received prescriptions last year, double the number from the previous year.
Millions of these patients are children and young adults. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of school children and a third of college students use drugs.
Adderall prescriptions have increased steadily over the past 12 years. These figures include prescriptions for Adderall, both brand and generic, in the US.
Telehealth company Dunn runs ads with images of pills and promises quick ADHD diagnosis
A mother whose 21-year-old son killed himself while playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun and while intoxicated on Adderall, said he was able to lie to telemedicine providers to obtain the drug despite multiple mental health problems. For which red flags should have been raised. ,
Adderall is a Schedule II drug — the same category reserved for opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone — which means it has a “high potential for abuse, potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
The drug is a combination of two stimulants, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, that are used to treat patients with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
These stimulants intensify activity in the central nervous system, which controls the pathways in your brain and spinal cord responsible for most bodily functions.
Experts believe that ADHD is caused by an imbalance of the hormones dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
Not having enough levels of these hormones can lead to symptoms such as an inability to concentrate and low motivation.
Adderall works by causing the brain to release excessive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine.
A separate, brightly colored ad on Instagram features ice cream cones and asks patients to consume sweet snacks every 30 minutes while on the drug.
But when misused and overused it can be dangerous. If a high enough dose is taken, the user will experience a euphoria similar to that of Molly or MDMA.
Adderall can cause sudden death or stroke in children and adults, especially those with heart defects or serious heart problems.
About 1,000 Americans die each year from prescription stimulants and benzodiazepines such as Adderall and Xanax.
Insomnia and poor sleep are two more common symptoms among heavy Adderall users.
This can lead to tiredness, severe mood swings, irritability and restlessness during the day.
Chronic lack of sleep can also increase the risk of a host of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and confusion.
Weight loss is also a possible side effect of Adderall addiction. This may be due to low appetite or excessive exercise.
Adderall increases the amount of glucose — or sugar — in the body, which causes blood sugar levels to rise and can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
People who have taken or abused the drug over a long period of time will develop a physical dependence on the drug, and experience symptoms of depression, irritability, and sleeplessness when they try to quit.
Both Cerebral and Done have stated that they do not coerce physicians and provide essential services, but the DEA is currently investigating the companies’ prescribing practices. Image, a snapshot of a cerebral video ad that ran on Facebook in 2021
41 million prescriptions were filled for Adderall last year
With the advent of telemedicine and COVID, Adderall prescriptions are set to increase from 35.8 million in 2019 to 41m in 2021.
There are fears that over-prescription of the drug is causing a new wave of addictions similar to the opioid crisis.
Telemedicine companies saw their profits take a big hit during the pandemic.
Cerebral Inc — which is currently under investigation for aggressively advertising Adderall on Facebook and Instagram — hit a valuation of $4.8 billion in 2020, two years after it was founded.
Done Global Inc – also under scrutiny for its prescribing practices – said people familiar with the company said its revenue quickly eclipsed the $3 million offer Bloomberg,
The top manufacturer of Adderall for the US market — accounting for more than 80 percent of all sales worldwide — is Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals.
The company has revenues of some $3.59 billion per year and specializes primarily in generic drugs.
Last month, a mother blamed looser regulations on Adderall prescriptions brought in during the COVID pandemic for her son’s death.
Elijah Hanson was found dead June 25 on the kitchen floor in Tacoma, Washington, after filming himself playing Russian roulette with a loaded handgun.
His brother Ethan said the 21-year-old was written a prescription for Adderall by a telemedicine pharmacy, despite suffering from red-flag mental health issues.
Mother Kelly Rasmussen blamed Adderall for his suicide, telling CBS that even though her son didn’t have ADHD, she was still able to secure a prescription for the drug by lying to telehealth providers.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is legally required to set production quotas each year for ingredients in Schedule II drugs.
In December, the DEA announced that it would not allow any increase in production of the pharmaceutical ingredients used to make Adderall and other stimulants for ADHD treatment through 2023.
An increase in prescriptions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the DEA’s decision to limit production have reportedly contributed to the Adderall shortage, as noted by the US Food and Drug Administration in October .
What is Adderall? Stimulants taken by one in eight Americans
Adderall is a combination of two stimulants, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.
These bind to receptors on neurons, causing the release of two hormones that help people feel more alert and focused.
What does Adderall do in the body?
Once consumed orally, the drug triggers the release of dopamine – or the feel-good hormone.
Doctors say it boosts motivation, which makes people work harder to achieve their goals.
Doctors say it causes more norepinephrine – a stress hormone – to be released.
It also increases blood flow to an area of the brain associated with attention and reaction, helping to promote focus.
For people with ADHD, it helps improve their focus and attention while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behavior.
But for a non-ADHD patient taking Adderall, they will ‘feel high’ and have a sense of euphoria – running the risk of addiction.
How many prescriptions are there in America?
It is estimated that Adderall prescriptions have increased by about half a million during the COVID pandemic.
Before the advent of Covid it was possible to get medicine only after a personal consultation with a doctor.
But when the pandemic virus hit, these rules were relaxed so that it could be scheduled even after virtual consultations.
This has led to several telemarketing startups offering the drug through advertisements posted on social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says ‘aggressive marketing practices’ contributed to the spurt in prescriptions.
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