Adderall UK Ultimate 2020 Guide: Legality, Equivalents, NHS & More
Adderall is a prescription drug increasingly used on campuses and at workplaces across the world to boost concentration and energy. Many users swear by it, others not so much.
Adderall is much more common in the United States than in the UK, as it is illegal in the UK without a prescription.
What is Adderall?
Adderall, as we know it, was first introduced in 1994. It is, in fact, a slightly modified version of a weight loss pill used in the 1970s.
Adderall was originally called ‘A.D.D. For All’ before running into legal issues over misbranding. It was renamed Adderall in 1996. That year, it was also approved by the Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research and has been used medically since.
Adderall is made up of two stimulants called amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine dates back around 130 years. Its first medical use was in the 1930s, as a decongestant inhaler under the name Benzedrine.
Adderall's main use today is to help treat attention deficit disorders. It is also used by some shift workers as a eugeroic - a wakefulness-promoting agent. However, students and professionals around the world use it increasingly as a nootropic or cognitive enhancer to help their productiveness.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall and amphetamines in general work by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, saturating your brain’s receptors for these neurotransmitters. This is where Adderall's reputation for being a mental performance-enhancing drug comes from.
Dopamine is the ‘pleasure’ neurotransmitter: it increases pleasure responses from actions. It helps you feel good, which can make work or other everyday tasks more pleasant to do and easier to pay attention to.
Norepinephrine, on the other hand, serves as a ‘fight or flight’ neurotransmitter in the brain. Increasing its levels will help improve wakefulness and alertness, as its release prepares your body for dangerous situations.
As a result, some people use Adderall to try and enhance their cognition. It is meant to let them stay awake for longer and concentrate on their work more, as the dopamine makes it pleasurable.
Watch: How Does Adderall Work?
What is Adderall prescribed for in the UK?
There are two types of Adderall: Adderall XR (extended-release) and Adderall IR (instant release).
The first one's effect typically lasts longer, about 10-12 hours, whereas the instant release variant works for 4-8 hours.
Both work in the same way, so their effects and potential side effects are very similar.
Can you get Adderall on the NHS?
In the UK, the medical use of Adderall is very different compared to the US. There, it is prescribed as a 'drug to improve concentration' to people with attention disorders, whereas in the UK it is an unlicensed medication under the NHS.
This means that Adderall is much less used in the UK. Although, it is sometimes prescribed if a patient is referred to an NHS ADHD unit and is determined by a specialist to require Adderall.
In advising prescriptions, the NHS frequently references Adderall or dexamphetamine as a controlled substance, which may be a reason for their reluctance to prescribe it. The NHS frequently expresses a reluctance to prescribe Adderall due to its addictive qualities and potential for misuse.
How is Adderall used as a study drug?
Adderall is also used off-label as a ‘smart drug’, as it is believed to be a drug that improves concentration.
Many students thus use it to try and focus more on their work. This use of Adderall as a concentration-improving drug has been increasing recently, as many students feel under more pressure to succeed when studying. Read more about Adderall and studying here.
Where to buy Adderall?
Most off-brand users buy their Adderall online or through friends, so the price can vary massively. Alongside its use as a concentration boosting drug, Adderall might be used to fuel all-night study sessions as it is a powerful stimulant.
Amphetamines like Adderall have been used for this purpose for many years, although non-therapeutic use carries several risks which we will address shortly.
Some users also report an Adderall high - a feeling of euphoria. This can help users enter the flow state and remain productive for a long time.
As it is so rare to get Adderall prescribed in the UK, it is more frequently sold by visiting students from countries where Adderall is prescribed more often, or by unregulated online pharmacies. Usually, buying from online pharmacies is the most cost-effective way of acquiring Adderall, as the street price can be inflated.
Adderall can be found in drug tests as it stays in the urine for up to 3 days. However, no university or workplace tests for Adderall at the moment. This could change in the future, though.If you would like to see Adderall compared to another popular study drug, check out our Adderall vs Ritalin article.
What is the Adderall dosage?
If you have been prescribed Adderall by your doctor, you should continue to take it at the dosage they recommend.
For cases of ADHD, it is usually recommended to start with two 5mg doses a day, increasing in increments of 5mg every week or so until the optimum effect has been found.
For narcolepsy, it is usually recommended to take between 5mg and 60mg a day, depending on your condition and how you react to it.
When people use Adderall as a study drug, the dosage can vary greatly. This is because they aren't taking it under a doctor's recommendation.
A fairly standard 'study drug dosage' for Adderall is 20-30mg either once or twice a day.However, due to the high risk of side effects, it is recommended to start lower (about 5-10mg) and build up once you get an idea of your tolerance levels.
What are Adderall's side effects?
Adderall abuse can be a big problem, and it may lead to some serious side effects. Even if you are using Adderall as your doctor intended, there is still a high risk of side effects.
According to the NHS, the following are common side effects of dexamphetamine: feeling or being sick, stomach cramps, dizziness, eyesight problems, headaches, dry mouth, diarrhoea, unsteadiness or shakiness, loss of appetite, weight loss, thinning of hair, rashes, sweating, unusual movements, sexual difficulties and problems sleeping.
The NHS also states that the following, more severe, side effects may occur: changes in your mood, behaviour or thinking; chest pain, fast heartbeat or unexplained breathlessness; and suicidal thoughts, or thoughts about harming yourself.
These are implied to be rarer than 0.01% of cases, but do pose potential (if minimal) risks.
It is important to note that taking Adderall and alcohol at the same time can heighten the negative side effects of both, especially the effects on the heart. Mixing Adderall and alcohol is therefore not recommended.
The same is true for other substances, such as Xanax, which should be avoided if you are taking Adderall.
Tolerance can build up quickly, and Adderall can be highly addictive both physically and psychologically. It is common to have to take a higher and higher dosage to get the same results as before, and once you start taking Adderall for an extended period, it can be hard to concentrate without it.
As taking Adderal can be habit-forming, the risk of an overdose is ever-present. Below you will find a list of Adderall overdose symptoms, which often occur as a result of Adderall abuse.
If you experience any of these, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
|Symptoms of an Adderall overdose|
|Uncontrollable shaking||Rapid heart rate|
|Muscle aches and weakness||Loss of consciousness|
|Dark red or brown urine||Fainting|
Adderall XR, in particular, has a high half-life of around 10 hours, meaning that you should be careful when taking it.
Adderall withdrawal symptoms are also something to keep an eye out for. To try and avoid these, use Adderall only sparingly or as instructed by your doctor.
If you notice any of the below symptoms, again, you should consult with a doctor.
|Symptoms of an Adderall withdrawal|
Is Adderall legal in the UK?
Adderall is a Class B substance in the UK, as it is a type of amphetamine, making it illegal in the UK. Adderall possession is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and 14 years in prison for supplying, similar to other class B drugs such as cannabis or ketamine.
In advising prescriptions, the NHS frequently references Adderall or dexamphetamine as a controlled substance, which may be a reason for their reluctance to prescribe it.
As they are Class B drugs, illicit possession of Adderall/dexamphetamine could result in a 5-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, or both. Selling of these drugs can also be punished by a 14-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, or both.
If you are considering using Adderall as a study drug, please bear in mind that there are now numerous legal and safe alternatives to it.
What is the attitude towards Adderall in the UK?
Attitudes towards Adderall in the UK are very mixed, although they generally seem quite negative. As stated above, the NHS is reluctant to prescribe Adderall.
Adderall seems to be regarded with some suspicion by many media outlets in the UK, with articles indicating that it can only boost performance as a placebo, or that it can cause many serious problems that seem to outweigh the perceived benefits.
Attitudes towards Adderall from British students also appear to be rather negative. Students are aware of its addictive properties and potential side-effects, with one student suggesting people have experienced a ‘zombie-like’ feeling as a result of Adderall use.
Others have said that they were much more productive after taking Adderall, but ended up a 'wreck' after using it for a week.
Again, there are now alternatives to synthetic pharmaceuticals which come without the side effects.
Why use study drugs like Adderall?
Many students today are aware that they live in an increasingly globalised and competitive world. Many of them thus feel that they must stand out from their peers, which often means they take Adderall to try and excel in their studies.
Students are also under more fiscal pressure: rises in tuition fees mean it can be an economic imperative that a student does well, otherwise they may feel there is no way for them to pay off their student loans or other debts.
This, again, translates to brain-enhancing drugs being used to try and study more effectively.
There may be problems with managing the workload, too. When a student has fallen far behind their work, whether it's due to procrastination, a turbulent personal life or whatever else, they may turn to drugs like Adderall to fuel their late-night study sessions to try and pass their examFrequently they view side effects as a necessary evil, in exchange for a passing grade on their paper.
Conclusion: Legal Adderall alternatives
Adderall has its uses as a medicine, and if you have been prescribed it by a doctor you should absolutely continue taking it.
However, the recent trend of increasing Adderal usage off-label as a study drug is concerning due to the reported side effects and health issues that may arise from abuse.
Because of the issues listed above - namely side effects and legality, we don't recommend the use of Adderall as a nootropic.
Those using (or considering) it off-label should be made aware of the alternatives that are now legally available on the market, such as naturally-sourced brain supplements. They can be just as effective at supporting concentration, mental performance and the reduction of tiredness, and they cause no side effects.
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