You know a prescription drug is widely abused when it becomes the main character in a movie. A is for Adderall is a 2015 documentary about the off-prescription use of the popular ADHD (attention deficient hyperactivity disorder) medication by the same name. The producers filmed the movie's trailer at the University of Wisconsin Madison ("It's so available; it's everywhere," says one student in the film). And the drug is also the star of the 2015 James Franco film, The Adderall Diaries, about a burned-out, drugged-up writer.

What is Adderall?

Adderall, or dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, is often used to help those with ADHD become calmer and more focused, as is methylphenidate (brand names for this include Ritalin, Daytrana and Concerta). But from 2006 to 2011, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins, nonmedical use of these medications among adults (especially young adults, ages 18 to 25) went up by 67 percent and emergency room (ER) visits related to the abuse of this medication increased almost 156 percent.

Why Are Kids Using Adderall?

What's the allure of abusing Adderall? For one thing, the pills make it easier to focus, which means studying all night could be less difficult. Additionally, the pills boost feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. But abusers typically end up with symptoms like irritability, trouble sleeping, dangerous cardiac issues and ultimately (ironically) a decrease in the ability to concentrate. These medications also mask the effects of alcohol, making it all-too-easy to suffer alcohol poisoning or overdosing when they are drinking alcohol while on Adderall.

What Can Be Done About Adderall Abuse?

Unfortunately, young adults seem unaware of the risks of Adderall abuse - or the tough time they're going to have getting off the drugs once they start taking them. Experts are calling for the same aggressive oversight of these prescription medications that's proposed for opioids/pain relievers. And anyone using them without a prescription needs to reach out to abuse treatment experts for help getting off them. The success rate of getting off Adderall (and other substances) increases with a support network.

This content originally appeared on

tags: detox