Mother's Little Helper Diet Drug Causes Weight Loss (and Addiction)
Since the 60’s revolution, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have played a significant role in health for a subset of American women and are known colloquially as “mother’s little helper.” First it was the heavily sedating drug valium in the 60’s and 70’s; then, more manageable pain meds in the 80’s and 90’s along with antidepressants liker Prozac; followed by a wide range of sleeping pills at the turn of the century; and today, recent news reports tell us that mothers are tapping into their children’s ADHD drugs: Adderall and Ritalin.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a continual behavior pattern consisting of hyperactivity and/or inattention with episodes of impulsiveness and is diagnosed in approximately 8% of children. Treatment for ADHD is typically through prescription drugs that are classified as stimulants
Stimulants have been proven effective in treating ADHD by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure, movement and attention. People with ADHD have lower than normal levels of dopamine and thereby benefit from meds that increase their dopamine levels. The two most commonly prescribed stimulants include an amphetamine like Adderall and a methylphenidate drug like Ritalin. Both medications have a calming and a focusing effect on individuals with ADHD.
While ADHD typically brings children to mind, it also affects approximately 3-4% of American adults. However, for not clearly defined reasons, an inordinate number of female adults are increasingly receiving prescriptions for ADHD drugs.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, over the past decade the number of prescriptions written each year for Adderall has surged among women over 26, rising from a total of roughly 800,000 in 2002 to some 5.4 million in 2010. A particularly significant increase has been for women aged 26-39, for whom prescriptions soared by 750%.
One of the reasons for this surge is attributed to an increased use of Adderall as a popular drug that will not only help women cope with stress, feel energized and become more focused, but lose weight as well.
Some experts attribute the need among many women for taking a stimulant like Adderall is due to young mothers trying to do it all by being a supermom at home while competing with males and being a superwoman in the workplace. Furthermore, not only do these women feel the need or pressure to be a superwoman, but to also look like a supermodel at the same time. Therefore, a pill such as Adderall is an attractive and easy form of relief from the pressure and stress while at the same time enhancing their performance and achieving significant weight loss.
And just where are women getting their Adderall? Numerous reports are emerging about women who are resorting to either faking ADHD to get a prescription from multiple doctors, tapping into their children’s supply or dealing with other moms who have a source and supply of Adderall. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are among the top 10 prescription drugs stolen from pharmacies.
While the use of stimulant drugs like Adderall are considered to be safe as long as they are used for treating ADHD and under a doctor’s supervision, the problem with taking Adderall for non-ADHD use is that the potential for abuse is very high and can lead to addiction. Some of the side effects from abusing Adderall include:
• Increased heart rate
• Weight loss
• Mood changes (i.e. anxiety and depression)
The aforementioned side effects may not seem so bad to a stressed out mother who is suffering from all of the above (except weight loss) even without the influence of Adderall. However, relatively recent research shows that there may be long term effects on the brain that could result from abusing Adderall.
In one study, researcher from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine trained baboons and squirrel monkeys to self-administer an oral formulation of an amphetamine type of stimulant similar to Adderall in equivalent doses that a human patient would take. What they found later in the primates was evidence of amphetamine-induced brain damage and lowered levels of dopamine and fewer dopamine transporters on nerve endings in brain cells. The authors believe these observations reflect a drug-related loss of dopamine-releasing nerve fibers that could be linked to neural disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
While a lot of research has focused on the whether Adderall might affect growth in children, less research has been done that focuses on the long-term use and abuse of Adderall in adults and the effect it could have on the brain.
The take-home message is that Adderall is not a magic pill for women (or anyone) to use as a performance enhancing weight loss drug. Doing so may lead to addiction and loss of those things in life you are working so hard to be a supermom and superwoman for.
The following are a few strategies for women to help them cope with a too-busy life:
• Exercise regularly—studies have shown that exercising 30 minutes a day results in mental clarity, increased focus, feelings of well-being and naturally increases the levels of dopamine that you may have gained from a pill.
• Eat healthy foods—try an unbalanced diet where you eat disproportionately more fruits and vegetables and less fats to give you energy and decrease cravings for sugar.
• Divide and conquer— try to delegate or share your responsibilities at work and home so that your stress will be lower and you will have more “me time” for yourself.
• Learn relaxation techniques—take up mediation, massage, yoga or all three and discover what others have already known for centuries in dealing with stress.
• Engage Healthy Sleep Habits—make your bedroom a place of calm and not a boardroom by removing all electronic gadgets. Studies show that by lowering the lights and the room temperature just before going to sleep induces sleep quicker than reading under a bright light and in a warm room.
• Practice Healthy Coping Skills—aim for balance with a positive attitude and a good support system from friends and family. Simply talking about your day can vent a lot of pressure and allow you to relax afterward.
• Seek professional help—when stress is too much and you suspect it may be the cause of some symptoms of ill health that exacerbate your stress, go see your physician and discuss your concerns.
If someone you know is trying the latest mothers little helper diet drug for losing weight and performance enhancement, talk to them about the dangers of what they are doing and help them seek professional guidance. They may not realize that not only can it harm their body, but taking a controlled substance illegally (even a tablet or two of your kid’s ADHD medicine) is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment. Follow this link to learn more about Adderall addiction and rehab options.
Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile
”Do ADHD Drugs Take a Toll on the Brain?” Scientific American Mind July 2009; Edmund S. Higgens.