I’ve discussed lifestyle dementia here before, and the premise of Stephen Petrow’s “The Drugs of Work Performance Enhancement” certainly falls into a lifestyle choice that could have negative long-term effects neurologically.
I got anxious just reading Petrow’s article, which discusses the “work-productivity” effects of taking the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder drug of choice, Adderall, to “work” better. The risks associated with taking Adderall alone should scare people away from this lifestyle choice.
But what really caught my attention is Petrow’s description of the immediate effects of taking it and then the aftereffects:
“While the medication did wonders in prompting me to write, it inexplicably interfered with my ability to speak, scrambling my thoughts before they’d come out of my mouth. (I learned never to take a dose if I were to be out in the world anytime in the next four to six hours, otherwise I either spoke too quickly or too garbled.)”
It’s important to note that speech is commonly one of the first signs of cognitive issues.
As I writer myself, I understand the chaos and the immense struggle sometimes to pull all the research and thoughts in my head together to present a cogently, well-organized, well-presented final outcome.
Some days it’s impossible (and you just accept it and go on to something else), and other days everything flows.
In reality, though, in the bigger picture, that’s kind of how life goes too. Some days work well and effortlessly and other days are just an uphill battle every step of the way.
By tampering with and altering what seems to be the normal ebb and flow of how we humans operate in every area of life, in my opinion, is tantamount to playing God without being God (a very dangerous proposition of and by itself), and is possibly increasing the risk of developing, if not dementia, debilitating cognitive problems later in life.
Adderall is an amphetamine. From Medical News Today, here is a description of the effects of amphetamines:
Amphetamines have the following short-term effects on humans:
- Heart rate increases
- Raised blood pressure
- It can be an appetite suppressant (you eat less)
- They make you feel happy (euphoria)
- They make you feel more in control, alert, able to concentrate on things better
- They reduce the sensation of fatigue
- There may be a positive effect on self-esteem and self-confidence
- The patient may become more sociable
However, after long-term use, the following may occur:
- The feeling of power and superiority may become a problem
- Increased anxiety
- The individual may suffer from insomnia
- Restlessness may increase
- Some people can develop paranoid psychosis (chronic or high doses)
- There may be hallucinations
- The person may experience tremors
- There may be undesirable weight loss
- The individual’s behavior may become more aggressive and even violent
Many of the long-term effects are the same symptoms associated with dementia, and perhaps are indications of the neurological damage associated with dementia that can be specifically tied to the use of amphetamines.
So while, as Stephen Petrow claims, there may seem to be short-term benefits to using Adderall to enhance work performance (I don’t agree with this at all), it is a lifestyle choice that presents the real possibility of long-term negative consequences neurologically.
Most of the current elderly sufferers of dementias and/or Alzheimer’s Disease do not have a history of lifestyle choices that contributed to their neurological and cognitive impairments, although it is my opinion that the chronic stress of the exponential speed of change associated with technology along with living on a toxic planet, breathing toxic air, and eating and drinking toxic food and water are two major contributors to the increasing numbers of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease sufferers we are seeing now.
However, it is very likely, given the increased trend toward lifestyle choices that are targeted specifically toward affecting and altering cognition, that the next wave of dementia sufferers will be largely populated with these people who have voluntarily chosen to chemically manipulate the landscapes of their minds.
It is certainly food for thought.
Seems like it could only lead to problems taking a synthetic stimulant that strong for an extended period of time.
Seems like it could only lead to problems taking a synthetic stimulant that strong for an extended period of time..
I think high blood pressure, seizures and stroke are concerns with stimulants. But Alzheimer’s? Well… high coffee consumption has been linked to later onset and reduced incidence of this and other forms of dementia. So probably not related.
Anything that alters brain chemistry is a potential source of dementia. With these stimulants, the real mechanisms behind them are not completely known now and the long-term effects have not yet materialized. Additionally, high blood pressure is the front-and-center culprit in vascular dementia, stroke victims develop dementia, and seizures also rewire the brain. So to take a stimulant like Adderall (it has some applicable uses, but the potential unknown risks down the road remain) simply to improve work performance is a lifestyle choice that poses possible dementia risks in the future.
My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s at 54. I recently got tested positive for having the APOE-4 gene, which is said to increase the odds of acquiring the disease from the norm of 15% to 35% my odds of inheriting the gene was 50/50. I also suffer from ADD and have taken Adderall irregularly. After reading this article, you may have scared me away from using again. Do you happen to have any additional information on brain health for APOE4 carriers?
I appreciate your comments and I’ve found a site that is specific to APOE-4 carriers that offers credible information on protecting brain health. These are specific tips they give: http://apoe4.info/MWiki/index.php?title=Simple_preventive_steps.
I have done a little research on early-onset dementia (which usually involves the APOE-4 gene) in another post, but I am planning a lengthier post on this specific type of genetically-related dementia in early 2016, so look for that in Janurary.
I’m sorry to hear about your mom and hope this blog helps you and her as you both navigate this journey. I also appreciate you reaching out and helping me to help you and others who are dealing with specific types of dementia, since my goal with this blog is to address and help with the entire dementias spectrum.
Keep in touch and let me know if I can help you both more specifically or more personally along the way.
Hugs and best wishes!
Hi there. I am coming across this article in a search for links between Alzheimer’s and medical Amphetamine use. You have not supplied any sources for your information and I was wondering if you can supply the scientific backing for your claims?
Adderall changes the brain. For people with ADHD, it is prescribed in medical doses. This article is not talking about that kind of controlled use, but instead abuse of Adderall by people who don’t need it. Any medication that affects brain function is a potential – as I stated in the title – CONTRIBUTOR to developing dementia with long-term use. For an updated source, see https://pathwaytohope.net/stimulants/adderall/memory-loss/. This is not the only recent scientific research that’s readily available that shows a link between Adderall use (even prescribed) and long-term neurological function, including short-term memory loss, psychosis, and hallucinations, which are all part of dementia (there are many types of dementia – which is the all-encompassing term for any neurological degeneration (not one type, such as Alzheimer’s disease, etc.).
Hello. I just joined this site last night. We are convinced that our son has Cte. (Not because of new movie out). He was diagnosed with possible Cte several years ago and he has been in a downhill spiral since. He suffered his first concussion when he was 16 and has had 6 documented concussions since. He did not take
Adderall before his first concussion, but was put on it for focus to help with school. After reading this post I am wondering if the adderall has made his symptoms worse. He just turned 30 and is losing his mind!!
Adderall could certainly make your son’s CTE symptoms worse. The best advice that I could give you, though, is to make sure that you have a neurologist that specializes in TBI and CTE on your son’s care team. He or she would be able to analyze all the medications that your son is taking and remove/replace them so that your son has the best cognitive health that is possible with CTE. My prayers are with you, your family, and your son. Keep me posted on how things are going, please.
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Found myself enjoying the writing here. But the little bit of writing at ‘pathway to hope’ is not a study, but rather a sentence about a study. The study described had nothing to do with dementia, and frankly, with an n of 13, didn’t really provide answers about anything. There are, on the other hand, many peer-reviewed cohort studies that address stimulant use and dementia. There are also ongoing studies – for example the stimulant registry by the FDA that monitors long-term development in children born to women who used amphetamine during pregnancy.
As a PhD neuroscientist, I can assure readers (if this post is left up) that everything that ‘changes the brain’ does not result in dementia. As we learn more about APO-e alleles, glymph function, and other brain-cleaning mechanisms we’re likely to develop drugs that ‘affect the brain’ and REDUCE the incidence of dementia (the stimulant-like drug modafinil may be one of them).
You have a great site with valuable information and moving stories. Drug abuse causes harm to people and society in many ways. But you mislead when you cherry-pick one tiny study, when dozens of larger studies show the opposite. Untreated ADD has been linked to a range of health problems, including alcoholism and other addictive disorders – not to mention its impact on relationships and education. The decision whether to seek treatment depends on many factors, and current research suggest that risk of dementia is not a significant issue when the medication is used properly.
I appreciate your comments and agree with you that appropriate use of a medication like Adderall will likely not lead to the development of dementia as these people age.
That kind of usage, in fact, is not what this article is about. This article is about people who don’t need it for any reason abusing it and drugs like it to enhance their work performance. This is beyond being an off-label use and the long-term effects of this kind of abuse are unknown, which is specifically why my title says it’s a lifestyle choice and “it could contribute to the development of dementia.” I don’t know whether it will or not, and neither does anyone else. But I do know that long-term substance abuse can lead to brain atrophy and damage to different areas of the brain internally, which will produce the same cognitive impairment and decline of all other dementias.
Multiple studies showed that psychostimulants like Adderall are beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease treatment the same way it is for ADHD.
Multiple studies also showed that ADHD might be what develops to become Alzheimer’s disease. I believe this might be a false positive data interpretation since people who are prescribed the medication (ADHD patients) were already the ones on track to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
There are a few studies that suggest that Adderall might be a course of action in dementia (not just AD, which is just one type of dementia) patients who are excessively aggressive. However, most of the studies show that long-term or abusive use of Adderall causes neurotoxicity in the brain, which can lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.
ADHD is over-diagnosed in this country. While there are some genuine cases of ADHD, much of what is diagnosed as ADHD is actually the result of overstimulation from lots of time spent on digital devices. Because interaction with digital devices spins your head around with many things going on at the same time, your attention span gets shorter and shorter. Adults should be limiting the amount of time that children spend on these devices and work with them to create long focus and concentration.