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24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice
02038 115 619

Adderall Addiction Explained

Hailed by many as a “miracle drug”, Adderall has become something of a phenomenon since its release in the mid-‘90s, used by millions of people worldwide for its apparent cognitive-enhancing properties. However, the supposedly miraculous Adderall has a dark side, in the form of a significant number of addicts who can no longer stop taking the drug, which has for them gone from being a dream come true to a nightmare apparently without end…

Addiction to Adderall

Fundamentally, addiction is a brain disorder – specifically, a disorder of the brain’s reward centres (including specific parts of the brain such as the amygdala and the ventral tegmental area). The repeated engagement in specific addictive behaviour (such as taking Adderall), and the repeated exposure to rewarding stimuli (such as Adderall’s effects), can cause an adjustment to the brain’s reward system as a result of which increased quantities of neurochemicals including dopamine, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward, are produced when the behaviour in question is repeated, causing the affected individual to associate those behaviours with positive sensations and emotions, and to seek to recapture or sustain such feelings by engaging once again in the addictive behaviour.

Over time, the desire to experience those sensations becomes a compulsion, as the affected person becomes more and more reliant upon engagement in the addictive behaviour for dopamine production – and, simultaneously, becomes increasingly affected by the lack of dopamine, and consequent unpleasant sensations and low moods, which result from an avoidance of the behaviour in question. Eventually, the individual will feel the compulsion to repeat the behaviour even though they may be aware of various negative consequences of doing so.

In the case of Adderall specifically, this mechanism is strengthened by Adderall’s effects on the brain: amphetamine, which is the active ingredient in Adderall, enhances the effects of dopamine and other neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, meaning that the positive sensations resulting from the behaviour of Adderall consumption are made all the more positive and enjoyable by the directly dopaminergic effects of the drug – and, likewise, the negative psychological consequences of not taking Adderall are exacerbated by an increased dopamine deficiency in the absence of the drug from the system.

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Understanding Adderall (Prescription Amphetamines)

Adderall is a combination medication – a medicine containing two or more active ingredients in fixed proportion to each other – made up of four salts of amphetamine, a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS) used medically to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, obesity and various other conditions, but also commonly used and abused recreationally for the euphoric and stimulating “high” it can produce in users.

Adderall specifically is a mix of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine (the two enantiomers of amphetamnine) in proportion 25%/75%; dextroamphetamine is a considerably stronger CNS stimulant than levoamphetamine, but the latter remains active in the body longer than the former. The four amphetamine salts comprising Adderall are amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, amphetamine sulphate, dextroamphetamine sulphate, and dextroamphetamine saccharate, all present in equal parts by mass.

Adderall was originally marketed as the weight loss drug Obetrol, but its then-owners Rexar Pharmaceuticals were forced to withdraw Obetrol from use in its home market of the USA because of doubts over its efficacy and concerns regarding side effects. However, Rexar reformulated Obetrol and reintroduced it under the same name, and despite not having approval by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Obetrol remained on sale and performed moderately well.

in 1994 Rexar was acquired by Richwood Pharmaceuticals, who rebranded Obetrol as Adderall (an adaptation of the phrase “ADD for All” intended to suggest “a kind of inclusive thing”, in the words of pharmaceutical executive Roger Griggs, who launched the rebranded Adderall onto the US market in 1994) and began to market the drug as a treatment for ADHD, and subsequently narcolepsy. Its immediate success brought Adderall to the attention of a much broader audience, especially once stories of its intense efficacy as a study aid and cognitive enhancer began to reach the mainstream.
By the late 1990s, Adderall use began to spread beyond North America (including into locations such as the UK where it is only legal to possess with a valid prescription), having acquired an almost mythic status amongst students and professionals working in high-pressure environments, who reported feeling remarkable clarity and insight, and an even more remarkable strength of focus: “I worked for 12 hours straight. I didn’t eat, didn’t look up, I was totally focused and got through work like some kind of machine or like Bradley Cooper’s character in the film Limitless,” Sean, a third-year student at Edinburgh University, told The Sun newspaper in 2018. 
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(https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5755264/adderall-britain-study-smart-drug/)

However, anyone aware of the significance of the active ingredients in Adderall could see trouble on the horizon: amphetamine has long been known to be strongly psychologically addictive, and while this habit-forming nature has mostly been associated with the illegal recreational use and abuse of amphetamine (most commonly known as “speed” in the UK), simply because a drug may be used as a medication does not mean that it is not also potentially addictive. Adderall users began to report a series of unpleasant symptoms and side effects, and – more problematically – difficulties stopping using the drug, even when it was no longer required or even desired.

At the kind of dosage which would be recommended as part of an Adderall prescription, the Adderall “high” is comparatively weak and not especially euphoric – especially when set alongside the highs caused by other types of amphetamine and, in particular, drugs in the substituted amphetamine class including MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine (“crystal meth”) – although, as users such as Sean can testify, that does not mean it is not enjoyable. However, at higher doses, and/or when administered by means other than those recommended by doctors (for example, grinding up tablets and snorting the resultant powder, or even “plugging”: inserting Adderall rectally) like other amphetamines Adderall can produce a powerfully euphoric and invigorating experience, which can be very pleasurable and can cause the user to feel the desire to repeat the experience shortly afterwards (a concerning step on the path towards addiction).

Because Adderall is comparatively hard to obtain legally in the UK, many people abusing the drug are obtaining it from sources who import it via the dark web. This is not only problematic in the sense that it constitutes criminal activity, but also endangers users who may be given drugs which are not “pure” Adderall (and could indeed contain various other substances including some highly illegal and dangerous ones). When placed alongside the chance of amphetamine overdose which Adderall consumption entails, these dangers should alarm users, being clear evidence that Adderall abuse – and Adderall addiction in particular – pose a significant risk to physical and mental health; however, rates of Adderall consumption, whether legal or otherwise, continue to grow in the UK – and so, therefore, does the rate of Adderall addiction, which now affects an unknown but significant number of people – especially young people – across the country.

Legal Status (UK)

In the UK, Adderall is a class-B controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with penalties for unlawful possession and supply potentially reaching up to 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine, and up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine respectively. “Unlawful” here means without a valid prescription; with a valid prescription, Adderall is legal to possess, though passing even one tablet to someone who does not possess such prescription constitutes illegal supply.

Routes of Administration

Adderall is typically provided in tablet or capsule form for oral consumption, in both immediate-release and slow-release formats. It can also be provided in patches for absorption under the tongue. Recreational Adderall use and abuse can include insufflation (snorting) of Adderall powder obtained by grinding up tablets or opening capsules; and “plugging” (inserting Adderall in the rectum or vagina for absorption through the skin).

Pharmacological Actions of Adderall 

The amphetamine in Adderall works by increasing and enhancing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain including dopamine and norepinephrine, and by triggering the release of various other hormones and neurotransmitters including serotonin and histamine. Both dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine binds to the same receptors, but with different potency: dextroamphetamine is a more potent CNS stimulant than levoamphetamine.

Chemical formula

Adderall has the chemical formula C9H13N, and is composed of four amphetamine salts: amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, amphetamine sulphate, dextroamphetamine sulphate, and dextroamphetamine saccharate.

Understanding Safe Adderall Dosages and Use

As with any medication, it is inadvisable to take Adderall by any means, in any quantities, or at any frequency other than those specified by the prescribing doctor. Adderall tablets come in two main formats: four-hour tablets (ie, with effects lasting four hours) known as Adderall, with strengths of 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg and 30mg; and eight-hour tablets known as Adderall XR, available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg and 30mg sizes. Generic Adderall (ie, medicines made of Adderall but produced by different manufacturers and

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marketed under different trade names) can have different tablet sizes and strengths,Adderall dosage, and frequency of use, will depend on the severity of the condition being treated, as assessed by a doctor: more severe and debilitating ADHD will require stronger medication.

Individuals using Adderall recreationally are at significant risk of engaging in dangerous Adderall abuse, as they may not be provided with any advice on dosages, frequency of use et cetera, and may not therefore be aware of Adderall’s addiction liability, nor the dangers associated with overdose.

How Adderall Addiction Typically Starts

Every journey into and through addiction is unique, just as is every addict. Therefore, there is no one stereotypical beginning to Adderall addiction. However, cases of Adderall addiction can practically be divided into two categories: addiction beginning with medical use; and addiction stemming from recreational use and abuse.

People taking Adderall legitimately – that is, for the treatment of one of the conditions for which Adderall is prescribed – may labour under the misapprehension that because they are taking medicine they are not at risk of engaging in substance abuse, or of developing an addiction. As a result, they may take Adderall for longer than recommended, or begin to increase their dosages contrary to the recommendations of their doctor – both of which behaviours constitute Adderall abuse.

For recreational users, the addiction mechanism is the same, though addiction is likely to develop more quickly, as such users will not be taking Adderall according to a doctor’s instructions and will have no guidance to help them avoid dangerous Adderall abuse and eventual addiction. Recreational users may begin to take Adderall simply for the high which high doses can provide (and, if so, may immediately consume Adderall in ways such as snorting which are likely to lead more rapidly to the onset of addiction); more often, however, they will come into contact with Adderall as a study aid or as a cognitive enhancer in a professional environment, and may fairly rapidly come to feel reliant upon Adderall in order to attain a high level of performance. This can drive very frequent Adderall consumption (at levels which constitute abuse) as well as the administration of Adderall by means other than those intended by the manufacturer.
Taking Adderall regularly to treat a condition such as ADHD can have extremely beneficial results, which can themselves be very pleasurable; users may feel liberated from a condition, boosting self-esteem and confidence, which may in turn constitute a set of sensations and feelings which they seek to replicate through the consumption of more Adderall, potentially higher doses or more frequently than should be the case. If this behaviour continues, and if the individual in question does not take steps to try to change it (for example, discussing with their GP their desire to take more Adderall) addiction is likely to develop by the mechanism described in the section ‘Addiction to Adderall’ above. 
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Regardless of why or how someone takes Adderall, however, the only certainty is that only by taking it at all does someone expose themselves to the risk of developing Adderall addiction. If you seek to avoid addiction, never take Adderall; if however you are prescribed Adderall to treat a condition you are suffering from, only ever take it strictly in accordance with your doctor’s instructions and with the information on the medicine’s packaging.

How addictive is Adderall?

Adderall is not considered physically addictive; it has a moderate psychological dependence liability, and a moderate addiction liability. While it is quite difficult – and often futile – to compare one substance’s “addictiveness” with another’s, it is worth noting that some experts believe that at very high doses Adderall could be considered as addictive as methamphetamine (“crystal meth”) the notoriously problematic illegal drug made (in)famous by the TV show 

Breaking Bad

However invidious some comparisons may be, however, salient fact is that despite its medicinal origins, Adderall can be habit-forming, and the longer someone takes Adderall and the higher the doses they consume, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

Who Abuses Adderall

Risk Factors
Theoretically, anyone who takes Adderall at all exposes themselves to the risk of engaging in Adderall abuse. However, various factors have been identified which are associated with a greater likelihood of Adderall abuse and addiction.

Brain Genetics and Personality Factors

Genetics are known to play a significant role in the development of addiction, and a family history of substance abuse (of any kind) and addiction is one of the most important risk factors for Adderall abuse – as is a family history of mental health issues (which are a very significant driver of addiction generally).

Understandably, someone suffering from disorders which might typically be treated with Adderall – especially ADHD – is much more likely than the average to abuse Adderall and to become addicted to it, since they are that much more likely to be prescribed the drug.

Other personality factors that can contribute to a greater risk of engaging in Adderall abuse include low self-esteem; a pattern of risk-taking and/or thrill-seeking behaviour; a strong desire to fit in; depression; anxiety; and loneliness.

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Environmental and social influences

Prominent environmental and social factors known to increase the likelihood that someone will abuse Adderall and/or become addicted to it include: associating with a peer group within which Adderall abuse is commonplace; having easy access to Adderall; coming from a low socio-economic background; attending school or university, especially near or during exam time; working in high-pressure professions; experiencing childhood abuse; experiencing traumatic or otherwise difficult life events; and stress.

Dual diagnosis and co-occuring disorders

When a substance abuse disorder occurs alongside another mental health issue, the phenomenon is known as dual diagnosis; dual diagnosis typically makes treating addiction significantly more complex, as both conditions need to be treated simultaneously and the treatment of one may interfere with the treatment of the other. In such cases, specialist care is usually required.
In the case of Adderall addiction specifically, the most prominent co-occurring disorders are, as might be expected, those which are frequently treated with Adderall: ADHD and narcolepsy. However, many other mental health issues can also drive substance abuse, potentially resulting in addiction, as individuals suffering from poor mental health frequently resort to substance abuse as a means of escapism or of self-medication.

Common Adderall Combinations

Although at very high doses the Adderall high can be intense, at lower doses it typically does not provide the same degree of euphoria and other effects frequently sought out by recreational drug users; therefore, it is often taken in combination with other drugs, especially including other stimulants such as other types of amphetamine or cocaine. Adderall is also frequently taken along with alcohol, especially by students who may take Adderall for days on end while studying intensively, but may also take time out from studies for socialising involving drinking.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction, Use, and Abuse

It is often difficult to identify the presence of an addiction even in someone you know very well: addicts typically go to great lengths to keep their condition secret because of the stigma associated with substance abuse and addiction, and the reputational damage which can be sustained if an addiction becomes public knowledge. In the case of Adderall specifically, because the drug is typically provided under prescription, it may be possible to take the drug openly in front of family and friends without prompting suspicion or concern – which is very unlikely to be the case if the drug in question is, for example, a “hard” illegal substance such as cocaine or heroin.

Nevertheless, some signs of Adderall addiction and abuse may be identifiable, including:

  • frequent displays of the effects of Adderall consumption
  • a preoccupation with obtaining and consuming Adderall
  • impaired performance in academia or work (though it is important to recognise that
    initially at least Adderall use may result in improved performance) potentially
    including frequent absenteeism
  • growing distant from loved ones and friends
  • frequent fatigue
  • changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • changes in sex drive and sexual preferences
  • altered vocabulary
  • a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • a lack of care regarding appearance and hygiene
  • financial difficulties
  • engagement in criminal activity
  • socialising with a new peer group
  • frequent mood swings
  • depression
  • apathy
  • an increasingly pessimistic outlook on the future
  • aggression and irritability

impaired performance in academia or work (though it is important to recognise that initially at least Adderall use may result in improved performance) potentially including frequent absenteeism

LongTerm Health Effects of Adderall Addiction

The long-term impact on physical and mental health of Adderall abuse and addiction can be extremely pronounced. As well as addiction and dependence, and the dangers and challenges associated with them, numerous undesired side-effects may result from Adderall consumption, potentially including:

  • hypertension or hypotension
  • tachycardia
  • sexual dysfunction including anorgasmia
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite
  • blurred vision
  • grinding of teeth
  • nosebleeds
  • excessive sweating
  • nasal congestion
  • seizures
  • tics
  • difficulty urinating
  • loss of motor control
  • mood swings
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • delusions
  • repetitive or obsessive behaviour
  • panic attacks
  • amphetamine psychosis
  • suicidal ideation
  • overdose potentially resulting in death

Quitting Adderall: What to Expect

If you have an Adderall addiction, you should get professional medical help: attempting to overcome it yourself can be extremely dangerous, and is much less likely to result in permanent abstinence than engagement in addiction treatment. Treatment for Adderall addiction may be provided in a residential rehabilitation (rehab) environment.

Intake

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Upon entering rehab, you will receive a full physical and psychiatric assessment, after which an addiction treatment plan will be created for you based upon your specific situation and physical condition. This treatment programme may be modified over time depending upon your progress and any unforeseen developments, but will effectively provide the framework within which treatment will be provided and your recovery will begin. Along with the provision of the treatment programme, you may be administered an initial dose of any medication the doctor deems necessary.

Detoxification

Detox is a crucial aspect of addiction treatment, as an addict’s system needs to be cleansed of Adderall (and any other substances of abuse) so that they are not burdened by the immediate pressures of dependence, nor subject to intoxication, while they enter subsequent phases of treatment. In rehab, detox is managed and monitored by medical experts, some of whom will be on hand 24/7 to ensure the safety and maximum comfort of the client.

During detox, Adderall withdrawal symptoms are likely to manifest, which may be alleviated at least in part by the use of medication.

Therapy

Therapy lies at the heart of addiction treatment, revealing and addressing the psychological causes of addiction and preparing the addict for recovery by giving them defence mechanisms against relapse, trigger avoidance strategies, and a range of other skills and tools which will be beneficial during life after treatment back in the outside world. A very significant variety of therapy methodologies and models may be provided in addiction treatment; speak with the staff at any facility you may be considering, or with an addiction specialist, to find out more about which therapy options are available.

Specialised care

There are many reasons why a client in rehab may require specialised care, including the presence of co-occurring disorders, the client’s age and/or physical condition, the existence of other substances disorders and more. If you are contemplating treatment for your Adderall addiction, speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist to determine whether or not they believe you will require specialised attention.

Aftercare

Recovery is not achieved simply by leaving a treatment facility at the end of an addiction treatment programme; instead it is a long-term process with many potential pitfalls along the way. Good treatment facilities will provide up to a year’s free aftercare, involving a range of components such as attendance at checkup appointments, the ongoing provision of medication, engaging in individual counselling, and participation and support group meetings.

Inpatient vs Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Some rehabs provide treatment on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment, involving stays usually of between 30 and 90 days, sees all treatment provided on site within a rehab facility where the client resides 24/7. In this confidential, secure, pleasant and friendly environment free of substances of abuse including Adderall, clients can focus fully upon their recovery and the various components of their addiction treatment programme.

For some people who do not feel they are able to remove themselves from their daily lives and obligations – including work and family – for the amount of time which would be required by an inpatient stay, outpatient treatment may be made available, with the addict attending certain appointments at the facility, but with much of the treatment programme needing to be completed independently. Outpatient treatment is not necessarily ideal for everyone as it does not remove addicts from the environments within which they have engaged in substance abuse and descended into addiction, and therefore will still be surrounded by temptation.

Specialised Treatment and Therapy Options

Some facilities offer very specialist, even niche, approaches to treatment. If you believe that you would benefit from specialised treatment and therapy, speak with an addiction specialist about what you are looking for, to get an idea of the kind of treatment you may be able to engage in.

Psychological Therapy and Holistic Treatments

A great variety of different therapeutic approaches can be applied in the treatment of addiction. While not every facility can offer every type of therapy, most treatment centres do offer some core therapy models and supplementary activities.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is probably the best-known therapy methodology typically found in addiction treatment. CBT aims to improve overall mental health and to tackle specific problems (for example, Adderall addiction) by the identification and remediation of negative thought patterns and behaviours, and to help clients develop relevant and practical coping strategies and improve emotional regulation.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is probably the best-known therapy methodology typically found in addiction treatment. CBT aims to improve overall mental health and to tackle specific problems (for example, Adderall addiction) by the identification and remediation of negative thought patterns and behaviours, and to help clients develop relevant and practical coping strategies and improve emotional regulation.

Dialecticalbehaviouraltherapy (DBT)

DBT combines standard cognitive behavioural techniques with concepts such as mindfulness and distress tolerance originally derived from certain Buddhist meditative practices. DBT therapists work with clients to define the latter’s idea of “a life worth living”, and then investigate how such a life might be obtainable.

Motivationalinterviewing (MI)

The aim of motivational interviewing is to encourage behavioural change via the exploration of ambivalence, and its resolution in the might of the client. MI is a client-centred therapy format, where therapists take non-judgemental and non-adversarial standpoints, and are comparatively assertive in the direction of the client (as opposed to some therapy models where the client is fundamentally responsible for coming to their own conclusions).

Individual counselling

Addiction counselling may be engaged in both during treatment and during the ongoing recovery process. Unlike some approaches to therapy, counsellors give practical advice on how to tackle certain specific problems and challenges – such as those caused by substance abuse and addiction.

Supportnetworks

Robust support networks are vital for an addict entering recovery – but not all addicts have easy access to such networks. Participation in support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous – which organises weekly meetings across the country, attendance at which is free – can provide recovering addicts with a ready-made support network comprising individuals who understand the challenges of addiction.

Family behaviourtherapy

Families can be profoundly affected by Adderall addiction, and can benefit from participation in therapy as a means of addressing the great harm done by the behaviour of their addicted loved one; they can also assist in the treatment of a loved one by engaging in family therapy sessions, and some treatment facilities include family therapy as one component of an addiction treatment programme.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Adderall Addiction

With rates of ADHD diagnosis increasing rapidly in the UK, pharmaceutical treatment for the condition is becoming more and more common – and, indeed, medications such as Adderall can be genuinely transformative in the treatment of such a debilitating and problematic ailment. However, Adderall is absolutely not a problem-free medication, and can be both addictive and dangerous. If your child is taking Adderall, they are exposed to the risk of abuse and addiction.

If a young person close to you is abusing Adderall, or if you believe they are suffering from an Adderall addiction, contact an addiction specialist for advice immediately: making that call could save your child’s life.

Adderall Addiction and Abuse Statistics

  • The use of Adderall increased by 35% between 2008 and 2012.
  • Adderall can be bought for as little as £1 per pill on British streets.
  • Admissions to one UK addiction treatment provider for prescription medicine abuse rose 22% over just two years to 2018.
  • By 2012, the market for stimulant ADHD medication was worth nearly $9 billion.
  • ADHD is thought to affect over 50 million people around the world.

Ready to Get Help?

If you have an Adderall addiction, you are placing yourself at significant risk of permanent damage, and even death. However, you can overcome that addiction with professional help: if you are at a point where you are able to acknowledge your condition, and want to overcome it, call your GP and/or addiction specialist today.

Take control of your life: take the first step into recovery today

If you suffer from addiction of any kind it is easy to feel that you have ceded control of your life to your addiction – but you can take back that control, and resume a healthy and happy life, with professional help. Call your GP and/or an addiction specialist today, and take the first steps on the path to recovery.

Related FAQ’s

Is Adderall the drug of choice for teens?
There is no single drug of choice for teenagers; however Adderall is especially popular with young people.
Is Adderalldangerous foreveryone?
Taken strictly in accordance with the instructions of a doctor, Adderall can be a perfectly safe medication. Anyone who abuses Adderall, however, is placing their physical and mental health in jeopardy.
Canyoumix Adderall andalcohol?
It is inadvisable to mix Adderall with any other intoxicating substance.
Does stopping Adderall usecausedepression?
If you have been taking Adderall correctly, and have not developed an Adderall dependence, there is no reason why cessation of use should result in depression. However, depression is a known symptom of Adderall withdrawal.
Does Adderalltreat orcauseanxiety?
Adderall is not a recommended treatment for anxiety; however, anxiety can manifest as a symptom of Adderall withdrawal.
Canyoutake Adderallwhenpregnant?
Although Adderall is not considered dangerous in pregnancy when used correctly, amphetamine abuse can damage an unborn child. If you are pregnant, do not take Adderall without consulting your doctor.

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