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The Effects of Adderall Use

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. About Adderall
  3. Short-Term Effects of Adderall
  4. Side Effects
  5. Long-Term Effects of Adderall
  6. Adderall Dependence
  7. Am I Addicted to Adderall?
  8. Adderall Withdrawal Treatment

Woman looking at pills

About Adderall

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Adderall is a form of amphetamine, legally used in a limited number of countries, primarily the United States and Canada, for the treatment of:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Narcolepsy.
  • Depression.

It is available in 2 forms: instant release and extended release. Both forms are suitable for the treatment for ADHD, but only the instant release form is approved for use in the treatment of narcolepsy. Adderall has also been used unofficially for the treatment of obesity, severe depression, and sleep-related disorders.

According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study, 6.8% of all high school seniors report taking Adderall for non-medical uses, such as to feel a “high” or to stay awake and study. This percentage actually marks a decrease from the previous two years, but the figure matches the 2011 rate of abuse for 12th graders.

Students in the 10th grade are showing a trend of increasing use moving from 4.4% in 2013 to 4.6% in 2014. This means there is a large proportion of teenagers abusing this medication.

Concerns Over Adderall Use
Even in countries where Adderall is legally available on prescription, it is recognized as a drug with a high potential for abuse, and supplies of it are often limited. Additionally there are concerns regarding the prescription of Adderall to children. For example, in the UK, physicians are advised to:

  • Refrain from prescribing Adderall to children under 5 years old in any circumstances
  • Prescribe it to children over 5 only if no other viable options are available.

In some countries, concerns over Adderall are so strong that it is banned completely, even for prescription use.

Adderall Effects question 1

Short-Term Effects of Adderall

When used for short periods as prescribed by a physician, Adderall has the positive effect of counteracting symptoms of ADHD. This happens by:

  • Increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. These chemicals found in the brain are responsible for boosting alertness, attention, and energy levels.
  • Increasing the heart rate and the flow of blood to the muscles.

As a result of this, the use of Adderall can cause feelings of energy and invigoration, similar to the high experienced by cocaine users.

Even when taken as prescribed, Adderall can have several negative effects in the short-term including:

  • Appetite suppression.
  • Irritability.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Feelings of restlessness.
  • Potentially dangerous cardiac issues.

Adderall Abuse

When the use of Adderall can cause feelings of energy and invigoration, similar to the high experienced by cocaine users. Adderall can also create feelings of euphoria, which has led to it becoming popular as a recreational drug.

Adderall abuse occurs when someone is:

  • Taking a higher dose of the substance than prescribed.
  • Taking the medication more frequently than prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s medication.
  • Using the medication for reasons other than its intended purpose.

Once the initial, positive effect has worn off, Adderall users can experience many unwanted symptoms including:

  • Fatigue.
  • Feelings of depression and lethargy.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.

Adderall's Reputation as a 'Study Drug'

Users frequently report perceived improvements in focus and concentration, which has led to increased Adderall abuse among students, as they often believe it will help their performance. It has also been reportedly used by athletes to improve sports performance, with a number of sporting bodies taking steps to limit its use strictly to athletes with a legitimate diagnosis of ADHD.

It is true that Adderall will improve the wakefulness and attention in those abusing it, but contrary to the expectation, there is no evidence that taking Adderall improves the ability to learn in someone without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, students that use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical reasons are more likely to have lower school grades than students that do not abuse the drug.

The perceived benefits of Adderall abuse including wakefulness and ability to focus on studying has led to Adderall being used illegally as a study aid. To learn more about the abuse of Adderall as a study drug by college students and the impact, read our full in-depth article on The Rise of the Study Drug.

Adderall Effects question 2

Side Effects

Adderall's side effects vary widely, depending on the individual. The effects of Adderall on the body's heart rate can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as:

  • Disrupted heart rhythm.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Users may also experience loss of appetite, which can lead to excessive weight loss and related issues.

Other potential side effects of Adderall include:

  • Headaches.
  • Dryness of the mouth.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

Credit: CBS

Adderall Effects question 3

Long-Term Effects of Adderall

  • Depression.
  • Hostility.
  • Paranoia.

The above changes are likely to occur due to the continually high levels of neurotransmitters available in the brain during Adderall use.

In children, protracted use of Adderall may inhibit growth due to malnutrition brought about by the stimulant properties like appetite suppression.

To help an Adderall addict, call 1-800-943-0566 to speak confidentially to discuss treatment options.
Adderall Effects question 4

Mixing Adderall with Alcohol

In addition to the above, people who use Adderall as a recreational drug are at severe risk of further complications if they mix it with alcohol.Due to the fact that Adderall disguises some of the common signs of excessive alcohol consumption like slurred speech and lethargy, it is very easy to experience alcohol poisoning without noticing the warning signs leading up to it.There are further complications possible if Adderall and alcohol are mixed. For example:

  • Both Adderall and alcohol have dehydrating properties.
  • Alcohol is a depressant, which can aggravate the psychological issues associated with the withdrawal from Adderall.

Adderall Dependence

drugabuse-istock42616680-depressed_teen Dependence on Adderall can be:

  • Psychological.
  • Physical.

Psychological dependence and addiction occur when a person takes Adderall as part of a routine and using the drug becomes a subconscious habit. A person with a psychological dependence on Adderall may exhibit the physical effects of stress, such as headaches and sweating, if they are denied access to the drug when they believe that they need it.

They will undertake extreme measures to attain and use the drug even if it means putting their well-being at risk.

As its name implies, psychological dependence may be addressed by using psychological techniques to persuade the user to change his or her pattern of behavior. This may include individual therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and/or other techniques.

Adderall Effects question 5
Physical dependence occurs when a user becomes accustomed to the presence of high levels of dopamine in the brain so that stopping the use of Adderall causes dopamine levels to drop suddenly, triggering withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Depression.
  • Tiredness.
  • Either sleeping for extended periods or being unable to sleep at all.

As physical dependence develops, the user requires ever-increasing amounts to feel the same effects, which amplifies the side effects and increases the risk of overdose. 

Adderall Effects question 6

Am I Addicted to Adderall?

The first step to recovery is understanding your problem. If you're unsure whether your use of Adderall has become an issue, take the test to assess your addiction level. This will help you understand your needs and treatment requirements.


Adderall Withdrawal Treatment

At the current time, although there are no approved medications available to specifically assist users with the stimulant withdrawal process, it may be possible to use antidepressants to help with some of the psychological effects of Adderall withdrawal.

The physical effects of Adderall withdrawal include:

  • Low energy.
  • Disorientation.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Lack of motivation.

Additionally, many in withdrawal report intense cravings which, if unchecked, can lead to relapse and continued drug use.

While in most cases, stimulant withdrawal is not a medical emergency, it can be a quite difficult and uncomfortable time period. Many treatment centers provide supportive medical supervision throughout the duration of Adderall detox and withdrawal to minimize discomfort and ensure safety through the process.

Once the withdrawal is completed, effective behavioral interventions are available for Adderall abuse that follow a similar path as treatments for cocaine and methamphetamine addictions. Treatments may include:

  • Contingency management. This therapy provide reinforcement for client who make healthy choices and avoid Adderall use.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment can explore the factors leading to drug abuse, methods to reduce risk, and more beneficial coping skills.
  • Recovery groups. These community-based programs allow people in recovery to meet with each other to discuss their successes and challenges.

If you think you may have a problem, don't wait. Addiction to Adderall can take a huge toll on your life. Find support in recovery today at 1-800-943-0566.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.