Adderall Effects, Risks, & Addiction Treatment
Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) is a commonly misused prescription stimulant. Around 3.2 million Americans (1.1%) aged 12 and older reported misusing Adderall or other prescription amphetamines between 2020 and 2021.1
This page will help you learn more about Adderall, its potential side effects, and treatment for Adderall addiction.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication that combines dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.2 It is available as an extended-release (XR) formulation, with immediate-release formulations available in generic versions.3
What is Adderall Used For?
Adderall is FDA-approved to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.2,4
Adderall is commonly misused as a “study drug,” with students turning to it to stay alert and focused while studying, taking exams, or writing papers.5,6
Older adults may sometimes also misuse use prescription stimulants like Adderall to improve memory.2
People also sometimes misuse Adderall to:7
- Lose weight.
- Increase or mitigate the effects of other drugs.
- Get high.
Is Adderall Addictive?
Adderall has addiction potential.2,4 It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning that it has a high potential for misuse and can lead to addiction and physiological dependence.8,9
Adderall—like most drugs with addiction potential—increases dopamine activity in the brain.2,4 This brain chemical is involved in motivation and reinforcing behaviors, which can drive addiction and drug-taking behaviors.2,5
Some people may be more predisposed to develop an addiction. Genetics, environment, trauma, and substance use at a young age can all play a role.6
Side Effects of Adderall
Therapeutic use or misuse of Adderall can cause a range of short-term side effects, including:4
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth.
- Inability to sleep.
- Reduced or no appetite.
Adverse Reactions and Risks of Adderall Misuse
Misusing Adderall can have serious consequences for someone’s mental and physical health. In addition to the common side effects above, Adderall misuse can cause:2
- High blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate and respiration.
- Stomach aches.
- Appetite loss.
- Fatal overdose.
Some signs of an Adderall overdose include:2
- Rapid breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
An Adderall overdose is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Chronic misuse of Adderall can also cause someone to develop an addiction to stimulants.10
Signs of Adderall Misuse and Addiction
Adderall misuse means using it in a way that’s different than that prescribed by a medical professional.2 This may include:
- Taking Adderall to get high.2
- Taking someone else’s prescribed Adderall.2
- Taking Adderall in larger doses, more frequently, or for a longer amount of time than directed.11
- Using Adderall differently than intended, such as opening capsules to snort the contents or dissolving the powder in liquid and injecting it intravenously.2,5
While Adderall misuse can develop into addiction, misuse and addiction are not the same thing. Addiction—clinically known as stimulant use disorder—is a mental health condition characterized by the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite serious negative impacts on one’s life.10
Stimulant use disorder is a medical condition that must be diagnosed by a medical professional; however, it can be helpful to be aware of the signs of addiction. Exhibiting 2 or more of the following in 12 months would result in a diagnosis of stimulant use disorder:10
- Using higher doses of stimulants or taking them for a longer period than originally planned.
- Experiencing an ongoing desire to reduce or quit stimulants or having already tried to do so unsuccessfully.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from stimulant use.
- Experiencing strong urges to take stimulants.
- Continuing to use stimulants despite experiencing difficulties in completing vital tasks at home, school, or work.
- Continuing to use stimulants even though it has caused or contributed to problems in social relationships.
- Stepping away from or completely quitting activities that were enjoyable or important due to stimulant use.
- Using stimulants when it could be dangerous, such as while driving.
- Not quitting stimulants even with the knowledge that it has caused or worsened an ongoing physical or mental health problem.
- Experiencing tolerance, i.e., needing larger doses of a stimulant to achieve the effect desired or not feeling the desired effects despite taking the same amount of a stimulant. This criterion does not apply to someone prescribed Adderall and taking it as directed.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stimulant use is reduced or stopped. This criterion does not apply to someone prescribed Adderall and taking it as directed.
When someone quits misusing Adderall after using it for an extended period, they will likely experience withdrawal.6 This is because chronic .4 Dependence is a physiological adaptation where the body becomes used to the drug being present in the system so when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, symptoms emerge as the body readjusts.5,10
Prescription stimulant withdrawal is not often dangerous; however, certain psychological symptoms may require monitoring.6
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Adderall withdrawal symptoms may include:6
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
- Increased appetite.
- Trouble sleeping (sleeping too much or sleeping too little).
- Slowdown of mental and physical activity.
- Restlessness or inability to sit still.
- Depressed mood.
Adderall Addiction Recovery
Stimulant addiction is treatable,6 and a range of treatment options for Adderall addiction is available. Laguna Treatment Hospital is an Orange County rehab that offers comprehensive treatment, including medical detox, inpatient care, and aftercare planning.
After beginning the rehab admissions process with a compassionate admissions navigator, clinicians will perform a comprehensive evaluation, to learn each patient’s:12
- Substance use history,
- Medical and mental health history,
- Living situation.
This information will be used to determine the appropriate level of care for the patient and create a treatment plan designed to address their unique needs.
Evidence-based treatment for Adderall addiction typically involves but is not limited to behavioral therapies, peer support, and psychoeducation.13 Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat Adderall withdrawal or addiction.6
Call to start treatment today or to learn about ways to pay for rehab, using insurance to pay for rehab, and what to expect in treatment. Knowledgeable and understanding admissions navigators can answer any questions you may have and get you started on the road to recovery.
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