Adderall Side Effects and Addiction Signs

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Adderall is a widely prescribed medication for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy,1 as well as other sleep disorders.2 Adderall side effects include nausea, dry mouth, diarrhea, and even addiction to the drug.

In this article: 

Adderall and ADHD

Adderall is most commonly prescribed for the effective treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This disorder typically begins in childhood but is sometimes not diagnosed until adulthood. The last few decades have made great progress in understanding ADHD and treatment options available, making Adderall a popular prescription choice.3

With better insight and understanding of the ADHD disorder, the United States has now successfully diagnosed and treated approximately 7.8% of children ages 4 to 17 and 4.4% of adults with ADHD. The diagnosis comes happily for many, as they are then able to take medication to manage their symptoms better.2

Untreated ADHD can have a significantly negative impact on the individual’s life. ADHD can impact an individual’s education, as well as social and occupational functioning. Untreated ADHD can also negatively impact an individual’s quality of life and physical and mental health.

If untreated, ADHD can be associated with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and can contribute to substance use disorders, as the individual may misuse the substances to self medicate for the symptoms of ADHD and the related mental health conditions.3

Doctors may seem quick to prescribe Adderall. However, when you look at the significant negative impact that untreated ADHD may have, it is easier to understand why Adderall is so rapidly prescribed.

Adderall is a cognitive enhancer, sometimes called a “smart drug” or “memory enhancer.”2 This nickname came from Adderrall’s ability to increase several mental functions. These Adderall effects include:

  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Alertness
  • Memory
  • Motivation
  • Planning
  • Decision-making2

With improvement in these areas, the ADHD symptoms are lessened, and the individual will experience an improvement in their everyday functioning.

Adderall has a similar effect for the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders, as it improves the individual’s level of alertness, therefore limiting the lethargy associated with their disorders.

Side Effects of Adderall

Although generally well-tolerated by the individual taking it, some side effects of Adderall may be experienced, including:4

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Addiction

These side effects are generally considered mild and may simply require an Adderall dosage change. Always speak with your medical provider if any Adderall side effects are experienced, and most especially if they worsen or persist.

Long-term side effects of taking Adderall remain relatively unknown, but studies show that for the most part, Adderall use is safe. Some newer studies indicate the earlier use of Adderall, especially in childhood, may contribute to changes in the brain pathways. The impact of these changes is not fully understood and studies remain inconclusive. Research is ongoing to ensure the safety of all those taking Adderall.2

Adderall Addiction

Adderall is an amphetamine, and therefore Adderall addiction is a risk. Amphetamine-type stimulants are a serious addiction worldwide and produce substantial medical, psychiatric, social, and economic consequences.5 These consequences are most evident among those individuals who are misusing Adderall and at an addictive level.

Since Adderall is an amphetamine, it is a popular medication for recreational drug use. Adderall can offer some effects that those seeking an altered reality may find appealing. These can include:6

  • Euphoric effects
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Focus on academia or work
  • Motivation

Please know that since Adderall is an amphetamine, it does hold some serious side effect risks. With this, non-medical use of the medication is considered high risk and should be avoided.7 If you or a loved one are seeking the euphoric effects of Adderall to achieve an altered reality, please consider calling 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) for guidance and support for addictive thinking.

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Who Is at Risk?

You should consider several known risk factors when assessing whether or not you or your loved one may be at risk of an Adderall addiction. Patterns have been established through multiple years of studies, showing that certain groups of people seem to be more at risk. These can include individuals who demonstrate the following:

  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Sensation-seeking behaviors
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Anxiety
  • Inattentiveness
  • Approval-seeking
  • Depression8

Individuals with these personality traits may be more at risk because Adderall can potentially satisfy their desire for a thrill, and offer them a change in their attention level, mood, or confidence with social involvement.

Adderall addiction is also seen most often among college students, which could be correlated to the neurobiological development of that age bracket, meaning the way in which the young adult’s brain thinks and processes could contribute to their addiction. Young adults tend to feel that they are invincible and in complete control over their body, possibly leading to a limited understanding or acceptance of physical dependence, putting them at an increased risk of an Adderall addiction.6

It can also be theorized that young adults are at a heightened risk of Adderall addiction, because social influence is a known factor in addiction, and young adults are highly impressionable and easily influenced by social situations.9

Additionally, young adults are often seeking higher education or working long hours. These physical and mental demands could potentially motivate them to seek out Adderall use for its amphetamine effects. With Adderall, they have an increased level of alertness and are therefore better able to stay awake and complete the work demanded of college classes and employment.

Beyond young adults and college students, Adderall misuse has been highly noted among those with a lifelong history of non-medical prescription drug use. Additionally, those at risk of developing an addiction to Adderall also have a history of addiction to alcohol, cannabis, or other recreational drugs.6

Interestingly, newer studies are finding that individuals who had prenatal ethanol exposure (PE) may have an increased risk of addiction. PE occurs when the mother consumes alcohol at any point during her pregnancy, and scientists believe that this exposure causes cognitive and behavioral deficits leading to the risk of addiction later on in the child’s life.10

Adderall Overdose

Adderall is a drug with a higher risk of potential overdose, especially among those who are abusing Adderall. An overdose is a life-threatening situation and should always be managed by a medical professional. Treatment options are available to limit any potential damage and to save the life of the individual who overdosed. Please call 911 if you suspect you or a loved one have overdosed on Adderall.

Signs of an Adderall overdose include:11

  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyperthermia
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tremors
  • Pupil dilation
  • Death

Psychosis, when someone is experiencing a loss of contact with reality, can sometimes be seen in patients taking proper Adderall dosage but is most often seen in those abusing Adderall and are experiencing an overdose.12 During a period of psychosis, a person might have difficulty perceiving what is real and what is not. If psychosis does occur, newer studies show promising results for the treatment of amphetamine psychosis with an antipsychotic injection. Doctors are now saying that the psychosis is resolved within an hour of the injection administration.13

A medical professional can also manage other overdose symptoms, but if left untreated, it can be fatal. That is why medical help must be sought immediately upon realizing an overdose has occurred.

Treatment of Adderall Addiction

Thankfully, treatment for an addiction to Adderall is available and recovery rates are promising. Oftentimes, addiction treatment will approach an Adderall addiction in the same manner that they approach an amphetamine addiction because Adderall is in the same class of drugs as amphetamine and the addiction experience is similar.

Treatment options can include inpatient or outpatient settings, as well as individual and/or family counseling sessions. Most often, recovery from addiction involves all three of those treatment methods.

Patients undergoing treatment for addiction will usually begin at the inpatient level, where addictions counselors and medical doctors can best assist with the withdrawal process and beginning stages of recovery.

After an inpatient stay is completed successfully, the patient will then move to an outpatient setting where they continue to do addiction counseling, and maintenance therapy is started. Finally, patients can expect to continue, for an undetermined amount of time, individual and family counseling sessions to effectively manage their triggers, cravings, and treatment recovery plan.

Treating Adderall Withdrawal

If you or your loved one are considering an inpatient treatment for the withdrawal period, you will most likely be treated with some medication to help limit the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. These medications can include bupropion, naltrexone, and mirtazapine.13

Beyond medications, there is no agreed-upon best treatment option for withdrawal, and patients are made as comfortable as possible and offered unending support until the withdrawal period is complete.14

If you or your loved one are seeking treatment options for an Adderall addiction, please consider calling 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) for guidance on the best options for you and your situation. Resources are available to you, and we encourage you to seek the recovery you deserve.

Resources

  1. Heal, D.J., Smith, S.L., Gosden, J., & Nutt, D.J. (2013). Amphetamine, past and present–a pharmacological and clinical perspective. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(6), 479-96.
  2. Steiner, H., & Van Waes, V. (2013). Addiction-related gene regulation: risks of exposure to cognitive enhancers vs. other psychostimulants. Progress in Neurobiology, 100, 60–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2012.10.001
  3. Castells, X., Blanco-Silvente, L., & Cunill, R. (2018). Amphetamines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 8(8). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007813.pub3
  4. WebMD. (n.d.). Adderall Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing – WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63163/Adderall-oral/details
  5. Cao, D.N., Shi, J.J., Hao, W., Wu, N., & Li, J. (2016). Advances and challenges in pharmacotherapeutics for amphetamine-type stimulants addiction. European Journal of Pharmacology. 5(780), 129-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2016.03.040.
  6. Hildt, E., Lieb, K., Bagusat, C., & Franke, A.G. (2015). Reflections on addiction in students using stimulants for neuroenhancement: A preliminary interview study. Biomed Research International. 2015(621075). https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/621075.
  7. McCabe, S.E., Knight, J.R., Teter, C.J., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Non-medical use of prescription stimulants among US college students: prevalence and correlates from a national survey. Addiction. 100(1), 96-106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.00944.x.
  8. Long, E.C., Kaneva, R., Vasilev, G., Moeller, F.G., & Vassileva, J. (2020). Neurocognitive and Psychiatric Markers for Addiction: Common vs. Specific Endophenotypes for Heroin and Amphetamine Dependence. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. 20(7), 585-597. https://doi.org/10.2174/1568026620666200131124608.
  9. Aguilar, M.A., García-Pardo, M.P., Montagud-Romero, S., Miñarro, J., & Do Couto, B.R. (2013). Impact of Social Stress in Addiction to Psychostimulants: What we know from Animal Models. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 19(40), 7009-7025. https://doi.org/10.2174/138161281940131209124708.
  10. Wang, R., Hausknecht, K.A., Shen, Y.L., Haj-Dahmane, S., Vezina, P., & Shen, R.Y. (2018). Environmental enrichment reverses increased addiction risk caused by prenatal ethanol exposure. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 191, 343-347. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.07.013.
  11. Fitzgerald, K.T., & Bronstein, A.C. Adderall® (amphetamine-dextroamphetamine) toxicity. (2013). Topics in Companion Animal Medicine. 28(1), 2-7. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.tcam.2013.03.002.
  12. Bramness, J.G., & Rognli, E.B. (2016). Psychosis induced by amphetamines. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 29(4), 236-41. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0000000000000254.
  13. Srisurapanont, M., Kittiratanapaiboon, P., & Jarusuraisin, N. (2001). Treatment for amphetamine psychosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (4). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003026.
  14. Lee, N.K., Jenner, L., Harney, A., & Cameron, J. (2018). Pharmacotherapy for amphetamine dependence: A systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 191, 309-337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.06.038.

the Take-Away

Learn more about Adderall, what are its uses, what are the side effects, and what are the signs of addictions when misused.