Adderall Misuse: Adverse Effects & Addiction Treatment

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.7 million Americans aged 12 or older misused prescription stimulants during the past year.1 Although prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, are useful in treating ADHD, narcolepsy, and other conditions, they also have a high potential for misuse.2

In this article, we will discuss what Adderall is, potential Adderall side effects, and available options for Adderall addiction treatment.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name prescription stimulant that contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.2 Adderall is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children over age 6 and adults.3

While it has medical uses, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because it is known to have a high potential for misuse that may result in dependence.3,4

Who Misuses Adderall?

A 2018 examination of national survey data found the 18-29 age group of American adults reported the highest prevalence of prescription stimulant misuse. Reasons for stimulant misuse varied; over half (56.3%) of the survey respondents reported misusing prescription stimulants to help them concentrate or be alert.5

Other motivations behind prescription stimulant misuse included using it:5

  • As a study aid.
  • To “get high.”
  • To adjust the effects of other drugs.
  • To experiment.
  • For weight loss efforts.

The majority of adults reported obtaining the drug from friends or relatives, whether it was given to them or taken without permission. Of the people who were given prescription stimulants for free, most of their friends or family received them from their doctor legally.5

Side Effects of Adderall

As with other prescription medications, Adderall use comes with a risk of side effects. Common side effects associated with Adderall use include the following:3

  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stomach ache
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness
  • Mood swings
  • Fast heartbeat

Health Risks of Adderall Misuse

Adderall misuse is associated with other health risks as well. Misuse includes:2

  • Taking Adderall in a higher dose than was prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s prescription.
  • Using it only to feel its effects (to “get high”).
  • Using Adderall in ways other than it was intended, such as by crushing the tablets and snorting them.

Some of the potential risks of Adderall misuse include:3

  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Tremors.
  • Anxiety.
  • Psychosis.
  • Hostility.
  • Aggression.
  • Suicidal or homicidal ideation.
  • Fatal overdose.

Can You Overdose on Adderall?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on prescription stimulants, including Adderall.2,3 Overdose happens when someone takes enough Adderall to produce a life-threatening reaction, including death.2

Signs of an Adderall overdose can include:2,3

  • Restlessness.
  • Tremors.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Confusion.
  • Aggression.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Panic.
  • Convulsions.
  • Coma.

Misusing Adderall by unapproved routes, such as snorting, smoking, or injecting, and polysubstance use (the use of 2 or more drugs at a time) can both increase the risk of a drug overdose.2,6

Additionally, taking pills that are not prescribed by a doctor and dispensed at a licensed pharmacy can increase your risk of overdose and other health risks. Many drug networks produce fake pills that are sold on the street.7

These may contain other substances, such as fentanyl (in potentially lethal doses) or methamphetamine. These pills look very similar to prescription Adderall, and users may not be aware that they are taking a counterfeit pill.7

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, Adderall misuse can lead to addiction, a severe form of stimulant use disorder. Addiction is the continued compulsive use of a drug despite the negative consequences resulting from its use.2

By increasing the activity of certain brain chemicals linked to reward, Adderall and other prescription stimulants can have reinforcing effects.2

It is important to note that research shows being prescribed Adderall does not affect a person’s risk of misusing the drug either positively or negatively.2

Adderall Withdrawal & Detox

The use of prescription stimulants such as Adderall can result in physiological dependence, which is not the same as addiction.2,8

When someone has a physiological dependence on Adderall, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop or cut back on the amount they use. This is because the body is used to the presence of the drug and must adjust in the drug’s absence.8,9

Adderall withdrawal symptoms can include:3

  • Fatigue.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Unpleasant, vivid dreams.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Agitation.
  • Slowed bodily movements.

There are currently no specific medications approved for managing stimulant withdrawal or stimulant use disorders.9 However, there can be benefits to seeking medical attention while you are withdrawing from Adderall.

For example, in severe presentations, stimulant withdrawal can be associated with psychological symptoms, such as depression. Professional monitoring can help a person remain comfortable and safe as they detox from the drug.9

Treatment for Adderall Addiction at Sunrise House

If you or a loved one are struggling with Adderall addiction or misuse and want to quit, help is available today at Sunrise House Treatment Center—an inpatient rehab in New Jersey.

Evidence-based behavioral therapies can be effective in treating stimulant use disorders. Sunrise House employs such therapies, including contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat Adderall addiction and support lasting change.2,10

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