Adderall: Side Effects, Misuse, and Addiction

Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy1—a neurological disorder marked by excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep.2 Adderall has a high potential for abuse, and misuse of this medication can be fatal.

In 2018, over 4.6 million people abused prescription amphetamine products—which includes Adderall—in the past year. Young adults—those who fall in the 18 to 25 age group—make up the majority of users (56%) who take prescription amphetamine products for non-medical reasons.

In this article, you’ll learn about how Adderall works, how it is misused, its side effects and associated dangers, and what treatment for Adderall addiction may include.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is considered a Schedule II drug by the federal government.3 It’s a combination dextroamphetamine/amphetamine product that increases dopamine and norepinephrine (both neurotransmitters) in the brain, resulting in increased energy and sharper focus.1

For those with ADHD, it treats symptoms of disorganization and focus difficulties that make accomplishing schoolwork and other responsibilities problematic.4

Although Adderall is helpful for those suffering from ADHD and narcolepsy, it is also commonly misused, with one study identifying over half (53%) of adults who recently misused the drug doing so in an effort to stay alert or help them to concentrate. The next most popular reason (21.9%) for abuse of Adderall was to help individuals to study.4

Interestingly, a recent study published in the journal Pharmacy suggests the drug actually has little impact on neurocognitive performance in college students who do not have ADHD.5

People also abuse the drug by taking large doses or crushing the pills to snort or inject them for a euphoric high. Frequent use or using the drug for an extended period of time can result in an individual developing a tolerance to Adderall, causing them to use a higher dose of the drug or use it more frequently to feel the same effect. This can to dependency and to a person developing a stimulant use disorder. 1

Adderall can also lead to some fairly serious health issues, especially if misused on a long-term basis.1

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall use, even when prescribed by a medical professional and taken correctly, can lead to the user experiencing side effects. Common side effects of Adderall include:6

  • Agitation.
  • Headaches.
  • Stomachache.
  • Nervousness.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Weight loss.
  • Grinding teeth.

Other Risks of Adderall Use

While any side effects can be uncomfortable, some effects of Adderall use can be dangerous, especially those associated with the cardiovascular system.

Sudden death from heart attack or stroke has been reported in adults who take stimulant drugs at usual doses, and the risk is higher for those with existing heart problems.7

Other potentially serious risks of Adderall use or misuse may include:6

  • Motor or verbal tics.
  • Unpleasant or abnormal sensations—including pain, numbness, burning, or tingling—in the hands or feet.
  • Seizures.
  • Psychosis.
  • Episodes of depression and/or mania.
  • Increased dependence on the drug.

Adderall Long-Term Effects

The effects of long-term use of Adderall, even at therapeutic doses, haven’t been studied.7 However, a person is more likely to develop an increased tolerance to the drug with repeated use.

This means an individual will need to take larger or more frequent doses of Adderall to feel its effects, which could lead to problematic use and ultimately a substance use disorder.

Adderall Overdose

Excessive doses of stimulant drugs like Adderall can cause a number of potentially harmful or alarming symptoms, including:6

  • Pupil dilation.
  • Extreme restlessness and tremor.
  • Agitation and aggressive or combative behavior.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Uncontrollable overactive or overresponsive reflexes.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Panic and severe anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Muscle weakness and movement disorders.
  • Seizures.

An overdose is a medical emergency, and immediate medical care is required.6

Adderall Addiction

Not everyone who abuses a drug will become addicted, but those who do put themselves at significant risk of overdose and serious, perhaps permanent health issues.

In order for Adderall abuse to be diagnosed as a stimulant use disorder, the user must demonstrate at least two of the following symptoms within a 12-month period. The user:8

  • Takes bigger amounts of Adderall over a longer period of time than originally intended.
  • Has a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down using Adderall.
  • Spends a lot of time trying to get, use, or recovery from using Adderall.
  • Craves Adderall.
  • Constantly uses, resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continues to use despite having reoccurring interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of Adderall.
  • Gives up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of Adderall use.
  • Uses Adderall in situations where it’s physically hazardous.
  • Continues using Adderall despite knowing of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by use.
  • Develops a tolerance to Adderall, which includes need more of the stimulant to achieve the desired effect or experiencing a lessened effect with continued use of the same amount.
  • Withdraws from Adderall, which could include fatigue, vivid unpleasant dreams, insomnia, increased appetite, or psychomotor retardation or agitation.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

Any kind of addiction is considered a chronic disease that’s defined by a compulsive desire to get a drug like Adderall and use it in spite of consequences that could be physically or socially harmful.9 Because of this, recovering from a stimulant use disorder is difficult and likely to require help from a health professional.

At Oxford Treatment Center, we offer several different types of addiction treatment and tailor our treatment approach to meet the individual needs of each patient.

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, includes safe housing, medical attention, and 24-hour structured care, as well as a range of therapies. Outpatient treatment involves many of the same therapies used in inpatient treatment, but patients are not required to live on-site.9

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and ready to start the rehab admissions process, call us today at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer your questions about how to pay for addiction treatment and can help you confirm your drug rehab insurance coverage.

Don’t let the devastating side effects of addiction go on for another day. Our inpatient rehab facility in Mississippi is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.

Therapies for Stimulant Use Disorder

Therapy for stimulant use disorder is conducted by a trained therapist and can be done either in an individual or group setting.9 Two approaches to behavioral therapy are recommended for stimulant use disorder:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify the problematic behaviors that led you to misuse Adderall. From there, therapists teach new ways to correct those behaviors in a number of settings. An important tenant to CBT is learning to anticipate parts of your life that could cause your recovery a problem, and learn how to cope in those instances.10
  • Contingency management (CM) includes providing tangible rewards—like vouchers for things or events that promote a drug-free lifestyle or small cash prizes—for behaviors that encourage abstinence from Adderall.11

Continuing Recovery After Treatment

Once you complete rehabilitation for your stimulant use disorder, you can continue your recovery with aftercare. This can include support groups, ongoing therapy, and other activities which help you maintain sobriety and avoid a relapse.9

Recovery may not be easy, but it’s possible when you choose to put in the work.

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