Adderall Effects on the Body

Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) is a prescription stimulant used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But while medications like Adderall can be helpful for those who need them, they are often misused in ways other than how they are prescribed, due to their stimulant effects.

Adderall misuse can lead to a range of adverse effects that may impact a person’s overall health and well-being. Read on to learn more about the short- and long-term effects of Adderall misuse and how to get help if you or a loved one has developed an Adderall addiction.

Adderall Misuse

Adderall is an amphetamine-containing, central nervous system (CNS) stimulant with a known potential for misuse.1

Adderall misuse can involve:2

  • Taking someone else’s medicine.
  • Using it in larger doses or more frequently than prescribed.
  • Taking it via non-oral routes (e.g., snorting, smoking, or injecting).
  • Using it for recreational effects (i.e., to get high).

Misuse is especially common among youths and young adults who primarily use Adderall as a “study drug” or to otherwise improve academic performance. Research also shows that this age group may misuse prescription stimulants like Adderall to lose weight or get high.3,4

Although less common, older adults may misuse prescription stimulants to improve memory.2

Short- & Long-Term Effects of Adderall Misuse

Chronic Adderall misuse, especially at high doses, may cause different unwanted health effects, and in some cases, these effects can lead to serious medical complications.1,3

The most common side effects of Adderall include:1

  • Headache.
  • Insomnia.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Fatigue or weakness.

Research shows that people who use Adderall through non-oral routes (e.g., snorting, smoking, or injecting) are more likely to experience adverse side effects.4

The long-term effects and effectiveness of Adderall have not been well studied. There is some indication that effects like headache, appetite loss, and upset stomach may continue with long-term Adderall or other prescription stimulant use, but more research is needed in this area.1,3

Adderall Effects on the Brain

Adderall misuse can affect the brain. While their mechanism of action isn’t well understood, researchers generally agree that Adderall and other prescription stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain.1,5

Dopamine is involved in the development of , , and addiction, which are possible long-term effects of chronic Adderall use. Heightened dopamine activity within the reward centers of the brain can reinforce drug use behaviors, which could increase the drive for continued and, eventually, compulsive misuse of drugs like Adderall.1,3

Once dependence develops, a person may experience withdrawal if they abruptly stop or cut back their use of the drug. Adderall withdrawal symptoms can include:1

  • Depressed mood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sleep problems, such as sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or sleeping too little (insomnia).
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Slowdown of mental and physical activity (e.g., trouble concentrating).
  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability.

In rare cases, prescription stimulants like Adderall can cause symptoms of psychosis and mania (e.g., hallucinations, delusional thinking, or paranoia), and may also exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions, such as bipolar and other psychotic disorders.1

Adderall and other prescription stimulants can also increase the risk of seizures, especially in people with a history of seizures and very rarely in people with no history of seizures.1

Additionally, Adderall use or misuse may worsen motor and phonic tics and Tourette’s syndrome.1

Adderall Effects on the Heart

Adderall misuse can impact the heart. As mentioned above, prescription stimulants like Adderall increase norepinephrine activity in the brain. Norepinephrine may affect a person’s blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing.2

As a result, Adderall may have certain mild effects on the heart, such as palpitations and elevated blood pressure and heart rate.1

In some cases, prescription stimulants like Adderall can also cause serious cardiovascular reactions, including heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. These reactions have been reported even at normal, therapeutic doses. Long-term or chronic misuse may only increase the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke.1,3

Another possible cardiovascular effect of Adderall is Raynaud’s phenomenon, a vascular condition that a person’s fingertips and toes (and sometimes their nose and ears) to feel numb, cold, and turn blue. This condition typically improves once the person stops or reduces their use of the drug.1,6

Adderall Overdose

A person can take too much Adderall and overdose. Signs of an Adderall or amphetamine overdose include:1

  • Agitation.
  • Seizures/convulsions.
  • Hallucinations (auditory and visual).
  • Dangerously high body temperature.
  • Abnormal heart rate and rhythm.
  • Rapid or irregular breathing.

An overdose is a life-threatening emergency. If you think you or someone else is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. 

Another possible effect of Adderall overdose is rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition in which damaged muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood. This can lead to heart and kidney damage and permanent disability and may even be fatal.1,3,7

During an amphetamine overdose, rhabdomyolysis is usually preceded by a high fever, repetitive and unintentional movements (psychomotor agitation), and seizures.3

Get Help for Adderall Misuse

If you or someone you love is struggling with Adderall addiction, professional treatment can help.

Therapies like contingency management (CM), community reinforcement, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and motivational interviewing (MI) are generally the cornerstones of stimulant addiction treatment. Research also suggests that exercise and mindfulness activities may support better treatment outcomes.3

There are currently no medications approved to treat stimulant addiction.3

At Oxford, we offer different types of addiction treatment and personalized treatment plans designed to meet the individual needs of each patient.

People with stimulant use disorders commonly use other licit and illicit substances and often have at least one other co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, ADHD, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).3,8

Polysubstance use and pre-existing mental health conditions can make the treatment process more complex.3 Our inpatient rehab in Mississippi specializes in the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders for patients who may be battling more than one condition at the same time.

To learn more about our programs, paying for rehab, or using insurance to pay for rehab, call us at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer questions, , and help you start treatment today.

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