Adderall Addiction, Side Effects, and Withdrawal

Adderall is a prescription stimulant with a high potential for misuse and dependence.1,2

Continue reading to learn more about Adderall, its side effects, Adderall misuse and addiction, and treatment options.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription amphetamine stimulant medication used in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.1

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has medical uses but a high potential for misuse and dependence. Approximately 3.2 million Americans aged 12 or older reported past-year prescription amphetamine misuse in 2021.3

How Does Adderall Work?

Amphetamine stimulants like Adderall increase the activity of certain neurotransmitters—specifically dopamine and norepinephrine—by both increasing their release from neurons and blocking their reuptake from brain synapses.1 However, the exact way in which Adderall produces its therapeutic effects in the treatment of ADHD is unknown.1

Adderall—when used as prescribed—can improve attention and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in ADHD patients.1

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall has several potential side effects. Adderall side effects may include:1

  • Dry mouth.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Insomnia.

Adderall Misuse

Adderall misuse may involve:4

  • Taking Adderall without a prescription.
  • Using Adderall for non-medical reasons.
  • Taking Adderall in larger amounts than prescribed.
  • Taking Adderall in a way other than prescribed (e.g., crushing a pill and snorting it).

Adderall misuse may be more common among college students than their non-college peers. In 2021, approximately 4.3% of college students reported using Adderall without medical supervision, with lower rates among people in the same age range not enrolled in college (2.2%).5

Adolescents and college students may misuse Adderall to try to improve their academic performance, while older adults may misuse Adderall with the hope of improving their memory.4

People also sometimes misuse Adderall to:6

  • Stay awake or alert.
  • Lose weight.
  • Increase or mitigate the effects of other drugs.
  • Get high.

Adverse Effects of Adderall Misuse

People who misuse Adderall are more likely to experience unwanted effects, some of which can be serious or life-threatening. Potentially more serious adverse effects of Adderall misuse can include:1,4

  • Anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate and respiration.
  • Sweating.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Unhealthy weight loss.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Psychosis.
  • Overdose toxicity.

An Adderall overdose is a potentially life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Some signs of an Adderall overdose include:4

  • Panic.
  • Restlessness.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Hyperthermia.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Irregular heart rate and rhythm.
  • Volatile blood pressure changes.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Overactive reflexes.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.

Chronic misuse of prescription stimulants can also increase the risk of Adderall addiction, or what is diagnosed as a stimulant use disorder.1,4

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, Adderall has addiction potential.1,4 Adderall increases dopamine activity, which can reinforce continued and eventually compulsive stimulant misuse in some individuals.4

Substance use disorders involving a stimulant like Adderall develop as continued use of the drugs starts to cause significant issues across various areas of a person’s life, including adverse health issues and problems at school, work, or with interpersonal relationships.4

Adderall Addiction Signs

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) characterizes stimulant use disorders as the continued misuse of a stimulant despite clinically significant problems in a person’s life related to their stimulant use.7

Trained healthcare professionals use the following diagnostic criteria to aid in the diagnosis of a stimulant use disorder: 7

  1. The stimulant is used at higher doses or is taken for a longer period than initially intended.
  2. There is a desire or multiple unsuccessful efforts to control, reduce, or stop using the stimulant.
  3. A significant amount of time is devoted to obtaining the stimulant, using the stimulant, or recovering from the stimulant’s effects.
  4. Experiencing cravings or strong urges to use the stimulant.
  5. Difficulty fulfilling major responsibilities at work, home, or school because of recurrent stimulant use.
  6. There are frequent interpersonal or social problems caused or made worse by stimulant use.
  7. Stimulant use leads to a reduction or cessation of important work, social, or recreational activities.
  8. Continued stimulant misuse despite the knowledge that psychological or physical health problems have been caused or worsened by stimulant use.
  9. Misusing the stimulant in situations where it is physically dangerous to do so.
  10. Needing higher or more frequent doses of the stimulant to achieve the desired effect or experiencing a weakened effect when taking the same amount.
  11. Experiencing symptoms of stimulant withdrawal when stimulant use is reduced or stopped. This can also include taking stimulants or a similar substance to avoid stimulant withdrawal.

A stimulant use disorder diagnosis may be made when 2 or more of the above criteria are met within the previous 12 months, though neither criterion 10 nor 11 should be considered to be met for those taking Adderall under appropriate medical supervision, such as for ADHD management.7

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Prolonged use of Adderall can lead to physiological dependence, meaning someone’s body adapts to the presence of the amphetamine to the point that they feel they need it to function normally. After dependence develops, someone will likely experience withdrawal when they quit or reduce Adderall use.4,7

Stimulant withdrawal can occur within a few days after a person abruptly reduces or stops using stimulants after a period of heavy misuse.9 Possible symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:9

  • Dysphoric mood.
  • Oversleeping or difficulty sleeping.
  • Slowed mental or physical activity.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unpleasant dreams.
  • Increased appetite.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

While there are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat stimulant use disorder, Adderall addiction is treatable.9,10 Treatment usually involves a combination of behavioral therapies, peer support, psychoeducation, and other recovery interventions.9,10

These approaches are employed in a variety of levels of care at Greenhouse Treatment Center, including:

If you or a loved one are struggling with stimulant misuse, our inpatient addiction treatment near Dallas, Texas, or our outpatient center in Arlington can help. Call to speak to a compassionate admissions navigator about the treatment admissions process, insurance coverage, and other options to cover the cost of treatment.

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