Adderall Misuse, Side Effects, and Treatment

Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination) is a prescription stimulant that is most often misused by students, athletes, or professionals looking to improve their school, work, or athletic performance or by the elderly to improve memory.1 More than 5 million people in the United States misused stimulants like Adderall in 2020 despite the risks and long-lasting health consequences associated with misuse.2

This page will explore Adderall, how it is misused, its effects and potential withdrawal symptoms, and treatment for stimulant use disorder.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a stimulant medication distributed only by prescription.3 As a stimulant, it works by increasing the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine.1 These chemicals have profound effects throughout the brain and body, as they primarily affect the brain’s reward system and the body’s basic regulation of circulation, blood sugar, and breathing.1

What is Adderall Used For?

Adderall is prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.3 Despite being a stimulant, Adderall has a calming and focusing effect on people with ADHD.4 It is safe for use in children and adolescents and can be prescribed when the symptoms of ADHD become evident, often around 7 years of age.4 For those who need it, Adderall can be extremely effective in improving performance where attention and focus is required, however it has also become a target for misuse.4

Adderall Misuse & Addiction

Adderall is often misused for its ability to produce effects that include exhilaration, improved self-esteem, and extended wakefulness.5 In fact, 4.8% of United States residents aged 18 to 25 misused prescription stimulants in 2020.2 Misusing Adderall refers to any use of the drug that is:4

  • Taken in higher doses than prescribed.
  • Taken in another manner than prescribed.
  • Taken by someone without a prescription.

Prescription stimulants like Adderall can be misused by swallowing them or by crushing the tablets and dissolving the powder into water for self-injection.1 Once in a powder form, some people may also snort or smoke it.1 Repeatedly using Adderall outside of how it is prescribed carries a high risk of developing addiction.3

Signs of Adderall Misuse

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one who may be misusing Adderall, there are signs to help identify misuse. For example, some signs that an individual may be misusing Adderall can include:1,4

  • Increase in heart rate.
  • Warm or feverish body temperature.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Diminished appetite.

These symptoms are distinct from those associated with addiction, which is also referred to as substance use disorder.

Signs of Adderall Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) (DSM-5), sets forth the criteria to diagnose substance use disorders, including stimulant use disorder. These are a few of the criteria that may be present in a person with stimulant use disorder but not necessarily in a person who is only misusing Adderall:6

  • Taking more stimulant or taking the stimulant for a longer amount of time than is originally intended
  • Having a persistent desire to cut back or stop using a stimulant but being unable to do so
  • Experiencing cravings for the stimulant
  • Continuing to use a stimulant despite persistent or recurrent social or relationship problems caused by use
  • Continued stimulant use despite knowing its causal or contributing role in chronic physical or psychological disorders

Those who develop Adderall addiction can exhibit these and other symptoms, as they are unable to control the powerful urges to continue using Adderall despite any and all adverse effects of doing so.7

Other Health Risks of Adderall

The chronic, long-term use of Adderall can cause several potentially life-threatening risks that can affect one’s physical and mental health.3 These can include:

  • Cardiac complications. Individuals can experience severe cardiovascular repercussions as a result of continued Adderall misuse, including heart attack, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, irregular heartbeat, and stroke.1,4 These risks are increased if individuals have a prior history of cardiac issues.3
  • Seizures. Some evidence has shown that stimulants can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing one or more seizures, particularly in those with a history of them or who have abnormalities in the electrical activity in the brain.3 It is possible, however, for those without a history of these complications to experience seizures as a result of chronic Adderall misuse.3
  • Psychosis. Symptoms of psychosis can develop in someone who is misusing amphetamine-based stimulants like Adderall.8 These symptoms can include delusions and visual hallucinations, as well as symptoms that resemble acute psychosis in schizophrenia.8
  • Aggression. Aggressive behavior, including anger and hostility, is one of the most notable health risks associated with the repeated misuse of stimulants like Adderall.1,3 As a result, those experiencing this effect are at greater risk for engaging in criminal behaviors, potentially putting themselves and others in danger.9

With the continued misuse of Adderall, the possibility of developing a dependence to it becomes greater, as this prescription stimulant possesses a high potential for misuse.3 Those who become dependent on Adderall have experienced adaptations to the brain and body that can make trying to stop extremely difficult, as several withdrawal symptoms can develop when a person attempts to cut back or end their use entirely.3,7

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Someone who is experiencing withdrawal from Adderall can develop symptoms that can vary based on factors specific to them. However, some of the most common Adderall withdrawal symptoms typically include include:3,6

  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Slowed body movements.
  • Increase in appetite.
  • Cravings.

The process of withdrawing from Adderall, also known as “detoxing”, can take some time.6 The amount of time for complete detoxification may vary based on the amount of Adderall previously consumed, as well as other factors related to the individual’s use and personal health.3 Getting through the withdrawal process can be made easier by obtaining professional detox services that can help keep you safe and comfortable during this time.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are struggling with Adderall misuse or addiction, help is available. Treatment centers such as AdCare, an outpatient and inpatient drug rehab in Rhode Island, can provide evidence-based professional treatment for substance use disorders. A compassionate team of addiction professionals is available 24/7 to help you through the rehab admissions process, or answer any questions you may have, such as using insurance coverage for addiction treatment or what to expect upon arrival.

It is never too early to seek help for drug or alcohol misuse. Call AdCare at 325-335-0752, or get started with addiction recovery by filling out our secure online to verify your insurance today. Your future may depend on it.

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