Adderall is a common stimulant that can help people suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a Schedule II controlled substance, however, the drug also carries a high risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. Adderall can also be dangerous; in 2017 alone, amphetamines like Adderall were responsible for 149 hospital visits in New Jersey. The Adderall-related struggles of several people were even chronicled in a 2018 Netflix documentary called “Take Your Pills.”
If you or a loved one struggle with Adderall, it is important to know that help is available. The following will provide an overview of Adderall’s side effects, risks and options for treatment.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is the brand name for a drug that combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and it is available in both short-acting and long-acting dosage forms. The short-acting version of Adderall is FDA-approved for both ADHD and narcolepsy, while the long-acting version is only approved for ADHD. Adderall is sometimes diverted or counterfeited to be sold on the streets, where it is known by names like:
- Study buddies
- Smart pills
- Christmas trees
- Pep pills
- Black beauties
- Double trouble
ADD for All: Is Adderall Overprescribed?
Adderall is the most commonly prescribed stimulant. It is also the 27th most commonly prescribed drug overall, with more than 24 million prescriptions dispensed in 2017 alone. Further, the number of Adderall prescriptions has been steadily increasing over the past several years.
Some doctors have voiced concern that stimulants like Adderall may be overprescribed. Others have argued the opposite, stating that ADHD has been traditionally underdiagnosed; they’ve also cited studies that found that stimulant prescription rates are consistent with ADHD rates.
Adderall Side Effects
Long-term side effects of stimulants like Adderall are unclear, as stimulants have generally not been studied in the long term. In the short term, however, the most common side effects of Adderall include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Fast heartbeat
- Lack of energy
- Urinary tract infections
Signs of Adderall Abuse and Overdose
Adderall treats ADHD by increasing the brain’s level of dopamine, a chemical commonly deficient in those with ADHD. However, if you take too much Adderall or your brain does not have a dopamine deficiency, the excess dopamine can overstimulate your brain. This can cause side effects like:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
In an overdose, side effects may worsen. Overdose is a medical emergency — seek medical help immediately by calling 911 if one occurs. Overdose effects include:
Adderall can also create an overdose risk when combined with other substances, such as alcohol. Because Adderall is a stimulant, it may make you feel less drunk when you are drinking. This can be dangerous for two reasons: First, you may decide to operate a vehicle without knowing you are drunk. Second, you may keep drinking without realizing you are drunk, which can put you at risk for alcohol poisoning.
When Adderall begins to wear off, a person may start to feel depression or fatigue. These are both symptoms of an Adderall crash that occurs when someone comes down off the stimulant. Without another dose of Adderall, the person may go into withdrawal.
Adderall withdrawal can be uncomfortable and dangerous. Withdrawal’s effects on mental status may even cause someone to pose a danger to themselves or others. Withdrawal symptoms are often divided into two distinct categories: acute and longer-term. Acute withdrawal symptoms often begin in the first 24 hours after taking the last dose. These symptoms may last up to five days and can include:
- Mood changes like agitation, irritability or depression
- Psychiatric changes like paranoia, disordered thoughts and hallucinations
- Increased sleep time
- Increased appetite
- Muscle aches
The longer-term withdrawal phase that follows acute withdrawal can last for up to two months. Symptoms may include:
- Emotional changes and anxiety
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Adderall cravings
Because Adderall withdrawal can be dangerous, a person should only end Adderall use with medical guidance. Unfortunately, not all doctors are trained in how to taper and discontinue Adderall. Further, doctors do not always have adequate training in how to treat withdrawal symptoms.
It is important to treat withdrawal symptoms because these uncomfortable effects can cause problems with future sobriety. A doctor who specializes in stimulant addiction can help treat these symptoms. Additionally, because Adderall is generally prescribed for ADHD, it may be a good idea to find a doctor or treatment facility that can also treat ADHD.
Adderall Treatment Options
At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we offer a variety of personalized treatment plans in a state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility. Choosing the right treatment program and setting can help you meet your goal of living an Adderall-free life. Our programs include:
- Medical detox: The first step in Adderall recovery is getting the drug out of your system. Medical detox works by weaning you off Adderall while providing access to 24/7 medical care. Our experts can treat any withdrawal symptoms you experience to help you ease off Adderall safely.
- Residential rehab: After Adderall is out of your system, the work of rehab begins. In residential rehab, you live onsite in a calm environment and focus on your recovery without outside distractions. Rehab offers intensive group and one-on-one therapy to help you learn the coping skills needed for an Adderall-free life.
- Outpatient rehab: After residential rehab, outpatient rehab can begin. In some cases, a person may be able to begin outpatient rehab from the outset — for example, if they have only a mild Adderall addiction or are unable to leave outside responsibilities to attend residential rehab. Treatment continues in outpatient rehab as you begin to live a new life without Adderall. Teletherapy may also be available.
- Aftercare: Aftercare is the lifelong process of maintaining your recovery. After rehab is complete, some people tend to stop concentrating on the recovery process. Aftercare consists of support groups and relapse prevention plans to help you stay off Adderall throughout the future.
- Dual diagnosis: Mental health issues are common in those who struggle with stimulants like Adderall. Dual diagnosis treats both your addiction and your underlying mental health problem.
Get Help for Adderall Addiction
Adderall addiction can be dangerous, and the fear of withdrawal symptoms often keeps people from seeking help. If you or a loved one struggle with Adderall, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help you safely come off the drug and learn how to lead a life without Adderall use. Contact us today to find out more about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your needs.
Adderall is FDA-approved for ADHD treatment. The short-acting form of the drug is also approved for narcolepsy.
Adderall and other stimulants have been taken for years by people who believe they improve performance, wakefulness and focus. However, they are only proven to do this in those with a dopamine deficiency, which is common in ADHD patients.
As a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall is addictive and carries a high risk of abuse and dependence.
Adderall is a stimulant and works by increasing the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Adderall increases the amount of dopamine in your brain, regardless of whether you have ADHD. For people with ADHD who have a dopamine deficiency, this can be helpful in leading a normal life. However, dopamine is also the brain’s feel-good reward chemical that is involved in addiction. A person can create excessive dopamine if they take Adderall without an ADHD diagnosis, or if they have ADHD and take too much Adderall. Excessive dopamine can put you at risk of addiction.
Gabbatt, Adam. “‘It’s a snapshot of America in this moment’ – behind the Netflix film on Adderall abuse.” The Guardian, March 14, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2020.
State of New Jersey Department of Health. “Drug-related Hospital Visits.” Accessed September 26, 2020.
Indiana University. “Adderall.” Accessed September 26, 2020.
ClinCalc. “Dextroamphetamine; Dextroamphetamine Saccharate; Amphetamine; Amphetamine Aspartate.” Accessed September 26, 2020.
Lane, Christopher. “How We Became ADHD Nation.” Psychology Today, September 30, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Nauert, Rick. “Study Finds Kids are Not Overmedicated.” PsychCentral, August 8, 2018. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Zametkin, Alan J.; Solanto, Mary V. “A Review of ADHD Nation.” The Guilford Press, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Lakhan, Shaheen E.; Kirchgessner, Annette. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.” Brain and Behavior, July 23, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2020.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Adderall.” April 28, 2020. Accessed September 26, 2020.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Adderall XR.” July 17, 2019. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse.” 2020. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Nall, Rachel. “Coping with an Adderall crash.” Medical News Today, April 13, 2018. Accessed September 26, 2020.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Sinha, Rajita. “New Findings on Biological Factors Predicting Addiction Relapse Vulnerability.” Current Psychiatry Reports, October 2011. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.