Adderall Addiction, Effects, and Withdrawal
Prescription stimulants like Adderall can be beneficial when used appropriately, however they also carry high rates of misuse, which can lead to unwanted effects and consequences.1 In 2021, there were approximately 73.4 million prescription stimulants dispensed throughout the United States, reflecting a 45% increase since 2012.2
In this article, we discuss what Adderall is and why it is used, as well as Adderall side effects, addiction, and potential withdrawal symptoms. We also explain how you can seek help for prescription stimulant addiction.
What Is Adderall and What Is It Used For?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADHD.1 It is believed that Adderall affects norepinephrine and dopamine activity by increasing the availability of these neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain), helping to treat symptoms of ADHD.1
Even though Adderall can be beneficial for many when it is taken as prescribed and for the appropriate reasons, it remains a medication that possesses great risk for misuse and dependence.1
Adderall Misuse and Addiction
Around 3.7 million people aged 12 and older reported prescription stimulant misuse in 2021, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).3 It is estimated that approximately 773,000 people misused prescription stimulants for the first time within that same year.3
Adderall misuse is common among adolescents and young adults, as it is typically used as a study aid to improve school performance.4 This is likely due to the misperception that prescription stimulants enhance cognitive performance in people who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.4 Among young adults between the ages of 19 and 22 enrolled in college, 4.3% reported past-year non-medical use of Adderall (compared to 2.2% of same-aged young adults not in college).5 Older adults may also misuse prescription stimulants in the hopes of improving memory.6
Continued misuse of Adderall can lead to the development of Adderall addiction, clinically known as a stimulant use disorder.6 Addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by continued substance use despite the occurrence of negative consequences.7
Adderall misuse can result in the onset of several different side effects. The intensity and duration of these side effects are often related to a variety of other factors, such as the amount and frequency of use. Common side effects when misusing amphetamine-based prescription stimulants like Adderall can include:1
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased respiratory rate.
- High blood pressure.
In some cases, the misuse of Adderall can lead to the onset of psychosis, a set of symptoms that impact the brain and can cause a disconnect from reality.1,8
Other Health Risks of Adderall Addiction
The misuse of Adderall can be dangerous and lead to the development of serious, potentially life-threatening health issues. Some of the effects that can possibly occur as a result of Adderall misuse include:
- Cardiovascular problems. Serious heart problems can occur, including unexpected death in people who have existing heart problems.1 Arrhythmias, hypertension, hypotension and circulatory collapse can also occur.1
- Overdose. Overdosing on Adderall, meaning consuming too much of it for the body to handle, can be fatal. Symptoms of Adderall overdose can include excessive sweating, confusion, hallucinations, tremors, and a panicked state.1
- Suicidal/homicidal ideations. Suicidal ideations can occur because of continued Adderall misuse, which include contemplations, wishes, and thoughts regarding one’s own death and suicide.1,9 Homicidal ideations can also develop, which include thoughts of or making plans to end the lives of one or more people.10
Adderall misuse can lead to physical dependence, meaning that the use of this drug is stopped or greatly reduced, withdrawal symptoms may emerge.1 The withdrawal symptoms that can emerge because of physical dependence on Adderall often range in severity, as they tend to depend on specific factors unique to the individual, such as how much Adderall was being used and for how long.
While everyone may not experience the same combination of Adderall withdrawal symptoms, some of the most common include:1
- Dysphoric mood.
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams.
- Increased appetite.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
It is also possible for those withdrawing from prescription stimulants like Adderall to experience the onset of severe depression.11 Seeking care from a healthcare professional can help manage depression-related risks (such as unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide) and provide comfort during the withdrawal process, as well as provide referrals for continued care.12
Adderall Addiction Treatment at Desert Hope
If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription stimulant misuse or addiction, there are many different ways to treat addiction that can help. Treatment at Desert Hope, which is run by American Addiction Centers (AAC), can involve various levels of addiction treatment, which may include treatment at our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas or participation in evidence-based therapies as part of our outpatient programs.
To learn more about the treatment admissions process, insurance coverage, and other ways to pay for addiction treatment, please reach out by calling or chat via text to get in touch with one of our admissions navigators. You can get started on your first steps in the recovery process right now by filling out our secure online to verify your insurance within minutes.
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