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Adderall Abuse & Addiction | Side Effects, Withdrawal Symptoms, & Treatment Options

blue adderall pills

Many people think of Adderall as a harmless prescription drug. However, when it’s not used exactly as prescribed, it can lead to addiction. 

Those who struggle with Adderall abuse face a number of health risks, including overdose. That’s why it’s important to seek help at an addiction treatment program. 

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a drug that contains a mixture of two central nervous system stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. 

These stimulants increase the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Dopamine influences memory, motivation, and attention, while norepinephrine improves concentration and energy. 

Adderall can help you focus, pay attention, and control impulsive behaviors. 

Side Effects Of Adderall

Like all prescription medications, Adderall comes with some side effects. 

The most common Adderall side effects include: 

  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lack of interest in sex
  • difficulty having an orgasm
  • irritability
  • excitability
  • talkativeness 
  • increased heart rate
  • high blood pressure

Prescription Use Of Adderall

Because Adderall can improve your ability to pay attention and control your behavior, doctors often use it to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This mental health condition makes it difficult to concentrate and resist impulses.  

Adderall is also prescribed for people with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes drowsiness throughout the day. The stimulating effects of Adderall can help keep patients awake. 

When prescribing Adderall to treat ADHD or narcolepsy, doctors tell patients exactly how much to take, when to take it, and how long to take it for. 

They will also schedule regular follow-up appointments to ensure the medication is working properly and determine whether the patient still needs it. This monitoring is essential because Adderall is a schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high risk of being abused.

Adderall Abuse

Adderall abuse occurs when you take the medication more frequently than prescribed, at a higher dose than prescribed, or without a prescription. In addition, some individuals abuse Adderall by snorting the pills to feel the effects more quickly and intensely. 

In most cases, people abuse Aderrall to feel more focused, motivated, and confident. 

This form of drug abuse is particularly common among:

  • high school and college students who want to boost their productivity and academic achievement (in fact, Adderall is sometimes called a “study drug”)
  • people who want to boost their productivity at work
  • athletes who want to boost their physical performance, as Adderall can increase energy and reaction time
  • people with eating disorders, who seek the drug’s appetite suppressant effects 
  • people with other substance use disorders (such as alcohol use disorder, in which a person has trouble controlling their drinking habits)

Over time, Adderall misuse can cause you to develop a tolerance. That means you’d need higher and higher doses of the drug to feel the same effects you once felt at a lower dose. At this point, you would probably be diagnosed with Adderall addiction. 

Signs Of Adderall Abuse & Addiction

The most common signs of Adderall abuse and addiction include:

  • requiring higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects that were once achieved at a lower dose
  • withdrawing from family and friends or avoiding work or school to spend more time getting and using the drug 
  • neglecting personal hygiene to spend more time getting and using the drug
  • feeling unable to complete work or school without the drug
  • visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions of the drug (“doctor shopping”)
  • spending a significant amount of money on Adderall
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling unable to quit the drug despite wanting to

Adderall Overdose Signs

Adderall overdose can occur when you take more of the drug than your doctor prescribed, take it without a prescription, or mix it with other substances, such as alcohol. 

Common signs of overdose include:

  • uncontrollable shaking
  • fever
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • nausea or vomiting
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • blurry vision
  • panic attacks
  • aggressiveness
  • fainting
  • seizures

If you or a loved experiences the above symptoms, call 911 or seek emergency medical care immediately. An Adderall overdose can lead to a heart attack or even death. 

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Even if you have a prescription for Adderall, suddenly quitting the medication can cause withdrawal symptoms, especially if you’ve been using it for a long time or at high doses. 

Whether you have a prescription or not, talk to a health care provider before stopping the drug. They will help you lower the dose gradually to reduce the chance of withdrawal symptoms, which may include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • trouble sleeping
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • psychosis, which is a condition that makes it difficult to separate reality from hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real) and delusions (holding beliefs that aren’t based in reality)

Adderall Addiction Treatment Options

It’s not easy to recover from Adderall addiction by yourself. Instead, seek help from an addiction treatment center. 

Depending on your needs, you can attend a rehab center on an inpatient basis (meaning you live at the center) or an outpatient basis (meaning you regularly attend the center while living at home). 

No matter which option you choose, a team of professionals will likely help you:

  • gradually lower your dose to reduce the chance of withdrawal symptoms
  • manage any withdrawal symptoms that do occur 
  • change problematic behaviors through behavioral therapy, where a licensed therapist will help you better understand your thoughts, feelings, and urges
  • develop healthy coping skills such as meditation, yoga, exercise, or journaling
  • get peer support from people facing similar challenges through group therapy
  • prevent relapse after you finish treatment by creating an aftercare plan, which often includes ongoing individual and group therapy

If you or a loved one struggles with Adderall abuse, contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn more about our comprehensive treatment options.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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