Adderall Addiction: Why Adderall Is Bad for You

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch



Adderall is a prescription drug primarily used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder — commonly known as ADHD — and other neurological issues, such as narcolepsy. When used correctly under a doctor’s supervision, Adderall stimulates the central nervous system and allows users to concentrate and focus on what they’re doing.

When used for the wrong reasons — or in the wrong doses — Adderall can be incredibly dangerous. The National Institutes of Health reports an alarming increase in overdoses from psychostimulant medications like Adderall. Why? This powerful prescription stimulant is readily available and has become popular among college students looking to improve their academic performance or struggling with mental health issues like anxiety.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. There’s a common misconception that Adderall is an opioid — a class of drugs designed to reduce the brain’s response to pain — but Adderall is a psychostimulant, a medication that prompts improved concentration. In other words, opioids shut down specific chemical reactions in the brain, whereas Adderall increases or improves them.

When taken at the proper dose, its purpose is to improve the brain’s ability to focus, as well as calm hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. It does this by increasing the effects of norepinephrine and dopamine — neurotransmitters that help the human brain calm down, concentrate and stifle impulsivity. These chemicals can also reduce the urge to engage in inappropriate or disruptive behaviors.

When taken incorrectly, Adderall can interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. It can result in dangerous patterns, such as lack of sleep or prolonged weight loss. And, perhaps most dangerously, it’s easy to overdose on.

What Is Adderall For?

What Is Adderall For?

Doctors typically prescribe Adderall for patients with ADHD because it can increase a person’s ability to concentrate and improve their attention span. It can also combat narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder characterized by sudden daytime drowsiness and urges to sleep. Adderall helps the brain wake up, calm down and focus on the task at hand.

Unfortunately, the very properties that make Adderall a useful tool in managing ADHD and narcolepsy are the same qualities that make it dangerous to abuse. Increasingly, high school and college students are using Adderall to help them pull all-nighters during finals. Athletes might use Adderall to improve their performance in competition. Other people enjoy the euphoric, focused feeling they get from taking Adderall.

Is Adderall Addictive?

When used as instructed, Adderall isn’t dangerous. Medical professionals have prescribed it to treat ADHD and narcolepsy for decades, so there is a large body of research documenting its properties and effects. The problem comes when a person takes Adderall without legitimate medical reasons or in larger doses than prescribed to achieve a “high.”

Improper Adderall use puts people in danger of developing a variety of health issues. No matter how many times they use Adderall, an overdose is always a risk. Over time, the human body becomes accustomed to the euphoric feelings it induces. The longer a person takes Adderall — and the more Adderall they consume — the more they will come to rely on this medication to feel happy and well. Some of this will come from a desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and irritability, but the brain also begins to rewire itself and need Adderall to feel happy and productive. This dependence on Adderall leads to addiction.

Adderall has become increasingly popular because it’s readily available. Although it is a controlled substance, it’s a common prescription, meaning it’s easier to obtain and share among friends.

How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?

When used correctly, the effects of extended-use Adderall tablets last for seven to 12 hours. It’s possible to detect trace amounts of Adderall in blood or urine up to three days after the most recent dose. Doctors can prescribe Adderall in immediate-release or extended-release tablets. Tablet strength can also vary depending on the size and needs of each person.

When someone begins to abuse Adderall, they may take additional doses throughout the day, or take more at one time than a doctor has prescribed. In some cases, users may not have a prescription for Adderall, so they may take it without paying attention to the amount going into their system.

Adderall’s impact on the human body also depends on the method of consumption. Prescription Adderall comes in tablet form, but sometimes addicts will inject or snort the drug to get a quicker, more powerful high. Unfortunately, taking Adderall that way also increases the risk of overdose.

Adderall Side Effects

A side effect is something a person experiences while a drug is in their system. Although Adderall can produce happy, alert feelings, its impacts on the human body aren’t always pleasant. Individuals who take Adderall may experience:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vision changes
  • Changes to sexual performance (adults)
  • Impaired growth (children)

Repeated use, even for a short time, can produce anger and paranoia. Occasionally, though not as commonly, Adderall can induce some more severe side effects, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures or uncontrollable shaking
  • The emergence or worsening feelings of anxiety or depression

Doctors prescribe Adderall only after determining that the risk of these side effects is minimal in light of how much it will help a patient with ADHD or narcolepsy. But when someone abuses Adderall, they can induce any or all of these side effects in their body unnecessarily.

After someone has taken Adderall for a while, their brain trains itself to look for and respond to the chemical boost it provides. When they stop taking Adderall, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. Adderall abusers are especially at risk for withdrawal symptoms because they have likely been using the drug more frequently and at higher doses. Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can include:

  • Sleep issues, such as sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Hunger
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Sometimes, these withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Even if they want to stop, someone who has developed an Adderall addiction will likely continue to take it to avoid these feelings.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Adderall?

The side effects mentioned above are typically the short-term result of taking Adderall. They occur as long as Adderall is in the body, but disappear once it is out of a user’s system. A long-term effect is a long-lasting or permanent alteration of the mind or body due to continued substance use. Abuse of Adderall over a long period can result in significant — and sometimes permanent — health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney problems

Even if a person hasn’t been using — and abusing — Adderall for a long time, they are at high risk for overdose, especially if they inject or snort Adderall or combine it with alcohol. Adderall can also be deadly in conjunction with intense physical activity. Why? Overdosing on Adderall can result in liver failure, stroke and heart attack — all deadly if they remain undetected.

Adderall's Effects on the Brain

Adderall’s Effects on the Brain

Adderall aims to stimulate the central nervous system. When used correctly, Adderall helps the human brain focus and concentrate. Adderall abuse can prevent proper brain function. Sometimes the brain can heal itself with proper time and medical attention. But often, prolonged use of Adderall can alter the brain’s chemical makeup permanently. Among its effects on the brain, Adderall can change the following.

1. Sleep

Doctors may prescribe Adderall to patients suffering from narcolepsy, which causes people to get sleepy or randomly fall asleep during the day. Adderall alters their brain chemistry to stimulate activity and ensure they are awake and functioning during regular daytime hours. Because Adderall is a stimulant, it can make it difficult to sleep at night. That’s why doctors typically recommend taking it first thing in the morning. When used to achieve a high — for example, by a college student studying for finals — it can prevent sleep and, over time, cause insomnia. Insomnia, or unhealthy sleep disruptions, can have various adverse effects, including poor work or academic performance, depression and irritability.

2. Serotonin

Adderall works by altering the activity of the neurotransmitters in the brain — the chemicals responsible for feelings and moods. Serotonin and dopamine are two of the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. They serve as the brain’s reward system because of the euphoric feelings of happiness and accomplishment they produce.

When a person abuses Adderall, the brain slowly loses its ability to manage these chemicals on its own. It becomes so dependent on the chemical stimulant to feel happy and content that it cannot experience these feelings without higher doses of Adderall. Unfortunately, even after doctors have diagnosed someone with an addiction and started treating the illness, a user’s brain may be so reliant on Adderall that it can’t naturally regulate itself. Without proper medical treatment and supervision, they may experience anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

3. Appetite

Even at appropriate doses, Adderall increases metabolism and suppresses appetite. Over time, this can result in weight loss. When taken correctly, a doctor can help patients manage this issue and ensure they are still getting the nourishment their body needs. But for someone addicted to Adderall, this can become dangerous. As a person spirals into a severe Adderall addiction, they may become less and less interested in food and lose more weight. Prolonged weight loss prevents users from getting the right nutrients for their body to stay healthy and strong. Lack of sleep and a chemical imbalance have already compromised the brain’s ability to function. When you add improper nutrition to the mix, it can lead to many other health problems, including a weakened immune system.

Adderall Overdose

Adderall can produce various uncomfortable side effects, but the most severe consequence of Adderall abuse is an overdose. An overdose occurs when a person ingests enough of a substance to produce a life-threatening reaction.

As a user takes Adderall more frequently, their body becomes accustomed to it. Over time, it will take higher doses of Adderall to create the euphoric effects they’re seeking. Sometimes, Adderall abusers will even inject or snort the drug because this provides a quicker and more potent effect. The more Adderall a person takes, the greater their risk of overdose. But it doesn’t always take a lot to lead to overdose. For instance, combining alcohol and Adderall enhances the medication’s effects.

Overdose is possibly the worst effect of Adderall because it can cause life-threatening conditions, such as a stroke, heart attack or liver failure. And it doesn’t take frequent use to result in an overdose. Overdose can occur the first time a person uses Adderall or any time after that.

Adderall overdose symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Panic
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils

If you suspect you or a loved one has overdosed on Adderall, don’t wait. Dial 9-1-1 and be honest with the dispatcher about what has happened. If doctors have a clear understanding of what’s happening, they can treat the overdose and increase the chances for a successful recovery.

We Are Here for You: Adderall Recovery

We Are Here for You: Adderall Recovery

If you or a loved one is addicted to Adderall, there is hope. Supervised withdrawal and rehabilitation can help you manage withdrawal and teach behavioral health skills for living a full life without drugs. At Synergy Recovery Services, we tailor our Bakersfield, CA-based recovery program to each client’s needs. Our dynamic approach to the treatment of Adderall addiction can help you as you begin the process of reclaiming your mental and physical well-being.

Our recovery program begins with supervised withdrawal. During this time, clients remain under the care of experienced doctors and psychological staff. Their initial goal is to ease withdrawal symptoms and help people remain as safe as possible during this uncomfortable phase. Once you’re medically stable, you’ll enter a customized treatment program designed to promote physical and emotional recovery.

Addiction is powerful, but don’t let it have the final say. For help with an Adderall addiction, contact us today or call 661-878-9930.

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