Adderall Abuse Risks and Side Effects

Adderall Abuse Risks and Side Effects

Authored by Defining Wellness    Reviewed by Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis    Last Updated: August 17th, 2021


Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis Medical Reviewer
Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Despite the legitimate medical value of this drug to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, it also carries a high potential for abuse. Additionally, anyone taking Adderall must stay vigilant for signs of adverse side effects. While Adderall generally causes only mild side effects in people who need the drug, anyone who abuses it or takes more than prescribed risks adverse health effects and addiction.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription amphetamine, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts. When used appropriately, Adderall can ease the symptoms of ADHD making it easier to focus and complete tasks. Adderall is most commonly prescribed to children and teens who struggle in school with behavioral problems, inattention, and failure to absorb classroom material. While some of these issues may simply involve discipline-related problems or poor lifestyle choices, some younger people struggle with ADHD despite their best efforts to pay attention in school and complete tasks as required.

Appropriate Uses of Adderall

Adderall, like all amphetamines, is a powerful stimulant that improves focus. For those who do struggle with ADHD, Adderall can help them harness their hyperactivity and pay closer attention to specific details and stay on-task. In people who do not experience symptoms of ADHD or narcolepsy, Adderall can cause a burst of energy and enhanced concentration.

The typical Adderall prescription is between 2.5 milligrams and 60 milligrams each day in an oral tablet form. Anyone who receives a prescription for Adderall must carefully follow the instructions for use. It is important to pay close attention to warnings for potentially dangerous interactions with other medications, such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and antidepressants. Taken appropriately, Adderall can help people, struggling with ADHD or narcolepsy, manage their symptoms more effectively.

How Does Adderall Work?

Adderall raises blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate while suppressing the appetite. Long-term use of the drug can also alter brain chemistry and brain function, changing the way the individual’s emotions regulate. Adderall stimulates the central nervous system, altering the flow of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Short-release Adderall acts very quickly but does not last very long, with the effects usually wearing off within several hours. Longer-acting forms of the medication may provide relief from ADHD and narcolepsy symptoms for an entire day.

When used appropriately by an individual with ADHD, Adderall effects do not include the feelings of euphoria generally associated with illicit drugs. If an individual takes Adderall and experiences pleasurable and euphoric sensations, it is very likely the individual does not have ADHD and should not use Adderall. Unfortunately, the Drug Abuse Warning Network reported a 650% increase in emergency room visits for Adderall abuse from 2004 to 2011.

Potential for Abuse

Adderall not only causes euphoric sensations when taken inappropriately, it also greatly enhances energy levels and focus. Adderall is one of the most often abused drugs on college campuses as students use it to stay up late studying, cram before important exams, and complete projects and assignments on time. The side effects of Adderall are more pronounced in people who take it without a prescription.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013 reported about 1.4 million cases of misuse of prescription stimulants in the month prior to the survey. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported between 2006 and 2007 that full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 were more than twice as likely to abuse Adderall than peers of equivalent age who did not attend college full-time.

Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

Adderall side effects can manifest in those who take the drug with a legitimate prescription, but people who abuse Adderall are more likely to display serious symptoms more quickly. Some of the milder side effects common among users of Adderall include mood swings, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, and irritability. Other more severe symptoms may include aggression, dizziness, fever, diminished sexual drive, and weight loss. People who misuse Adderall face a higher risk of experiencing these symptoms.

Severe side effects of Adderall can involve seizures, abdominal pain, stroke, heart attack, or even death from overdose. Even a single dose of Adderall can cause a sudden cardiac death or toxic overdose. A person taking other prescription medications or illicit drugs may experience dangerous effects from these interactions.

For example, alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. When used with a stimulant like Adderall, the individual may not notice the usual internal cues that he or she has had enough to drink, potentially leading to alcohol poisoning.

Habit-Forming Properties of Adderall

Nonmedical use of Adderall is incredibly dangerous. Adderall Rx side effects can be troublesome even for those with legitimate needs for the drug, so everyone should think twice about using Adderall inappropriately as a short-term stimulant, especially if they take other medications.

Adderall can cause euphoric feelings and bursts of energy that become addictive. One of the most dangerous potential long-term effects of Adderall is creating a chemical dependency. Eventually, a person who abuses Adderall will need increasingly larger doses of the drug to feel the desired effects.

Some people even alter their Adderall pills by crushing them and snorting them for a more concentrated, fast-acting effect. Another factor that frequently spurs Adderall addiction is the general perception of prescription drugs as safe, even for those without a medical need for a drug. This is a serious misconception that everyone must acknowledge to avoid serious side effects of Adderall abuse.

Students generally face the highest risk of suffering adverse side effects from Adderall. While many professionals and students of various levels report that Adderall helps improve focus and increases productivity, even short-term use can be dangerous. Ultimately, it is never safe to take Adderall in any form, of any strength, without a valid prescription.

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