Can Adderall cause Anxiety?

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

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.

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Can Adderall Cause or Worsen Anxiety?

More and more people are turning to prescription stimulants. In just one year alone, between 2020 and 2021, prescriptions for stimulants increased by 10% for females (15–44 years old) and males (25–44 years old). Even though stimulants offer significant advantages for those with ADHD, they also carry the risk of side effects, dangerous drug interactions, abuse and death. When combined with underlying anxiety, Adderall can increase feelings of agitation and rapid cognition. Finding a happy medium between controlling ADHD symptoms and reducing anxiety is essential to living a balanced lifestyle.

To help you better understand the link between anxiety and Adderall, we’ve put together an in-depth guide covering both subjects. If you’re struggling with anxiety while taking Adderall, we suggest utilizing the advice in this guide in conjunction with the guidance of your doctor.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is available only with a doctor’s prescription. Its most common use is in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall improves one’s ability to pay attention and concentrate by altering  the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain.

Other illnesses that doctors sometimes treat with Adderall are:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
  • Depersonalization disorder

Adderall has substantial health concerns when used improperly, especially by those who have no medical need to use it. Some people use Adderall for its beneficial effects on attention, focus and cognitive abilities to perform better in school or at work. Adderall helps people with narcolepsy stay awake and attentive throughout the day, which are common symptoms of the disorder. No matter what your reason is for taking the drug, long-term usage increases the risk of developing tolerance, which therefore necessitates having to take more of the drug to have the same effect. More so, it can lead to dependency and addiction.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder characterized by elevated levels of anxious thoughts and feelings. Although this is a natural reaction to stress, anxiety can have serious consequences if it persists or becomes overpowering. Recognizing the signs of anxiety and getting the help you need requires having a firm grasp on what causes it.

What Causes Anxiety?

Anxiety is a multifaceted psychiatric disorder affected by both hereditary and environmental variables as well as specific life circumstances. Those who have a close relative with an anxiety illness have a higher risk of developing the disease themselves. Physiological and biochemical factors, including serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) imbalances, may also play a role in the development of anxiety.

Trauma, whether from abuse or a major life transition, is a common trigger for anxiety episodes. Persistent uneasiness may also be the result of ongoing anxiety whether from professional, interpersonal or financial sources. In addition, one’s upbringing and acquired behaviors can play a significant role; those exposed to stressful situations when young may develop anxiety as adults.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Both the mind and the body can feel the effects of anxiety. Symptoms that are quite common include:

  • Excessive worrying in the form of chronic, unmanageable fretting about uncertain future outcomes
  • Constant feeling of being on edge, agitated or unable to maintain stillness
  • Muscle tightness, shaking and discomfort
  • Increasing heart rate or palpitations
  • A sense of suffocation and shallow or fast breathing characterized by shortness of breath
  • Inability to concentrate on a single activity or remember information
  • Insomnia, waking up often or the inability to fall asleep for more than a few minutes
  • Prolonged irritability in the form of frustration, agitation or outbursts of wrath

Anxiety disorders need a thorough evaluation by a doctor to make a diagnosis. During the diagnosis process, you’ll need to provide a detailed description of clinical symptoms, including how long they last and how they affect your everyday life.

Your doctor may perform a physical examination along with psychological assessments to help rule out the possibility of a medical issue being a source of your anxiety. The assessments will most likely involve the administration of standardized questionnaires or surveys.

Can Adderall Cause Anxiety?

Adderall use itself does not cause anxiety. However, after prolonged use of the drug, withdrawal from it can lead to symptoms of both anxiety and depression. This is why it’s so important to avoid abusing the substance. To do this, you must take Adderall strictly according to your healthcare provider’s directions. 

If you want to stop taking Adderall, talk to your doctor about gradually reducing your dosage. By gradually tapering off the medicine, you lessen the likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety and despair. 

Can Adderall Worsen Preexisting Anxiety?

Adderall’s energizing properties can heighten preexisting anxiety symptoms, making them more noticeable or upsetting. It can also disrupt your sleeping patterns, making you more fatigued, which can lead to increased exhaustion and a vicious cycle involving elevated worry and insomnia. If you take Adderall and think it’s worsening your preexisting or comorbid anxiety, it’s best to seek medical attention right away.

How to Prevent Anxiety When Taking Adderall

Anxiety management with Adderall medication is especially crucial for those with preexisting anxiety. To keep your anxiety in check while using this drug, you should stay in touch with your healthcare practitioner and talk to them openly about any concerns you may have. Talking about your worries and any changes in your degree of worry will give your physician a clear picture of your overall well-being. If required, your doctor can modify your dose or talk to you about other treatment approaches.

Another way to keep your anxiety in check is to take your medications exactly as prescribed. You may think taking a smaller dose of Adderall will decrease anxiety symptoms, but, instead, this can actually increase anxious thoughts and behaviors. The only time you should ever alter your dosage is if your doctor tells you to.

Other ways to minimize anxiety while taking Adderall include keeping a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Equally important is to drink plenty of water. One study discovered that simply drinking enough water can ward off feelings of anxiety and depression.

Some doctors recommend  using magnesium supplements to reduce anxiety. Before adding any supplement to your medication regimen, though, it’s imperative to speak with your physician to ensure there are no potential drug interactions.

Doctors also recommend  keeping a regular schedule to improve chronic disease management. This applies to anxiety because medical experts categorize generalized anxiety disorder as a chronic illness. Keeping a regular schedule and being able to anticipate what will happen next makes it easier to keep your anxious thoughts at bay. In addition, you should not combine Adderall with any other stimulants, like nicotine and caffeine, both of which can worsen anxiety

How to Prevent Addiction to Adderall

Your worsening anxiety isn’t the only concern you face when taking Adderall. You also run the risk of getting addicted to the drug; this especially applies to people who abuse Adderall. Fortunately, there are several precautions you can take to prevent an addiction to Adderall. The first preventative measure you ought to take is to educate yourself about Adderall addiction.

Why Is Adderall Addictive?

Adderall causes the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and reward. This spike induces a pleasant feeling, which further increases the desire to consume the substance. Tolerance develops with repeated usage, necessitating ever-increasing dosing to achieve the initial impact. 

For many people, withdrawal symptoms from abruptly stopping the use of Adderall contribute to the development of the dependency. There’s also the risk of developing an extreme psychological need for the substance to maintain attention and energy levels throughout the day. Ultimately, Adderall’s effect on the brain’s dopamine levels is what makes it highly addictive.

What Are the Symptoms of Adderall Addiction?

Several symptoms might indicate that someone has developed an Adderall addiction. Heart rate increases, blood pressure spikes and sleeplessness are all possible side effects. A person’s mental state will likely worsen, causing increased anxiety, restlessness and irritation. 

Increasing tolerance is another hallmark of addiction; it presents itself as a person who needs more and more of the same drug to achieve the same effect. Those addicted to Adderall often modify their behavior, becoming reclusive, secretive and avoiding their obligations. They may even seek out various doctors to try and acquire more than one prescription for Adderall. In addition, the individual’s focus will shift from other activities and interests to that of getting and consuming the substance. 

What Are the Treatments for Adderall Addiction?

There are many treatment options available to those with an addiction to Adderall. Some people require minimal treatment, such as an outpatient or a 30-day rehab program. Others need longer-term care, like treatment in a residential facility. Consultation with a trained professional in the field of addiction is essential for determining the best treatment approach.

Programs differ in the kind and number of available treatments they provide. You may need to start the treatment process with a medically supervised detox. During this type of treatment, your provider may slowly reduce your Adderall dosage while monitoring you around-the-clock to ensure a safe withdrawal. The doctor may also prescribe other medications. Numerous studies highlight the effectiveness of using drugs like buprenorphine, naltrexone and atomoxetine to achieve sobriety.

Treatment providers also offer cognitive behavioral treatment and other forms of talk therapy when treating Adderall addiction. These treatments assist people in recognizing and altering destructive patterns of thinking and action related to their Adderall use.

Using Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Adderall Addiction and Anxiety

People with anxiety problems may experiment with self-medication by using stimulants like Adderall. However, this pattern of self-medication can easily spiral into addiction. Treatment for a dual diagnosis takes into account the mutual influence of both illnesses and offers a more thorough, root-cause-oriented form of therapy.

During dual-diagnosis treatment, your provider will take into account the various ways that ADHD plays a part in your substance use disorder (SUD). People who struggle with both ADHD and drug misuse tend to start abusing substances at a younger age than those who just struggle with ADHD, are more likely to have a chronic issue with their substance dependency, are less likely to go into remission and will likely take a longer time to attain independence from the drug.

Given that medication is still the go-to method for treating ADHD, it stands to reason that a sensible therapy regimen for those with a comorbid SUD would also involve pharmacotherapy. However, non-stimulant medication may be preferable to stimulant treatment in certain situations. A personalized risk-benefit analysis is necessary before prescribing stimulant medication for those with ADHD and comorbid disorders, like SUD or anxiety. You can obtain a personalized risk-benefit analysis through dual-diagnosis treatment.

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If you’re struggling with an addiction to Adderall, anxiety can make it harder to reach out for help. Thankfully, all it takes is one step to get you on the right track toward recovery. All you have to do is reach out to the Defining Wellness Centers. We offer a wide range of treatments for Adderall addiction, including detox, inpatient, outpatient, aftercare and dual diagnosis. You can begin your path to recovery today!

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