Article Overview:

  • Adderall is a combination of the stimulants amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
  • The drug is FDA-approved for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug that is FDA-approved to treat the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. It is a brand-name combination of two separate stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Due to its risk of abuse, dependence and addiction, Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance.

Adderall stimulates the central nervous system and activates many functions of the body. When a doctor prescribes Adderall, they’ll typically prescribe it at low doses to prevent potentially adverse side effects and increase the dose as necessary. The doctor’s goal is to help the patient increase the length of their attention span and have more self-control.

Adderall increases the level of dopamine in the brain, providing a sense of stimulation. If someone has ADHD, the drug creates a sense of calm; for people who don’t have ADHD, however, it creates more of a high. People who use Adderall to get high may take the drug orally, crush the pills and snort them or even dissolve them in water to inject them.

Adderall has the potential for abuse for many reasons. For example, students will often use the drug to help them stay awake longer, concentrate on studying or party for longer periods. A person may also use it as a way to lose weight because it acts as an appetite suppressant. Adderall is one of the most common types of drugs found on college campuses in Colorado and across the U.S.

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Is Adderall Addictive?

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance because it is addictive. The drug floods the brain with dopamine, which is what creates a euphoric, feel-good high. This stimulates the brain’s reward system, and because the brain is wired to seek out things that bring pleasure over and over again, addiction can develop. A person can also become psychologically addicted to the physical effects of Adderall, such as feeling like they’re more alert, productive and able to work for long periods of time.

If you take Adderall for a while and become used to getting a lot of academic or professional work completed, you may go into withdrawal when you try to function without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include feeling like you’re not able to perform at the same level as you did with the drug. You may also feel like you’re suffering from a mental fogginess without Adderall and that your normal levels of functionality decline without the drug.

Side Effects of Adderall

There are a number of side effects that can come from Adderall use, particularly for people who use it recreationally or take high doses. It can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Additionally, it can increase the risk of certain mental health problems, including depression and aggression. 

If you take Adderall for a legitimate medical reason and follow your doctor’s instructions, you’re less likely to experience adverse reactions.

Some of the side effects of Adderall can include:

  • Excitability
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sexual problems
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

When someone takes Adderall, it tends to make them feel a euphoric high that includes increased energy. They may feel an increased sense of self-confidence and be very focused and attentive on tasks. This is especially true for people who are taking the drug without a prescription or against the doctor’s instructions. As someone comes off the high of Adderall, though, they may seem depressed, despondent or fatigued.

Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

If you suspect someone is struggling with Adderall abuse, it’s helpful to know what signs to look for.

These signs can include:

  • Having a prescription but taking larger doses, or taking it more frequently than prescribed
  • Relying on Adderall to feel normal, social or productive
  • Putting all of your attention on when you’ll get more Adderall or take it again
  • Doctor shopping, or making up symptoms to get an Adderall prescription
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or other loved ones
  • Stealing or buying Adderall illegally
  • Mixing Adderall with other substances, such as alcohol

Long-Term Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

Adderall alters the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, so abusing the drug can create lasting problems.

Long-term side effects of Adderall abuse include

  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition and anorexia

Adderall also raises the user’s heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. With long-term abuse, these effects can increase the likelihood of a person experiencing serious medical conditions, including heart attack, stroke or seizure. 

Adderall Addiction Symptoms

Adderall changes the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, affecting the reward system and causing cravings. Essentially, a person can start to feel as if they can’t function without Adderall and develop a compulsion to continue using it. At this point, addiction has taken hold.

Adderall addiction symptoms include:

  • Not feeling normal without Adderall, or going through withdrawal if drug use ends
  • Unsuccessful attempts to end Adderall use
  • Having financial, school or work trouble because of Adderall
  • Continuing to use it even when there are negative outcomes and consequences
  • Doing things that are extreme or dangerous to obtain more Adderall
  • Developing a tolerance to Adderall, making it necessary to take larger doses for the same effects
  • Having cravings for Adderall
  • Crushing Adderall to inject or snort it

Signs of Adderall Overdose

There are several Adderall overdose signs, including

  • Agitation
  • Increased body temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizure

Adderall overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Colorado Poison Center for online assistance.

See More: How To Treat an Adderall Overdose

If you or someone you love may be struggling with Adderall abuse, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is here to help. Our Colorado treatment facility provides a full continuum of care, beginning with medical detox and concluding with long-term aftercare services. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and recovery programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.