Adderall Addiction & Abuse
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Editor Abby Doty | Medically Reviewed By Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Last Updated: May 26, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Adderall is a Schedule II amphetamine drug that can be obtained by prescription. When it is used exactly as prescribed, it is safe. However, as a controlled substance, it does carry an increased risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.
What Is Adderall Used For?
Adderall is FDA-approved for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It works by increasing the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain to increase your attention.
College students and professionals sometimes abuse Adderall and other stimulants to study or increase their academic or work performance. While the drug does not make you smarter, it does give many people who abuse it a sense of energy and focus that makes all-night cramming sessions easier. However, Adderall is an extremely addictive substance with many negative side effects. Hospitalizations due to stimulants like Adderall have been increasing throughout America, including Washington State.
Adderall is known as a number of things on the street, including:
- Christmas Trees
- Pep Pills
- Black Beauties
- Double Trouble
Is Adderall Addictive?
As a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. The drug triggers the brain’s reward system, flooding the brain with dopamine. This creates a euphoric, feel-good high and stimulates you to seek out Adderall over and over again, increasing the chances of addiction.
You can also become psychologically addicted to Adderall, feeling like you’re more alert, productive and able to work while taking the drug.
For these reasons, it is important only to take Adderall exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Taking it more often than prescribed, taking higher doses than prescribed or taking Adderall that has not been prescribed to you can increase your risk of addiction.
Signs of Adderall addiction include:
- Spending an excessive amount of time taking or trying to obtain Adderall
- Going to different doctors and pharmacies seeking Adderall
- Stealing, borrowing or buying someone else’s Adderall
- Trouble controlling the amount of Adderall that is used
- Ignoring family or work obligations
- Social isolation
- Taking Adderall when it’s dangerous to do so
- Changes in sleep habits
- Needing larger doses of Adderall for it to be effective
Adderall changes the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters, so misusing the drug can create long-term problems. Side effects of chronic Adderall abuse include:
- Malnutrition and anorexia
Adderall also increases heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Over the long term, this can increase the chances of serious medical complications like a heart attack, stroke or seizure.
Adderall is the most commonly prescribed stimulant in the United States and is the 24th most commonly prescribed drug overall. In 2019, more than 24 million Americans took a prescription for Adderall.
Adderall Side Effects
Like all drugs, Adderall has some side effects. These include:
- Cardiovascular effects like palpitations, fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack
- Psychological effects like psychosis, overstimulation, restlessness, irritability, euphoria, depression, aggression, anger
- Visual side effects like blurred eyesight and enlarged pupils
- Gastrointestinal side effects like dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, appetite loss, weight loss
Adderall and Alcohol
You should generally avoid mixing Adderall and alcohol. This is because of a drug interaction between the two substances. Both Adderall and alcohol can impact your heart and cardiovascular system, making side effects like high blood pressure and increased heart rate more common. This can be dangerous, especially if you have pre-existing heart problems.
Drinking while taking Adderall can also increase your risk of overdose. Because Adderall is a stimulant, you may feel less drunk than you otherwise would. This can be dangerous because you may decide to operate a vehicle if you don’t know you are drunk. You may also keep drinking, which can increase your risk of alcohol poisoning.
When you take too much Adderall, the excess dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain can overstimulate it, causing an overload in your central nervous system. An Adderall overdose is a medical emergency — seek medical attention right away by calling 911 if you suspect one is occurring. Adderall’s overdose effects include:
When a person who has been taking Adderall for a long time suddenly stops the drug, withdrawal can occur as the body tries to recalibrate. Adderall withdrawal is often uncomfortable and may be dangerous.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Acute withdrawal symptoms often begin within 24 hours after the last dose. These withdrawal symptoms may last up to five days and can include:
- Disordered thoughts
- Increased sleeping
- Increased appetite
- Muscle aches
Some people may experience an additional, longer-term withdrawal phase after acute withdrawal. This can last for up to two months and may include symptoms like:
- Emotional changes
- Erratic sleep
- Adderall cravings
To avoid withdrawal symptoms, having a medically supervised detox plan can help. A medical detox can treat any withdrawal symptoms that arise so you can stop Adderall in the most comfortable way possible.
Your doctor may also sometimes help you taper off Adderall to avoid withdrawal symptoms. By gradually decreasing the dose of Adderall that you take, you can minimize withdrawal until your body is completely rid of the stimulant.
Tapering can be helpful for those with a mild Adderall addiction. Those with moderate to severe Adderall addiction may benefit from a medical detox where there is no access to Adderall at all. Your detox program can help you choose the best detox method for you.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
There is a misconception that Adderall addiction is just a bad habit, but this is not true. Adderall addiction is a drug addiction like any other — a medical disease that needs to be treated. A drug rehabilitation center for Adderall addiction can help.
The Recovery Village Ridgefield is an excellent choice for Adderall treatment. The facility offers personalized treatment plans and a full continuum of care, including medical detox, inpatient rehab, partial hospitalization, outpatient rehab and aftercare to those addicted to Adderall.
Located close to Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, our facility is staffed with licensed and experienced addiction specialists dedicated to your recovery. Call us today to speak to one of our compassionate experts in a confidential conversation.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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- Raypole, Crystal. “Everything You Need to Know About Psychological Dependence.” Healthline, May 28, 2020. Accessed January 9, 2022.
- Njuguna, Henry, et al. “Increasing rates of methamphetamine/amphetamine-involved overdose hospitalizations in Washington State, 2010–2017.” Addictive Behaviors Reports, May 28, 2021. Accessed January 9, 2022.
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