Adderall Addiction: Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects
Adderall is an amphetamine medication primarily used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At therapeutic doses, Adderall can enhance attention and memory. Its reputation as a brain booster has made it popular among high school and college students. However, research shows that Adderall doesn’t improve the grades of students who do not have ADHD. When people misuse the medication by taking large doses or taking it too frequently, the medication tends to have the opposite effect, impairing cognitive functioning.
Like other amphetamines, Adderall is addictive. Many people who first took it to get through an all-nighter or cram for a test describe how they quickly progressed to using it every day for school, work and recreation. As tolerance develops, people need more Adderall to achieve the same effect. Eventually, they get to the point where they take it to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of Adderall abuse include going to great lengths to get more of it and continuing to use it despite negative impacts on work, finances and relationships. Fortunately, Adderall use disorders can be treated. With the right help, people can break the cycle of addiction and regain control of their lives.
Symptoms of Adderall Abuse
Tolerance and withdrawal are classic symptoms of addiction, but they are rarely the first signs that someone is misusing a substance. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines substance abuse as a pattern of using a substance despite its negative effects on a person’s life. When people start misusing Adderall, symptoms can include:
- Maintaining Adderall use despite financial, legal or medical problems caused by it
- Continuing to use Adderall in spite of personal and professional consequences
- Using Adderall in situations in which it is physically or medically dangerous
- Using Adderall for off-label purposes, like staying up all night or socializing
- Spending a significant amount of time and effort to obtain Adderall
The negative consequences of misusing Adderall and its unpleasant side effects increase as people take it in large amounts and over long periods.
Side Effects of Adderall
Adderall bottles usually come with labels or additional documentation listing potential side effects. These effects can occur after a single dose, especially for people who are allergic or otherwise sensitive to the drug. However, they are more likely to occur when people take Adderall regularly over long periods.
Some of the most common side effects of Adderall use include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Restlessness and agitation
- Involuntary shaking of the arm or leg
These effects occur for the same reason that Adderall can help people with ADHD focus their attention. Like other amphetamines, Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that enhances the effect of brain chemicals including dopamine and norepinephrine and increases brain activity. At high levels, Adderall can also activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which increases heart rate, lung capacity and blood flow to the muscles, as well as sweating and anxiety. The SNS also inhibits digestion to preserve energy for other bodily systems so people can fight or flee from a threat.
People using Adderall may experience additional severe side effects, including:
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Motor and verbal tics
- Dizziness and fainting
- Increased body temperature
- Pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Adderall can also cause severe psychiatric side effects including extreme anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia and hallucinations. At high enough doses, Adderall can cause these symptoms on its own, but it can also trigger them by exacerbating underlying mental health conditions.
Side Effects of Long-Term Adderall Abuse
Long-term Adderall use can cause many chronic medical and psychiatric complications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that using Adderall, even in standard doses, can lead to “serious cardiovascular events” including heart attack and sudden death. Over time, repeated overstimulation of the cardiovascular system can cause people to develop chronic heart conditions.
Adderall can also cause adverse psychological effects. People who have a co-occurring mental health condition or other underlying psychological sensitivities are at increased risk of experiencing these effects. Psychiatric side effects include symptoms of mania, like rapid speech and grandiosity, as well as signs of psychosis, such as paranoid ideation and auditory hallucinations. In rare cases, Adderall can even induce trichotillomania.
Amphetamines cause people to experience the opposite of their active effects during the withdrawal period. People who regularly use amphetamines often go through periods of depression in between episodes of use. Over long periods, these episodes of depression can develop into chronic depressive disorders. Stimulants like Adderall can be especially dangerous for people with bipolar disorder due to their potential to trigger manic episodes.
Signs of Adderall Overdose
An Adderall overdose has effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Symptoms of Adderall overdose may include:
- Blurry vision
- Rapid breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
While Adderall overdoses are rarely fatal, they can be. The most dangerous effects of Adderall toxicity are elevated body temperature, or hyperthermia, and irregular heartbeat. Significantly elevated body temperature can cause coma, brain damage and in some cases, death. Adderall overdoses can also be fatal when they induce heart attacks.
You don’t have to wait until you suffer from an overdose to get help. Whether you’ve been misusing Adderall for a long time and are experiencing severe complications of long-term use or have only just become concerned about your Adderall use, there is a program that can address your needs. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to get started. A representative can answer your questions and help you make an informed decision about the next step in your recovery.Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.