Understanding Adderall Abuse & Addiction
Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication formulated with a combination of various amphetamine salts (e.g., dextroamphetamine + amphetamine sulfate).1, 2 By increasing both the cellular release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters—in particular, dopamine and norepinephrine—amphetamine drugs like Adderall indirectly increase certain types of neural activity within the central nervous system.1, 2 Adderall is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder; despite their utility as pharmacotherapeutics, medications like Adderall are commonly diverted for non-medical misuse and abuse.1, 3
Just how many people are addicted to Adderall? In 2018, a nationwide survey of Americans aged 12 or older showed widespread stimulant abuse and addiction.4 Over five million people, slightly more than half of whom were under the age of 25, misused prescription stimulants. Stimulant addiction was also widely noted, with 561,000 people aged 12 or older struggling with an addiction to stimulants or, in diagnostic terms, a stimulant use disorder. While not all these individuals abuse Adderall specifically, the study showed prevalent stimulant abuse across a wide range of age groups.
Stimulants like Adderall are Schedule II drugs, meaning that they have a recognized medical purpose, but also carry a high risk for abuse and dependence. A person who is misusing Adderall may take it for longer than prescribed, take larger amounts than prescribed, use it without a prescription, or ingest it differently than it was intended (such as snorting it) to feel the effects faster and more intensely.3 Misusing Adderall can increase the likelihood of several adverse health effects, including addiction development.3 A person can develop an Adderall addiction quickly, in some cases after only a week of using.5
The Effects of Adderall
The effects of Adderall can manifest in both body and mind.While several immediate effects of Adderall arise shortly after using, repeated use can result in longer-term physical and mental issues as well. 6
Short Term Effects of Adderall
Some of the short-term effects of Adderall can feel stimulating and rewarding, which can make the drug more likely to be abused.3 , 6 These short term effects of Adderall include:2 , 3 , 6
- Feelings of euphoria.
- Having more energy.
- Increased sociability.
- Being more alert.
- Increased focus.
- Decreased appetite.
In addition to some of the more therapeutic pharmacologic effects, there are several potentially adverse and, in some cases, immediately dangerous developments associated with stimulant use and misuse, such as:1 , 2, 3 , 6
- Decreased inhibitions.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Increased body temperature.
- Cardiovascular issues such as increased blood pressure, rapid or irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke.
Long-Term Effects of Adderall Abuse
Long-term Adderall abuse can result in additional harm to your physical and mental health. The long-term effects of Adderall abuse may develop as some of the following symptoms and conditions:1 , 3 , 5 , 7
- Reinforced compulsive patterns of misuse.
- Memory problems.
- Cognitive disturbances, including issues with concentration, focus, and problem solving.
- Chronic hypertension.
- Heart failure.
- Increased suicide risk.
- Recurrent psychotic episodes including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
- Uncontrollable muscle movements.
- Chronically elevated risk of seizures.
Who is at Risk for Adderall Addiction?
Certain groups of people may turn to Adderall for some of its purported effects, which can place them at relatively higher risk for Adderall misuse and addiction. High school and college students may abuse Adderall in an attempt to stay awake and better focused on schoolwork in an effort to improve their grades.3, 7 Adults with high-profile or high-pressure jobs may abuse Adderall to improve their focus, work longer hours, or have better recall. Athletes on Adderall may feel more coordinated or as though they perform better in their sport.6
Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
Addiction, or a substance use disorder, is a diagnosis made based on a variety of characteristic signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes. Addiction can create significant distress or impairment in several areas of a person’s life.5 The signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction can be difficult to spot, and can manifest as both physical, cognitive, and behavioral signs and symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
Some of the signs of a potential Adderall addiction may be observed simply by looking at a person, although a formal diagnosis can only be made by a professional using more specific diagnostic criteria. Some physical changes that may be associated with chronic Adderall misuse may include:1 , 2 , 3 , 5 , 7
- Dental issues, including decay and tooth loss.
- Frequently dilated pupils.
- Moving or fidgeting a lot more than usual.
- Skin lesions.
- Sniffling or nosebleeds if it is snorted.
- Sweating excessively.
- Track marks or abscesses if it is injected.
- Weight loss.
Behavioral Symptoms of Adderall Addiction
Some mental or behavioral signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction can include:1 , 2 , 3 , 5 , 7
- Frequent bouts of anxiety.
- Becoming very talkative.
- Frequently picking at their skin.
- Being unable to fulfill responsibilities due to Adderall use (e.g., work, school, family).
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Continuing to use even after it has caused problems with relationships.
- Experiencing legal difficulties related to Adderall use.
- Having unexplained financial troubles.
- Getting Adderall illegally, or visiting more than one doctor for prescriptions (doctor shopping).
- Isolating, or spending time with different friends.
- Lying about Adderall use.
- Mood swings.
- Panicking when Adderall isn’t available.
- Quitting activities in favor of using.
- Taking more risks than normal.
- Unpredictable or violent behavior.
- Using more Adderall than prescribed, or taking it in a different way than prescribed, such as snorting or injecting it.
Are You Struggling with Adderall Addiction?
After reading this, you may be wondering if you are addicted to Adderall. Asking yourself the following questions may provide some insight into whether you have an issue with Adderall addiction:
- Do you recognize one or more of the symptoms described above?
- Are you thinking about getting help but are unsure about how to go about it?
If you answered yes to either one of these questions, you may be struggling with an addiction. Adderall addiction treatment can be immensely helpful in managing this disease.
American Addiction Centers Can Help
As the leading addiction treatment provider in the United States, American Addiction Centers focuses on not only treating the addiction itself, but the causes that led to its development. At American Addiction Centers, treatment is specialized to meet the needs of each person.
There are 8 treatment centers across the country, making it easier to access care. We are located in the following states:
To learn more about how American Addiction Centers can help, you can call our free helpline 24/7 to speak to an admissions navigator.
Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment?
If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides:
- What to expect when calling a substance abuse hotline
- The steps to sobriety
- How to pay for rehab
- How to start Treatment
- Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Adderall (CII).
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription stimulants.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Substance use — amphetamines.
- University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. (2020). Adderall: Use by prescription only.