Long-Term Effects of Heavy Adderall Use

Side Effects & Health Concerns
Effects of Adderall
Long-Term Use

Content Overview

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Heavy Adderall Use?

People who abuse a great deal of Adderall over a long period of time may experience:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Constipation

Close to 50 million prescription stimulant drugs like Adderall were dispensed in 2011 to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

This represents an almost 40 percent rise in these prescriptions since 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) publishes.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood neurobiological disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of July 2015, almost 10 percent, or close to 6 million, American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetimes.

adderall abuse

Adderall is the brand name of the drug amphetamine-dextroamphetamine that is intended to increase focus and attention spans in those suffering from ADHD. It is also prescribed to treat daytime sleepiness or narcolepsy at times.

adderall abuse rates college
As prescriptions for Adderall rise, so may its potential for diversion and nonmedical use, which increases its health risks too. Adderall is abused as a “smart drug” across college campuses. It is used to combat the pressures of higher education in an attempt to stay awake and focus for longer periods of time, thereby enabling students to potentially get more done.
A study at the University of Kentucky found that 30 percent of its students had abused an ADHD stimulant drug like Adderall at some point as a possible “study enhancer,” CNN reports.

Adderall also suppresses the appetite and may also be abused as a weight loss drug. Other times it may be used in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol recreationally, or to get “high.” Mixing Adderall with other substances can be very dangerous and may more easily result in a life-threatening overdose or negative interaction between the substances.

Stimulant drugs like Adderall are addictive and using them recreationally may increase the chances of developing a psychological and physical dependence on them.

Adderall’s side effects including: physical damage to the brain, internal systems, and organs are the results of a long-term abuse of an additive drug.

How Extended Adderall Use Affects the Brain

Stimulants increase concentration and energy levels while decreasing the need for sleep and suppressing appetites. Adderall increases the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. These are messengers in the brain’s reward and motivation pathways, and they are responsible for the regulation of emotions and feelings of pleasure. The brain senses that there are enough neurotransmitters present, due to Adderall’s influence, and stops producing them, changing some of the brain’s natural reward circuitry. The more often Adderall is taken, the more ingrained these changes become. A tolerance to the drug may form, and more Adderall may be needed at each dose in order to feel the same desired effects.
As Adderall leaves the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings may occur, indicating a physical and emotional dependence on the drug. The way in which Adderall is abused, along with the amount and duration of abuse can affect the dependence level to the drug. Crushing the pills and then injecting or snorting them, for example, sends the drug into the brain more rapidly than ingesting them whole and having them enter the bloodstream via the digestive tract. As a result, injecting or snorting the crushed pills increases the chances for a life-threatening overdose and the potential for addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects each person individually, and environmental and biological factors may also play a role in its onset.
Someone who is dependent on Adderall may have trouble sleeping and concentrating, notice a lack of motivation, and feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, or fatigued when it is removed from the body. Aggression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors may be more prevalent in those abusing an amphetamine drug such as Adderall, ABC News reports.

For someone who has been abusing Adderall for an extended period of time, the emotional aspect of withdrawal may be the most noticeable side effect. Natural production of dopamine is reduced, causing low moods and trouble feeling pleasure without the drug. The more and longer Adderall is abused, the more pronounced the mood swings may be when it is removed from the body. Most of these changes in the brain will likely be repaired over time with sustained abstinence and proper care and support, fortunately.

In some cases, Adderall and other prescription stimulants have been reported to cause psychosis and schizophrenia-like symptoms, such as paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and other behavioral or mood disturbances, the journal Molecular Psychiatry publishes. Anxiety and panic attacks may also be triggered by long-term use of an amphetamine stimulant or during Adderall withdrawal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, even prints warnings on Adderall labels about potential negative psychiatric side effects. Symptoms may be heightened in someone with a history of mental illness or an underlying mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Physical Side Effects


Stimulants like Adderall raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and repeated use or abuse, particularly in high doses, can create a range of medical issues from a stroke to a seizure to a heart attack.

Adderall can cause damage to the heart and cardiovascular system when used for a prolonged period of time, especially when used in excess. The most common ADHD medication cardiovascular problems reported are hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (irregular heart rate), as published by Brain and Body. Sudden cardiac death may also be a potential side effect of Adderall.

Other side effects of abusing Adderall long-term include:

  • Heart disease
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Trouble breathing
  • Constipation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Feeling jittery or “on edge”

Using Adderall heavily for a long period of time increases all the risk factors and potential long-term side effects, which may get progressively worse.

The heart muscle may be weakened with prolonged stimulant abuse, leading to more complications. Changes in the brain, as well as mood and behavior issues related to prolonged Adderall abuse, may also continue unless the drug is safely removed from the body.

Detox from Adderall is not sufficient treatment, however. It must be followed with a substance abuse treatment program to help prevent relapse and support long-term recovery.

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