Side Effects of Adderall

Content Overview

What Are Some Serious Side Effects of Adderall?

Serious side effects associated with Adderall include:


  • Hypertension
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite suppression
  • Overdose
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Stroke
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sexual dysfunction

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) saw a 650 percent spike in visits to emergency departments related to the abuse or misuse of Adderall from 2004-2011, and a 100 percent spike from 2009-2011.
 
Adderall is the brand name of the drug amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, a prescription medication primarily used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, by enhancing concentration and focus levels. It is commonly abused as a weight loss drug, study drug, or recreationally as a party drug as well.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2013 reported that there were 1.4 million nonmedical users of prescription stimulants in the month prior to the survey. College students may be more prone to abusing Adderall than other demographics, in an effort to enhance their studies or “get ahead.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published that for the years 2006 and 2007, fulltime college students ages 18-22 were twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their peers who were not in college fulltime.

As many as 61.8 percent of college students were offered a prescription stimulant at some point while in school, according to a 2011 study compiled by the Center for Young Adult Health and Development.

Serious Health Risks

Side Effects of Adderall

Stimulants such as Adderall raise blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate, keeping users awake and stimulated while suppressing appetites.

Regular use or abuse of Adderall can make changes in the structures of the brain and change the way emotions are regulated. They can also be hard on the heart muscles, lungs, vascular system, and other internal organs.

Even one-time use of Adderall may result in sudden cardiac death or a potential toxic overdose. Between 1999 and 2003, there were 25 reported fatalities and 54 additional serious medical issues related to the use of ADHD stimulant medications, CBS News publishes. Many of these cases did have prior or undiagnosed conditions that may have been contributing factors in their reactions to the drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning about the risk for potential sudden cardiac death when using Adderall, although confirmed cases are considered rare when the medication is used as intended.

Adderall is not always used as intended, however, and nonmedical use of the drug increases the odds for a negative outcome. Mixing Adderall with other drugs or alcohol increases the risks for potential hazardous side effects.

Alcohol, for example, is a central nervous system depressant while Adderall is a stimulant. So Adderall may keep a person awake and potentially shut off the internal cues telling the body that it has had enough alcohol, causing someone to continue to drink. This can possibly result in alcohol poisoning as alcohol reaches toxic levels in the bloodstream. Mixing Adderall with other substances is never a good idea.

In addition to the possibility of sudden cardiac death, other serious side effects of Adderall use and abuse include:

  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Sexual dysfunction

Panic Attacks and Mood Disturbances

Woman In Depressed Mood Sits On The WindowAdderall functions by increasing the presence of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and interfering with the way that some of these neurotransmitters are reabsorbed, creating a buildup. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are specifically affected. These chemical messengers are responsible for increasing energy levels, stimulating the brain, and creating feelings of pleasure. They “talk” to the parts of the brain responsible for the regulation of emotions, internal motivation, and reward.

As these regions of the brain and their messengers are artificially altered by drugs such as Adderall, the chemical structures begin to slowly change. The brain may stop making as much dopamine on its own, for instance, since it has become accustomed to the stimulant drug’s interference in its regular production. Since Adderall has ensured that dopamine remains present, the brain will make less of it. When Adderall then leaves the bloodstream and dopamine levels drop, the good feelings will also disappear. Anxiety, depression, and panic may set in. These symptoms are typical of Adderall withdrawal, which can occur after dependence has formed from chronic use of the drug.

Adderall is considered a highly addictive drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which classifies it as a Schedule II controlled substance, the highest level of control for a drug with accepted medicinal uses.

Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall can be uncomfortable and include both physical and psychological side effects. Someone addicted to Adderall may have trouble sleeping, feel jittery and irritable, notice a change in appetite, feel extremely fatigued, have drug cravings, feel down, and even potentially have thoughts of suicide. If Adderall is used or abused for a long period of time, it can take some time to reverse these changes in the brain and for the neurotransmitter levels to return to their previous levels prior to the drug’s introduction. Often, medical detox is the safest and smoothest way to remove the drug from the body and provide the necessary support during recovery.

Drastic mood swings or shifts in behavior may also accompany Adderall use. In some cases, the introduction of stimulant drugs may trigger panic attacks or even psychosis, which may include hallucinations or delusions. Heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature may spike even higher as the “fight or flight” reflex is turned on. A 2006 study published in The New York Times estimated that about one in 400 patients might suffer from suicidal thoughts or psychotic behaviors when taking ADHD stimulant medications even as directed. The risks may go up with nonmedical or recreational use.

Because Adderall raises blood pressure and heart rate, over time, this may damage or weaken parts of the cardiovascular system in the body, which includes the heart, lungs, arteries, and veins. These vital organs and vessels are forced to work harder due to the drug’s interaction in the body and may become strained with long-term use.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, and tachycardia, an elevated heart rate, are commonly reported with stimulant drug use or abuse. The lungs may also be damaged with Adderall use, resulting in reduced lung capacity, trouble breathing, and possible pulmonary disease. Chest pain, irregular heart rate, and heart palpitations may also be present in someone using Adderall. For someone who may already have a heart condition or underlying medical issue, Adderall can be particularly dangerous, and its use may result in heart attack, seizures, or stroke.

Muscles in the digestive tract are slowed down by Adderall use, which may lead to constipation, abdominal pain, and other gastrointestinal issues. The need to urinate more often may also be a side effect of Adderall use, as may nausea and diarrhea.

Since Adderall decreases appetite, it is also possible to suffer from unhealthy weight loss or even unintentional anorexia while taking the drug. Not eating enough can result in malnutrition that can affect many vital organs and have serious side effects on the body. Couple that with the difficulty sleeping Adderall use may induce, and the body and brain may have trouble functioning at normal rates. Kidneys and other organs may also be damaged by Adderall use, resulting in potential kidney failure.

Recovery from Side Effects of Use

Many of the possible medical and mental health issues associated with Adderall use or abuse may be the result of an underlying or preexisting condition. Legitimate Adderall use should be monitored by a medical professional, and recreational use can have serious and potentially dangerous consequences.


If someone has been abusing Adderall, recovery is possible with comprehensive treatment. In most cases, the side effects related to abuse of the drug can be reversed with proper care.


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