Symptoms of Adderall Addiction, Use, and Abuse

Content Overview


Adderall, a prescription amphetamine, is a drug of abuse among people seeking a stimulant high.
Due to its addiction potential, a person can rapidly move from Adderall recreational use to abuse to addiction. While teens and young adults are most affected, anyone can develop an Adderall abuse problem. The physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms can include:

  • Sociability, talkativeness, and fast thoughts
  • A sense of grandiosity, invincibility, and intense wellbeing
  • Dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting
  • Nervousness, anxiety, and panic
  • Doctor shopping
  • Manipulating Adderall’s format (e.g., crushing and snorting it)
  • Being fearful of the prospect of not having Adderall
  • Spending a significant amount of time finding the drug, using it, or recovering from Adderall use

Adderall abuse will cause a person to build a tolerance to the drug. In order to experience the desired Adderall high, over time, a person will have to consume more of this drug. When the abuse stops, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Such symptoms can include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, confusion, and/or sleep troubles.


Adderall is a well-known drug of abuse, but a slightly surprising one nonetheless. This pharmaceutical drug is legally manufactured and prescribed for certain medical conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. But Adderall is abused by users who don’t have a prescription for the medication because it contains amphetamine, a potent stimulant. Adderall abuse falls within the stimulant use disorder category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).
In the past, there was a clinical differentiation between physical dependence and addiction. However, DSM-5 has joined these concepts together under the rubric of substance use disorders (with each of nine drug categories having their own use disorder). For diagnostic purposes, a person has a substance use disorder, from mild to severe, depending on the number of symptoms they experience. Per the DSM-5, there are 11 listed symptoms. The following is a sample of the symptoms that can emerge as a result of a stimulant use disorder:
  • Continuing to abuse Adderall even though it is causing physical and psychological problems
  • Shirking responsibilities related to core spheres of life, such as family, work, or school, in order to abuse Adderall
  • Taking higher doses of Adderall or taking it too frequently in order to get a high from it
  • Having to consume more Adderall to get a similar high to that experienced with earlier use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the familiar amount of Adderall consumption drops

The group of individuals who abuse Adderall can be subdivided into at least two groups. There are those who obtained this drug as a result of having a medical condition for which it is indicated. This group typically will not develop a substance use disorder, provided they follow the prescribing doctor’s orders. There are also those who do not have a medical need for Adderall and, through different means, obtain pills and abuse them with the intention to get a high. The format of Adderall pills is often manipulated to potentiate the high. For instance, individuals who abuse Adderall may crush the pills and snort them, so as to deliver the stimulant faster to the brain and get a more intense euphoric rush.

It’s not surprising that Adderall abuse is associated with a host of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms and signs of abuse.

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Physical and Psychological Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

Physical side effects of Adderall can emerge shortly after use. Adderall triggers the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Prescribed users get a therapeutic benefit from it while recreational users who abuse this stimulant can get a high. The following are some of the effects that may be experienced right after Adderall abuse:

  • The illusion of wellness
  • A desire to work
  • Feeling social
  • Getting insights about the meaning of life
  • A sensation of excitement or being hyperactive
  • Being talkative
  • Thinking about things more than usual
  • A feeling of impatience, worry, nervousness, and anxiety
These symptoms would be perceptible to someone in the immediate environment of the person who is abusing Adderall. However, the people who are most likely to be concerned about the Adderall abuse may not be around when it’s going on. For this reason, it can be helpful to know the short-term effects of Adderall, which can linger long enough to be perceived by family, friends, work colleagues, and classmates. Some of the more commonly reported side effects of Adderall abuse are:

  • Sleep difficulties (falling asleep or staying asleep)
  • Headache
  • Shaking uncontrollably in an area of the body, such as a leg
  • Changes in one’s level of sexual interest
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss or malnutrition
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
In addition, a person may experience mental health side effects. Some of these symptoms are hallucinations and believing things that aren’t true. Serious side effects may be less common, but they can happen and it’s best to know what’s possible. The following are some of the most severe side effects associated with Adderall abuse:

  • Pounding heartbeat or fast heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling faint, dizziness, or changes in vision
  • Numbness in the arms or legs
  • Slowed speech
  • Exhaustion, fever, rash, or itching
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or hoarseness
  • Verbal or muscular tics
  • Seizures
  • Blistering or peeling skin, swelling of the throat, face, tongue, or eyes

Adderall abuse is also associated with long-term side effects. As MD Junction discusses, Adderall is exceptionally addictive, which means abuse runs the risk of developing into a stimulant use disorder. It has also been noted that when an individual stops using Adderall (i.e., goes into withdrawal), they may experience suicidal thoughts, mania, panic, or nightmares.

There does not appear to be extensive information available about the impact of Adderall or other stimulants on the major organs or the brain in the long-term. Note, however, that the way Adderall is administered can impact one’s health on a long-term basis. A person who crushes, liquefies, and injects the drug may experience collapsed veins. Those who crush and sniff Adderall may damage their nasal cavity.

Behavioral Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

treatmentThe symptoms discussed above can get the attention of a concerned person, but there will usually also be behavioral symptoms of Adderall abuse. The fact that Adderall is a prescription drug means that individuals can “doctor shop” to get a high volume of it. These individuals will typically go to different pharmacies to fill the prescriptions to avoid detection. A concerned individual may find prescription bottles from different doctors and pharmacies; this is one significant tipoff of abuse.

Adderall can also be purchased on the street or through friends, family, coworkers, or classmates.

Since Adderall is a prescription drug, there are different ways individuals can get it, but these ways can leave a trail or evidence that can help with the detection of Adderall abuse.

There are numerous behavioral signs of Adderall abuse, but the types of signs that emerge depend on the person’s particular practices. For instance, a person who injects Adderall will need the appropriate paraphernalia. This is the same paraphernalia that is used for other injectable drugs and includes a syringe, a spoon (usually with heating marks), a heating device or lighter, a belt or rope (to tie a limb and make it easier to find a vein), and something that is capable of crushing Adderall (things such as an espresso stopper, a hammer, or a mortar and pestle).

A person who snorts Adderall will need some object that can crush the pills (Adderall does not come in powder form). To snort the crushed Adderall, a person may use a straw, a rolled-up bill, a hollowed out pen, or something similar. To make the Adderall into lines, a person may use something with a sharp edge, such as a credit card (which, if discovered, may have residue on its edge).

There are also behavioral signs of Adderall abuse around the way a person pays for this drug. To fund the abuse, a person may spend their resources, including wages from work, money in a checking or savings account, and cash advances available through credit cards. If there are financial assets, such as a Certificate of Deposit (CD) or pension plan (such as a 401(K)), a person might liquidate them. Things of value at home or work may go missing. For people in college, if it’s available, they may begin to use tuition or book money toward their Adderall abuse.

As people increasingly become addicted to Adderall, they will likely become remiss in their personal grooming. A sudden or gradual and noticeable change in a person’s level of self-care can be a strong indication that drug abuse is occurring. Drug abuse will draw a person further and further into servicing it, to the exclusion of doing other activities, including even the basics, like grooming.

There may also be a perceptible shift in the person’s social life, and they may become secretive. Adderall abuse can lead a person to withdraw from friends and family, and become socially isolated. At the same time, when the person does interact with others, Adderall or other drug abuse may be what they mainly have in common. Using drugs can simultaneously make a person spend a lot of time alone but also draw them out to use drugs in a group. The new individuals who come into a person’s life may exhibit some of the symptoms discussed above.

The longer Adderall abuse continues, the more obvious it is likely to become. Initially, people may try to hide their drug abuse, but as it overtakes them, they become less focused on maintaining their concern for what others think of them. The upside of this is that concerned people can begin to think about how to offer help to the person in need of treatment.

At this point, it is critical to keep in mind that recovery is possible.

Adderall abuse, or a stimulant use disorder, is a treatable issue, and there are numerous therapies available at rehab centers to help those in need.

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