Adderall Effects, Risks, and Dangers: Short and Long Term
Often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the sleep disorder narcolepsy, Adderall is a prescription amphetamine that can help stimulate improvements in cognition and psychological functioning.1,2 That said, Adderall is extensively abused and has a host of adverse and potential long-term effects.1,3
Learn more about Adderall’s impact via this deep dive into Adderall’s myriad effects and the dangers associated with its use.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a potent amphetamine, which is a type of stimulant that arouses the body’s central nervous system (CNS) into a more wakeful or active state.4 For those with ADHD, a condition with hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms, Adderall can have the opposite effects. That is, instead of increasingly stimulating patients, Adderall paradoxically allows people with ADHD to become more functional.2
However, as with most prescription drugs, Adderall is intended for use for specific conditions and can cause undesirable or dangerous effects when misused.5 In fact, given to its high potential for misuse, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug.6
Nevertheless, Adderall is sometimes misused by students, athletes, and those who desire an increase in focus, endurance, or productivity.3 In fact, in 2020, 5.1 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription stimulants such as Adderall.7 Those who misuse Adderall and other amphetamines may develop tolerance and dependence, and they may suffer from its many other short- and long-lasting effects.1
Adverse Effects of Adderall
Adderall and other amphetamines can generate physiological effects such as:3
- Increased physical energy.
- Improved mental aptitude.
- Mood elevation.
However, Adderall also can lead to a variety of dose-dependent effects.3 Some of the more common adverse effects include:3
- Difficulty falling asleep/interrupted sleep.
- Visual changes.
- Alteration in sexual performance or desire.
- Constipation, diarrhea.
- Nausea, vomiting.
- Exacerbation of existing mental illnesses.
While severe adverse drug reactions are less common, some people may also experience the following:3
- Excessive body temperature.
- Heart attack.
Long-Term Effects of Adderall
Though Adderall use can help a person attain impressive mental or physical achievements, prolonged use or short-term, high-dose usage can result in a deterioration of cognition or physicality due to its many side effects.3
Chronic central nervous system stimulation from Adderall use can cause potentially long-term effects, including the following:8
- Damage to nerve cells.
- Abnormal heart rhythms.
Adderall Interactions and Long-Term Effects
Whenever you take two or more drugs within a short period of time, this is considered polysubstance use. Particularly when it comes to stimulants such as Adderall, polysubstance use can be dangerous.9
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effects of a drug can be particularly insidious when stimulants such as Adderall are combined with central nervous system depressants (such as alcohol or opioids). Often, rather than negating the effects of each other, one drug may modify or hide the other drug’s effects without your knowledge. Once the drug’s effects are masked, it’s easier to overdose because your symptoms give you no indication of how much of the drug you’ve taken.9
Mixing two or more stimulants (e.g., Adderall, methamphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, etc.) can also increase your risk of overdose, as the effects may be compounded.9 Combining stimulants may increase your risk of:9
- Serious brain injury.
- Damage to the liver.
- Heart attack.
The toxic side effects of Adderall are rare and minimal in therapeutic doses, but when Adderall is taken at high doses, overdose and severe liver damage can occur.2,5
Signs and symptoms of acute amphetamine intoxication can include:8
- Dry mouth.
- High temperature.
- Pupil dilation.
- Rapid breathing.
- Heightened energy and attention.
- Chest pain.
- Racing heart.
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Psychotic symptoms.
In the case of an Adderall overdose, the aforementioned signs and symptoms of acute intoxication may be present along with the following:5,8
- Life-threateningly high blood pressure.
- Rapid heart rate with an abnormal rhythm.
- Aggression or assaultive behavior.
- Rhabdomyolysis (a potentially fatal or disabling condition).
- Serotonin syndrome (a potentially life-threatening drug reaction).
Treatment for Adderall Addiction
Due to the way Adderall interacts with the brain, prolonged use can potentially lead to addiction.3 However, drug addiction is a disease that can be treated via detox, counseling, behavioral therapy, and more.11
Depending on how often, how much, and by what method a person consumes Adderall, stimulant use disorder for amphetamines can develop as quickly as one week after the first exposure. 12
If you or a loved one are experiencing Adderall addiction, a professional diagnosis and treatment can help. Treatment typically provides both symptomatic assistance and therapeutic support during detox and regarding withdrawal symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), people undergoing withdrawal from amphetamines may experience dysphoria or severe depression, which can be treated in a professional treatment setting.12
Since there are no approved medications to assist with stimulant withdrawal directly, current treatment during withdrawal includes:13
- Providing a safe environment to monitor for dangerous medical conditions that can arise.
- Beginning behavioral therapy for addiction treatment after physical stabilization.
Treatment for Adderall addiction is likely to include various behavioral therapies that can help:14
- Change a person’s outlook and behaviors related to drug use.
- Increase life skills that promote health.
- Continue with other necessary forms of treatment or life changes.
Therapy can be administered in multiple settings.
- Inpatient treatment programs that offer 24/7 care may be appropriate in the beginning of recovery for people with severe problems.14
- Outpatient treatment programs come in a wide variety of intensity and scheduling depending on a person’s recovery needs.14
Located throughout the United States, American Addiction Centers’ accredited facilities offer treatment for Adderall addiction, polysubstance addiction, and other co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact our Admissions Navigators to learn more about treatment options and facilities near you.