Medically Reviewed

Adderall Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

4 min read · 6 sections
Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the sleep disorder narcolepsy.1 However, amphetamines such as Adderall are also extensively misused, which can lead to tolerance, dependence, and stimulant use disorder.1,2 Learn more about Adderall, its effects, and how it works. Also explore common signs of Adderall addiction, overdose, and withdrawal, along with options for Adderall addiction treatment and aftercare.
What you will learn:
What is Adderall, and how does it work?
Is Adderall addictive, and can someone overdose?
What options are available for Adderall rehab and treatment?

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription amphetamine, which is a type of central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.3 It’s commonly used in the treatment of ADHD, a mental health condition that includes hyperactive-impulsive and/or inattention symptoms.1 When used as prescribed for ADHD, Adderall can reduce symptoms, resulting in improved focus and attention.4

However, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II stimulant, indicating that it has a serious potential for abuse.3 According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 17.8 million people used prescription stimulants such as Adderall in the past year.5

Adderall is misused by a variety of people including:

  • Students sometimes misuse Adderall as a study aid or in an effort to improve academic performance, as it is perceived as effective in increasing alertness and concentration.6 (Interestingly, research shows that college students who report use of stimulants as an academic aid have high rates of other substance use and perform less well than those who do not use prescription stimulants in this manner.)6,7
  • Athletes sometimes use stimulants for their anti-fatigue properties to improve performance, especially in endurance sports such as cycling, although there is little published evidence of their efficacy.8,9 Stimulants of all types, including Adderall and over-the-counter options, are banned or monitored for compliance by the World Anti-Doping Agency and many other sports organizations.10,11
  • Others misuse it for feelings of intoxication and experimentation, as well as to counteract adverse effects of other drugs.6

When misused, prescription stimulants such as Adderall are most commonly obtained from family and friends.6 Although Adderall is prescribed in pill and capsule forms, those who misuse the drug may do so by smoking, snorting, or injecting it as well.3

How Does Adderall Work?

Amphetamines, including Adderall, are potent central nervous system stimulants.3 Researchers believe that Adderall’s effects are primarily due to increasing the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system, by preventing their reuptake and increasing their extracellular release in the space outside of neurons.1

Norepinephrine helps treat ADHD-related impairments in response inhibition, vigilance, working memory, and planning.12 Dopamine is responsible for the motivational value of rewards and is essential for goal-directed behaviors often lacking in those affected by ADHD.13 Ultimately, however, this can also result in feelings of euphoria and hyperexcitability when the drug is misused, especially at higher doses.14

Common effects of Adderall include:1

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Stomachache.
  • Nervousness.
  • Headache.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Mood swings.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fast heartbeat.

Signs and symptoms of amphetamine misuse may include:1

  • Increased heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and/or sweating.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Restlessness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Tremors.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Vomiting and/or abdominal pain.

Anxiety, psychosis, hostility, aggression, and suicidal or homicidal ideation have also been observed.1

Counterfeit Adderall Pills May Be Extremely Dangerous

Counterfeit pills typically look like prescription medications such as Adderall, Valium, etc. According to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, many of these counterfeit pills contain methamphetamine or fentanyl, which are extremely dangerous. In fact, testing showed that 2 out of every 5 counterfeit pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.15

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, use of amphetamines and stimulants such as Adderall can result in tolerance and physiological dependence and can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.1 Misuse of prescription stimulants such as Adderall for any reason (e.g., to improve academic performance, reduce the effects of other drugs, etc.) is associated with both substance use disorders and use of other substances.6

However, research suggests that use of prescription stimulants such as Adderall in appropriately diagnosed patients does not lead to a stimulant use disorder or increase the risk of serious adverse effects and that long-term use results in continued alleviation of symptoms while the medication is being taken.16 Studies also indicate that adolescents receiving stimulant treatment for ADHD do not have an increased or decreased risk of developing a substance use disorder.17

Adderall Addiction Signs

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), stimulant use disorder is characterized as a pattern of stimulant use that causes significant distress or impairment in daily functioning, including at least two of the following symptoms occurring within a one-year period:2

  • Use of the drug in larger doses or for a longer period than had been intended.
  • A persistent desire to use or repeated unsuccessful attempts to decrease or cease use.
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time attempting to procure the drug, use it, or get over its effects.
  • Cravings, urges, or a desire to use.
  • Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at school, home, or work.
  • Continued use despite negative effects on social life and interpersonal relationships.
  • Reduced recreational, work, or social activities reduced or abandoned.
  • Repeated use in environments or situations where it could cause physical harm.
  • Ongoing use even with the knowledge that physical and/or psychological problems. are likely to have either been caused or worsened by use.
  • Tolerance, which is defined as a need for markedly increased amounts of a substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance. (This criterion doesn’t count toward diagnosis if a stimulant is being used as prescribed a physician.)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or taking the substance to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. (This criterion doesn’t count toward diagnosis if a stimulant is being used as prescribed by a physician.)

Difference Between Adderall Addiction vs. Adderall Dependence

According to a research report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when you regularly take a drug, it can lead to physiological dependence due to the body’s normal adaptation to it. When someone is dependent on a drug and they stop taking it or reduce the dosage, they’ll often experience withdrawal symptoms.14

Addiction, on the other hand, may include dependence, but it involves compulsive drug-seeking behavior that significantly impairs a person’s normal daily functioning (at work, school, home, etc.).14

Dependence often goes hand in hand with tolerance, which involves the need for higher doses of the drug to generate the same prior effects.14

Adderall Overdose

Overdose deaths from stimulants have been increasing over the past 20 years, especially when it comes to deaths attributable to stimulants taken with opioids.16 Amphetamine overdose most often occurs with recreational use.18 Individual responses to amphetamines vary widely, and symptoms of toxicity (i.e., overdose) can appear at low doses in some individuals. Misuse of amphetamines such as Adderall can result in overdose, which may lead to coma, severe organ damage, and sudden death.19

Symptoms of amphetamine overdose and toxicity include:1

  • Restlessness.
  • Tremor.
  • Overactive bodily reflexes (i.e., hyperreflexia).
  • Rapid respiration.
  • Confusion.
  • Assaultiveness.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Panic states.
  • Hyperpyrexia.
  • Rhabdomyolysis.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.
  • Cardiovascular effects (e.g., arrhythmias, hypertension/hypotension, circulatory collapse).
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps).
  • Convulsions.

Severe or potentially serious toxicity symptoms are typically cardiovascular in nature, including abnormally high or low blood pressures, rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias), and cardiovascular collapse. Overdose may also lead to rhabdomyolysis, when damaged muscle tissues release proteins and electrolytes into the blood, which can damage the heart and kidneys and can be fatal or cause permanent disability. Sudden death is also possible for those who use amphetamines.1

Adderall Withdrawal

Most people with stimulant use disorder experience withdrawal symptoms. Acute withdrawal symptoms usually occur after repetitive high-dose uses (aka binges) and typically subside within one week.2

Although stimulant withdrawal doesn’t usually involve intense discomfort or medical danger, intense symptoms of depression that can resemble those of major depressive episodes are known to occur, and while in this depressed state, a person has an increased risk of suicide.2,16,21

Simulant withdrawal symptoms include:21

  • Depression.
  • Excessive sleeping, insomnia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Decrease in mental and physical activities.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Paranoia.
  • Drug craving.

Adderall Addiction Treatment and Aftercare

Drug addiction is a disease, which can be treated via counseling, behavioral therapy, and more.14 Treatment options vary, and no single treatment option is right for everyone. Plus, effective treatment involves addressing all of the patient’s needs, not just the drug use. For example, co-occurring mental health conditions, e.g., anxiety and depression, are typically treated concurrently as part of drug rehab.22

Common levels of care for stimulant use disorders such as Adderall addiction include:22

The aforementioned treatment options for stimulant use disorders often involve individual and/or group counseling that includes the use of behavioral therapies such as:23

  • Contingency management, which uses rewards as motivational incentives and positive reinforcement to promote abstinence.
  • Community reinforcement approach, where clinicians help patients to adjust aspects of their live that interfere with a healthy lifestyle.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients identify and deal with situations in which they might have previously used drugs.
  • Matrix model, a structured, multicomponent behavioral therapy that includes individual counseling, CBT, family education, social support, and more.

Offering the ability to treat Adderall addiction, polysubstance addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders, American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers accredited treatment facilities across the United States, which are in-network with myriad insurance providers that typically cover part of treatment costs. 

Available 24/7 for a free and confidential conversation, admissions navigators at can not only help you explore various treatment options and facilities but also answer your treatment questions, discuss financing and payment options, and more. Additionally, staff can verify any insurance benefits, or you can verify your insurance benefits online. Plus, if you’re not ready to talk, you can sign up to receive insights via text.

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