Adderall Side Effects, Risks & Dangers of Use

3 min read · 9 sections

Adderall is prescribed to many people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, the drug is also commonly misused.

This page will discuss the potential side effects of Adderall and dangers of Adderall misuse.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand name of the drug amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, a prescription medication primarily used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by enhancing concentration and focus levels. 

Adderall is commonly misused as a weight loss drug, study drug, or recreationally as a party drug.

Adderall Side Effects

Stimulants such as Adderall can cause numerous side effects. Adderall side effects may include:

  • Raised blood pressure.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Appetite suppression. 

Nonmedical use of the drug increases the odds and severity of negative effects. Regular misuse of Adderall can be hard on the heart muscles, lungs, vascular system, and other internal organs.

Other serious side effects of Adderall misuse include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Tremors.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hostility.
  • Psychosis.

Panic Attacks and Mood Disturbances

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.

Withdrawal Symptoms

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. Like with many other addictive drugs, chronic Adderall use can cause someone to experience withdrawal symptoms when use is ceased or reduced. Adderall withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Cravings.
  • Dysphoric mood.
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Irritability.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation.

If Adderall is misused 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.

While Adderall withdrawal can be uncomfortable, it is seldom dangerous.

Cardiovascular Issues

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.

Stimulant drug use has been known to have many cardiovascular effects, such as:

  • Tachycardia.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Reduced lung capacity.
  • Possible pulmonary disease.

For someone who may already have a heart condition or underlying medical issue, Adderall misuse can be particularly dangerous.

Gastrointestinal Problems

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.

Adderall misuse can lead to side effects in anyone, regardless of age or gender; however, most intoxicating substances have varied effects in people based on age, weight, and gender.

Hormones, body fat percentage, and more can vary greatly between men and women, and these physiological differences can change how drugs like Adderall affect a person on an individual level.

Why Does Adderall Affect Women Differently?

The Food and Drug Administration’s information on Adderall notes that average body weight among women influences dose administration because it changes the bioavailability of one of the amphetamines in Adderall. When doses were not based on body mass, the amount of amphetamine a woman actually processed was 20-30% higher; when the dose was adjusted, the amount of the amphetamine normalized and produced similar results across genders. However, two other amphetamines found in Adderall were not influenced by age or gender.

Some medical studies have shown that a woman’s menstrual cycle, primarily influenced by estrogen, can affect how bioavailable Adderall is to her body. During the follicular phase, which is the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle, Adderall has a greater impact on the body, including negative side effects. Women reported feeling high and also experiencing stronger cravings for, and physical dependency on, Adderall. The greater presence of estrogen during this time may enhance the effects of the amphetamines because estrogen can also trigger the release of dopamine in the brain.

Because women process Adderall differently than men, misuse of this substance could lead to more serious side effects in women. This includes side effects like:

  • Increased anxiety.
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep.
  • Changes in bowel movements.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Decreased libido.

Adderall Statistics

The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 1.5 percent (or 4.3 million people) 12 years old or older misused prescription stimulants in the past year. College students may be more prone to misusing Adderall than other demographics, in an effort to enhance their studies or “get ahead.” Indeed, rates of misuse are highest among young adults (18-25), with 3.7 percent or 1.3 million people in this demographic admitting they misused prescription stimulants in the past year.

Treatment for Adderall Addiction

Chronic misuse of Adderall over time can result in the development of a stimulant use disorder as well as other serious health conditions. Fortunately, stimulant use disorder—the clinical term for Adderall addiction—can be treated effectively.

Stimulant addiction treatment primarily involves behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and peer support. There are currently no approved medications used to treat stimulant use disorder.

Many people are able to manage their addiction and lead fulfilling lives in recovery. Call to speak to a compassionate admissions navigator about addiction treatment options at American Addiction Centers (AAC).

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