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Adderall Side Effects

adderall side effects

Over the last few decades, Adderall has emerged as one of the most popular treatment options for many different disorders that can affect a person’s ability to focus, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (sudden bouts of uncontrollable sleep). As with most powerful prescription drugs, the positive and desired effects of Adderall come with a number of possible, and potentially serious, side effects.

The ’90s and the Rise of Adderall

We saw the rise in popularity of Adderall start when the drug was introduced to the market in 1996. While Adderall is commonly prescribed for people of all ages with various disorders, the initial popularity of the drug started with its prescriptions for children.

One New York Times article reports that in 1990, about 600,000 children were on stimulants for various reasons, including for the treatment of ADHD. At that time, Ritalin was the treatment of choice. Ritalin is an older stimulant drug that often has to be taken multiple times a day.

Adderall was introduced in 1996 and immediately gained popularity as the new, upgraded, and more effective treatment for ADHD. It became the go-to medicinal treatment for ADHD, often improving symptoms with one extended-release tablet per day. By 2013, a staggering 3.5 million children were prescribed stimulant drugs, mostly Adderall.

With the drug’s incredibly quick rise in popularity for treating children with attention disorders, it made sense that Adderall prescriptions for adults would soon follow this trend. By the mid-2000s, adults ages 20 to 39 were the fastest-growing group receiving prescriptions for the drug. In 2012, roughly 16 million Adderall prescriptions were written for young adults in the United States.

One reason Adderall became so widely prescribed is because the drug is effective in improving the symptoms of ADHD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, stimulant drugs such as Adderall are proven to be effective in 70% to 80% of children with ADHD, and 70% of adults living with the condition.

The widespread prescribing of Adderall eventually led to drug sharing, illegal drug sales, and misuse by people who have no legitimate need for the drug. Not only does Adderall improve focus and concentration for people living with ADHD, but it is also believed to improve focus and concentration for people without a medical need. This has led to widespread misuse of Adderall among people who are seeking improvement in physical or academic performance.

Adderall Is a Powerful Drug, Not a “Magic Pill”

Despite what the massive prescription numbers would suggest, Adderall is not a “magic pill” that increases focus and concentration without consequences. There are certain side effects, both common and uncommon, that result from taking Adderall.

This is not only true for people who take the drug without a prescription, but even those who are prescribed Adderall for legitimate medical reasons can expect to experience some or all of these side effects.

Many of these side effects are a result of the ways the drug affects the people who take it. Adderall is a brand name for the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, two powerful stimulants. The medication works by altering certain naturally occurring chemicals in the brain.

Adderall affects chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers that tell the brain to feel certain emotions. By boosting the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, the drug increases concentration, focus, motivation, and even feelings of happiness or contentment.

Because of the way the drug works in the brain, Adderall can have some powerful side effects on many different systems of the body.

Adderall’s Side Effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS)

The desirable effects of Adderall are a result of the drug’s interaction with the body’s central nervous system (CNS). For people who suffer from narcolepsy, the medication can help keep them awake and alert during the daytime hours. For people with ADHD, it can help them feel more calm and able to focus.

Along with these positive effects, there are also some potential unwanted CNS side effects that may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Dry mouth and hoarse voice
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed speech
  • Changes or blurring of vision

While these are relatively common and mild side effects, there are some potentially dangerous CNS side effects that include:

  • Fever, sweating, and weakness
  • An allergic reaction to Adderall that can cause swelling of the tongue, throat, or face.
  • Uncontrollable shaking, movements (also called tics), or seizures
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t actually there)
  • Intense paranoia (fear people want to hurt you) and intrusive thoughts
  • Worsening of other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety

If you experience any of these side effects, which could be potentially dangerous and even deadly, it is very important to contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Adderall’s Side Effects on the Circulatory and Respiratory Systems

As is the case with all stimulant drugs, Adderall can make the blood vessels contract, leading to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. For people with pre-existing heart conditions, taking Adderall can be extremely dangerous.

In some cases, Adderall can impact the way blood circulates throughout the body. Poor blood circulation can lead to pain or numbness in the fingers or toes. It can also make it so injuries to the hands or feet take a much longer time to heal due to lack of oxygenated blood flow. The hands or feet may even turn blue or red, signaling that the drug is interfering with the flow of blood.

By affecting the way blood flows throughout the body, Adderall can also cause diminished sexual performance and even impotence.

The most serious side effects of Adderall include heart attack and stroke. If you start to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or fainting, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

The Negative Effects of Adderall and Alcohol

The potential heart complications of taking Adderall are compounded when a person drinks alcohol at the same time. The chances of a heart attack or stroke are greatly increased, so the two drugs should never be consumed together.

Along with further heart complications, stimulant drugs can also lower the intoxicating effects of alcohol, causing a person to drink more in order to get drunk. This can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning and other alcohol-related consequences.

Adderall’s Side Effects on the Digestive System

Adderall affects the digestive system, including the stomach and intestines, by causing the body to release an increased amount of glucose (sugar) into your system, causing irritation. Some other various side effects on the digestive system include:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Adderall also causes the muscles in the digestive tract to slow, which can cause both stomach pain and constipation.

In a less enlightened time in the mid-20th century, stimulant drugs were often prescribed as weight-loss supplements because they suppress the appetite. This leads to a wide range of undesired effects that can include the stunting of growth in children who take Adderall.

Stimulants can also cause extreme weight loss and even unintentional anorexia. While loss of appetite is an initial side effect of responsible Adderall treatment, this effect gradually wears off as the body adjusts to the drug’s presence.

Adderall’s Side Effects on the Skin

As mentioned above, a small percentage of people who take Adderall experience an allergic reaction that can cause swelling and itching. A moderate amount of itching is to be expected for a person who is prescribed Adderall, but if these effects become too severe, or develop into blisters or rashes, it’s very important to contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Long-term Side Effects of Adderall

Most of the long-term side effects of Adderall have already been mentioned and don’t go away even as the body adjusts to the presence of the drug. The most serious of these include stunted growth in children, weight loss, and possible complications stemming from increased blood pressure. In most cases, these side effects stop once Adderall treatment stops, and the body is able to return to normal function.

Some studies also suggest long-term Adderall treatment may cause negative psychological effects and changes in the brain.

In one article for The New York Times, Dr. Leonard Sax reports there is substantial evidence that stimulant medications, such as Adderall, may damage an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. This area of the brain is crucial to personal motivation and drive. The nucleus accumbens is not involved in cognitive functions (thinking, understanding, etc.), so if it is damaged, there will be no impairment to cognitive function, but the drive to achieve will be diminished.

The Effects and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

Because of the way Adderall affects the brain, it is very possible to develop an addiction or physical dependence on the substance. Adderall dependence is marked by an increasing reliance on the next dose of Adderall to improve mood, get work done, or bolster focus. Without that next dose, those with a dependence can experience a kind of crashing sensation.

People who have become dependent on Adderall may feel more depressed and gloomy. Those with more severe cases of dependency can even experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm.

Without a follow-up dose, people who take the drug can feel sluggish. Even forming basic plans or trying to communicate ideas with others can be difficult. The ability to work or finish a project seems impossible without a dose of Adderall.

In order to address cases of Adderall dependence, it is necessary to identify common symptoms.

Common symptoms of Adderall dependence can include:

  • Continuously taking larger doses of the drug to achieve the same feelings
  • Attempting to cut back or stop taking Adderall without much success
  • Finding it difficult to start or complete work and other tasks without Adderall
  • Feeling low on energy or very tired before taking Adderall
  • Devoting more time to taking and acquiring Adderall by cutting out interests, hobbies, relationships, and other responsibilities
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or lower the dose
  • Continuing to take Adderall even though its negative consequences are evident
  • Allocating more time toward stocking up on the drug or taking it

Addiction to Adderall and other substances can happen unexpectedly and take a person by surprise. After all, students looking for that extra energy and motivation during finals week don’t start taking Adderall expecting to develop an addiction.

Unfortunately, taking Adderall continuously can cause a person to build up a tolerance and develop an increasing reliance on the drug. While the initial intentions of taking Adderall often begin innocently, the need to continue taking the drug can grow. Some people may even need to fake or exaggerate ADHD or narcolepsy symptoms to secure fraudulent prescriptions.

Treatment for Adderall Addiction Is Effective and Available at Serenity Lane

At Serenity Lane, we understand addiction isn’t something people plan for. Especially with a drug like Adderall, the “study drug,” people who may be relying on that next dose might be surprised to find themselves addicted.

Treatment for Adderall addiction is available and effective. We’ve been helping people in the Oregon community overcome their issues with addiction since 1973. Our compassionate, licensed substance use disorder counselors are waiting for your call.

Contact us today at (800) 543-9905 to get started.

Serenity Lane


What are the most common side effects of Adderall?

The most common side effects of Adderall include loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, stomach upset/pain, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, fever, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. If any of these effects persist or worsen, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

What does Adderall do to you?

For people who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it calms them and often improves their ability to focus. In people who don’t have ADHD, because Adderall produces an excessive amount of dopamine, they may experience feelings of euphoria (extreme happiness) and increased energy levels, as well as possibly dangerous physical and emotional side effects.

Why shouldn’t you take Adderall?

Adderall can be an effective tool in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (sudden bouts of uncontrollable sleep). For someone who doesn’t suffer from these conditions, Adderall can have negative effects on the central nervous system, digestive system, heart, and even cause damage to parts of the brain responsible for motivation.

Is Adderall bad for anxiety?

Because it is a stimulant drug, Adderall can cause or worsen negative psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. If a person takes Adderall without a prescription or medical supervision, the likelihood of increased anxiety is much higher.

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