A prescription medication, Adderall is primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.
Sometimes it is also prescribed for people with depression or sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Regardless of the reason it is prescribed, Adderall should only be used under the close supervision of a doctor or other medical professional.
What Is Adderall?
A combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, Adderall is classified as a central nervous system stimulant. When the drug is taken, it increases the activity of three of the chemicals in the brain: epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine. This heightens and speeds up certain processes in the body causing hyper-stimulation throughout the nervous system and brain.
This medication, like all stimulants, can be addictive. However, when Adderall is taken by a person that really needs it and they carefully follow the prescribed dosages, it does not cause addiction.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall has the chemical makeup similar to MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine.
When the drug reaches the brain the following reactions take place:
- Dopamine causes a rush to the pleasure and reward area of the brain.
- Epinephrine triggers the fight-or-flight response—causing the person to have increased alertness, focus, and clarity.
- Norepinephrine facilitates communication between neurons—making them last longer than they normally would.
Since Adderall is a stimulant, it reduces the need for eating or sleeping and improves concentration and focus. It has become a popular “study drug” for some college students because it allows them to have an intense focus on their work.
How Does Adderall Abuse Occur?
Due to the addictive nature of stimulants, whether a person uses Adderall for recreational purposes to achieve a stimulant high or as a study drug, they can quickly move to drug abuse and then drug addiction.
There are many ways Adderall abuse can occur including:
- Taking the drug more often than medically prescribed
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Taking it for non-medical reasons, such as staying awake for long periods of time, being more social, or aiding weight loss
- Taking the substance through a method that is non-approved, such as injecting or snorting
- Taking Adderall that belongs to someone else
- Buying the drug for recreational use from an illegal source
Adderall Abuse: Signs and Symptoms
If a person’s recreational use of Adderall has become abuse, they often experience behavioral, physical, and psychological symptoms.
- Doctor shopping to get multiple prescriptions
- Unusually talkative
- Social withdrawal
- Insomnia and other changes in sleep patterns or habits
- Changes in sex drive
- Decreased appetite, including weight loss and malnutrition
- Irregular or increased heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Raspy or hoarse voice
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Digestive problems, including constipation and diarrhea
- Uncontrollable shaking in any body area, such as a leg or a hand
- Anxiety or impatience
Severe Effects of Adderall Abuse
The most severe side effects of Adderall abuse and addiction are dangerous and life threatening. Misusing this drug can cause a person to experience chronic exhaustion, muscle deterioration, and cardiovascular damage.
Additional severe effects of this substance abuse include:
- Severe headaches
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Cerebral hemorrhage
- A very high body temperature (hyperthermia)
- Kidney damage or failure
The consequences for abusing stimulants can have disastrous results for the user—resulting in abnormalities of the cardiovascular system and sudden death.
Additional Facts about Adderall
Additional facts about Adderall include:
- Adderall, along with cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, is on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule II List of substances. This classifies it as a drug that has the ability to lead to physical and psychological dependence, with a high potential for abuse.
- Adderall is the brand name of the prescription medication, but it also is known by many street names such as Uppers, Pep Pill, Addys, Black Beauties, Speed, Beans, Dexies, and Zing.
- Like other drugs, the user builds up a tolerance to Adderall and needs more to reach the stimulant high they want to achieve.
- Adderall can be injected or snorted so the user feels the effects of the drug within minutes. However, this increases the danger of the drug because the built-in safety feature of the extended release pill is bypassed. The risk of an overdose is greater because the full dose of the drug is felt instantaneously.
- If a person stops using Adderall, they experience withdrawal and may have nightmares, panic, mania, or suicidal thoughts.
- An overdose of Adderall can result in convulsions, coma, and fatal poisoning.
- Mixing Adderall with alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, coma, or death.
Getting Help for an Adderall Addiction
Anyone regardless of age, can develop an Adderall abuse or addiction problem. If you or someone you love is addicted to Adderall or any other drug, there is help available. Canyon Vista offers a full continuum of care that includes traditional and holistic therapies, nutritional guidance, life skills, and an extended care program.
Learn more about programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center, Arizona drug treatment centers.
Contact us at
- National Institute of Drug Abuse – What are Prescription Stimulants?
- Medical Daily – Adderall’s Effect on Your Brain: Whatever Obscure Benefits There Are, It’s Not Worth It
- United States Drug Enforcement Agency – Drug Scheduling
- Child Mind Institute – Do ADHD Drugs Lead to Addiction?
- Attitude Inside the ADHD Mind – Does Stimulant Medication Cause Addiction?