Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated June 30, 2020

Adderall (or the generic dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) is a stimulant medication most often prescribed to treat ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Since it makes people stay alert during the day, it’s also used to treat narcolepsy in some cases. By and large, Adderall stimulates the central nervous system and improves concentration. The increased focus and energy the drug provides are alluring to those with and without prescriptions.

Like many potent medications, Adderall misuse is prevalent, and it can be dangerous. While substance abuse and addiction look different on everyone, misusing ADHD medication can result in numerous negative consequences. Here at Northbound Treatment, we’ll discuss the most common side effects of Adderall abuse and how to get help from a rehabilitation center

What Are the Effects of Adderall Abuse?

Prescription stimulants — including Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Concerta, and Focalin — can be beneficial for those with ADHD when taken as directed. However, if you or a loved one are taking Adderall for anything other than its intended purposes, you should be aware of the short- and long-term implications.

Short-Term Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

When someone begins taking Adderall, with or without a prescription, they will often feel more upbeat, energetic, confident, and outgoing. The drug can also improve self-esteem if they begin performing better at work or school. That being said, the initial effects of Adderall aren’t always positive, especially when the drug is misused.

The short-term physical side effects of Adderall abuse can include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulting sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate or disrupted heart rhythm
  • Shaking or twitching
  • Vomiting

The physical effects of Adderall abuse vary greatly, depending on the person and the dose. Some people may have most or all of these symptoms, while others will exhibit only a couple. Aside from the short-term physical side effects, many experience paranoia, anxiousness, irritability, and reduced inhibitions.

Long-Term Side Effects of Adderall Abuse

Prolonged Adderall abuse can lead to a variety of adverse physical and mental effects. When someone uses a high dose of prescription stimulants for a long time, the short-term impacts often intensify and lead to other, more serious problems.

The long-term side effects of Adderall abuse can include:

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Erratic behaviors
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Increased paranoia
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Insomnia
  • Malnutrition
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Adderall is known for helping college students focus on writing papers, studying, and taking exams. However, when the stimulant drug is abused for long periods by those who don’t have ADHD, some end up having an even harder time concentrating than before they began taking it.

How Adderall Abuse Affects Men

Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income, or profession, chronic Adderall abuse can lead to negative physical and mental consequences. That said, it affects men and women in slightly different ways.

Men who misuse ADHD medication often experience either increased sex drive or impotence (erectile dysfunction). Impotence can lead to feelings of frustration, embarrassment, insecurity, and anger. If the issue isn’t addressed, it can lead to depression, cause relationships struggles, or be otherwise damaging to a man’s mental health and well-being.

How Adderall Abuse Effects Women

When women abuse ADHD medication, they are subject to all the short- and long-term effects listed above. With that said, Adderall can impact women differently than men. Women tend to develop agitation and exhibit extreme mood swings. 

Apart from that, stimulants can increase alcohol tolerance, which is exceptionally dangerous. Generally speaking, women have smaller body masses than men. If they feel as though they can drink more, it can result in blackouts, alcohol poisoning, or even irreversible liver damage. Since Adderall is an appetite suppressant, many people drink with little or no food in their stomachs, which can intensify the effects of alcohol.

Adderall Abuse vs. Addiction

Adderall is a potent medication, and it can be effective in treating ADHD and narcolepsy. The issue with prescribing it is that these conditions can’t be verified with a blood test or another type of medical exam. Doctors can only go by the symptoms their patients claim to have. Consequently, many individuals fake their symptoms in an attempt to get a diagnosis, and ultimately, a prescription for Adderall.

If someone has an Adderall prescription, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re abusing it, but falsifying symptoms is definitely a form of drug abuse. In the same vein, abusing ADHD drug medications doesn’t necessarily imply someone is addicted. Some people misuse Adderall once in a while at parties or to cram for a college exam. While this doesn’t constitute addiction, it’s still drug abuse. The risky behavior can have damaging consequences even when it’s not habitual, and it can quickly lead to an Adderall addiction.

Signs of Adderall Abuse and Addiction

In addition to the variety of serious side effects, there are a few signs of Adderall abuse that can provide clues as to whether using prescription stimulants is a serious problem. As we mentioned, lying to a psychiatrist to get a prescription constitutes substance abuse. If an individual frequently runs out of their Adderall before they can refill it, there’s a good chance they’re addicted to the stimulant drug.

Also, some people try to get multiple prescriptions at once from more than one doctor in an attempt to acquire more pills. This is not only illegal but also very concerning, as high doses are extremely dangerous. Without an Adderall prescription of their own, some people will have pills in plastic baggies in their possession. In some cases, they might even have a pill bottle with another person’s name.

As prescribed, Adderall is generally taken once a day by mouth, usually first thing in the morning. When stimulant medications are abused, many people keep pills in their purses, wallets, or pockets so that they can continue taking them throughout the day. Some individuals who abuse Adderall crush the pills and snort them to intensify the effects. These are addictive behaviors that should be addressed as soon as possible.

Treatment for Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Long-term, compulsive use at high doses will result in Adderall dependence. For this reason, abruptly discontinuing use often leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. Adderall withdrawal is uncomfortable, and in a lot of cases, difficult to overcome alone. This is why medically supervised detox is a crucial first step for many who are addicted to prescription stimulants. 

Adderall is a strong, habit-forming stimulant, and cravings can be difficult to overcome.

After detox, many begin a residential (inpatient) treatment program. With residential rehab, patients live at a treatment center and participate in a broad range of focused therapy approaches, including one-on-one counseling and group sessions. 

The next step is typically outpatient treatment, in which patients live at home and attend sessions either in person or remotely through telehealth appointments. Bear in mind that everyone’s journey to recovery is different. For some, outpatient treatment is sufficient for Adderall abuse without the need for residential rehab. Still, many get the most benefit out of inpatient treatment before transitioning to an outpatient program.

Northbound’s Approach to Adderall Abuse Treatment

At Northbound, we take an individualized approach to Adderall abuse treatment. We recognize that each client’s experiences, lifestyle, medical history, genetics, and preferences are unique, which is why we personalize treatment plans on an individual basis. 

Adderall abuse treatment starts with a comprehensive clinical assessment, which helps us develop an appropriate plan for recovery. If addiction treatment calls for detox, clients will get around-the-clock care in our comfortable, accredited detox facility in Orange County. Many patients are treated for co-occurring disorders, meaning mental health issues are addressed alongside substance abuse, which we find to be highly effective in overcoming Adderall addiction.

Northbound Treatment also offers several residential rehab programs for men and women. Our inpatient programs last anywhere from 28 days to six months and include 24-hour access to our trained and knowledgeable clinical staff. Additionally, we provide aftercare services to help patients adjust to everyday life and maintain life-long sobriety.

Start Today

Whether a treatment plan includes detox, residential rehab, outpatient treatment, aftercare services, or all of the above, Northbound is committed to providing support every step of the way. We accept all major health insurance plans and are happy to work with clients to come up with a payment option that suits their needs.

If you or someone dear to you is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, don’t hesitate to contact us at Northbound Treatment. Give us a call or fill out our online admissions form today.

Sources:

  1. “Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse.” Drugabuse.gov. N.p., 6 June 2018., https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
  2. Pietrangelo, Ann, and Kristeen Cherney. “The Effects of Adderall on Your Body.” Healthline.com. N.p., 20 Aug. 2014., https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adderall-effects-on-body
  3. “Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medlineplus.gov. N.p., n.d., https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601234.html

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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