Millions of people use Adderall every day to manage their ADHD and narcolepsy symptoms. The drug’s side effects and potential for abuse are simply taken as a necessary evil to get through the day.
But is Adderall really as bad as people say it is? What are its side effects and long-term risks? And if the drug is so bad for you, what are your alternatives?
This article answers all these questions and more, like the effects of Adderall on men and women and why you can get addicted.
Key Takeaways: Adderall and Its Effects
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
In which age group is ADHD more common?
The drug is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that comes in the form of a dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate tablet.
Like other stimulant drugs, Adderall increases the concentration of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in your brain, thereby improving your focus and reducing impulsivity.
Due to its effects on concentration and learning ability, Adderall is often abused as a study drug and could become addictive. As a result, some doctors prescribe Adderall XR, an extended-release version of Adderall that only needs to be taken once a day and could reduce the possibility of becoming dependent on its effects.
What Does Adderall Do To Your Brain?
Like other ADHD medications, taking Adderall can help you boost your focus and reduce hyperactivity.
Doctors believe ADHD may be caused by an imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in your brain, causing hyperactivity, a short attention span, and the inability to concentrate on mental tasks.
The chemical compounds in Adderall trigger your body to produce more of these neurotransmitters, correcting the imbalance and easing ADHD symptoms.
When the quick-release tablet is taken, the effects of Adderall can be felt within 30 minutes and may include:
- Improved ability to focus and pay attention.
- The reduction of behavioral problems associated with ADHD.
- Better organizational skills.
- Enhanced listening skills.
- Energy to stay awake and focused all day.
Is Adderall Bad for You?
Stimulant therapy with Adderall for ADHD can be very helpful if you’ve been struggling with the symptoms of the disorder for some time. However, the drug has serious side effects and could lead to addiction and other stimulant drug abuse.
As such, Adderall is not the best option for the long-term treatment of ADHD, as this could lead to mental health issues like irritability, mood swings, and depression. Misusing the drug is also a bad idea, as it increases the risk of severe physical and psychological side effects.
What Are the Side Effects of Using Adderall?
Adderall may affect men, women, and children differently. However, general side effects include :
- Trouble sleeping.
- Weight loss.
- Increased body temperature.
- Blurred vision.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- High blood pressure.
- Poor mental health.
Adderall Side Effects in Males
Besides the general side effects of Adderall, men may also experience erectile dysfunction (ED) while using the drug. One of the side effects of Adderall is constricting the blood vessels in your body. Reduced blood flow to the penis can make it challenging to get or keep an erection and may affect overall libido .
However, these contributing factors to ED may not be experienced by all men, as some have reported Adderall increasing their sex drive. The effect of Adderall on libido, therefore, varies from person to person.
Adderall Side Effects in Females
Some studies have found that the increase in estrogen during the first 14 days of a woman’s menstrual cycle could significantly increase the severity of the side effects of Adderall. This is due to estrogen also triggering a dopamine release alongside the chemicals in Adderall .
Some of the adverse effects of ADHD medications like Adderall in women include:
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Weight loss.
- Difficulty sleeping.
Although these effects may seem general, they are typically more severe in women at certain points of their menstrual cycle.
Adderall Side Effects in Kids
Adderall may cause general side effects in kids, but also age-specific ones like:
- Stunted growth.
- Stomach ache.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Reduced appetite.
Discuss any adverse effects in your child with a medical professional who may need to adjust their dose or recommend an alternative.
Who Should Not Take Adderall?
One of the primary demographics who should not use Adderall are individuals with a history of substance abuse or substance addiction. This is because Adderall is an addictive substance and could cause a relapse if used by people who previously abused stimulant or sedative drugs.
People with cardiovascular conditions like heart disease should be cautious when taking Adderall as the increased blood pressure and heart rate could put them at risk of a heart attack .
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Using Adderall?
Taking Adderall for an extended period can cause long-term risks and side effects. Some of the most common negative effects of chronic use include :
- Mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
- Damage to brain cells and structures.
- Stimulant abuse, tolerance, dependence, or addiction.
- Psychotic behavior.
- Panic attacks.
Adderall Health Risks
Serious side effects and health risks associated with Adderall use include:
- High blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat leading to a possible heart attack.
- Strain on your cardiovascular system and an increase in the risk of developing heart disease.
- Allergic reactions that cause skin rashes and discomfort.
- Serotonin syndrome.
You should get medical attention immediately if you start experiencing chest pain, trouble breathing, and dizziness while using Adderall. You could be having a heart attack or stroke and require a doctor’s assistance.
Another serious effect of Adderall is the development of serotonin syndrome, especially if large amounts of Adderall have been used .
The symptoms of serotonin syndrome include :
- Dilated pupils.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Muscle stiffness.
- Flushed skin.
Like other ADHD medications, mixing Adderall with other drugs could cause serious interactions.
Adderall use alongside alcohol may reduce your ability to tell how drunk you are and could result in alcohol poisoning.
Adderall also interacts with more than 180 medications, including tramadol and omeprazole. Before using Adderall, it is important to discuss any chronic medication or conditions you have with your doctor.
What Does Adderall Do if You Don’t Have ADHD or Narcolepsy?
Students often use adult ADHD medications like Adderall to help them study more and longer before exams. However, Adderall isn’t a true cognitive enhancer, as many articles and reports like to claim. Adderall only works to reduce hyperactivity, improve focus, and provide energy, leading to improved learning abilities in students with ADHD.
For people without ADHD, however, these effects may be much less powerful. Some studies on the effect of stimulants on people without Adderall found it could at times delay memory recall and only significantly improve memory retention after several days to a week .
Such inconsistent results paired with the range of side effects make it unwise to use Adderall under the assumption it will help you become smarter.
Is Adderall a High-Risk Medication?
Like all stimulant drugs, Adderall offers a high risk of prescription drug abuse and subsequent addiction.
Is Adderall Addictive?
Yes, Adderall is a stimulant medication that is often abused for its energy and concentration-boosting properties. Adderall abuse leads to tolerance over time as your body adjusts to its effects, and eventually, Adderall use may result in dependence on the drug and then addiction.
Adderall Abuse and Addiction
Adderall abuse is particularly dangerous due to the development of tolerance, which requires you to use even more Adderall to get the same high. If you stop using Adderall for a while and take the same amount you used to, you may be at risk of overdosing.
Signs of Adderall Overdose
Adderall abuse can lead to using high doses being taken over a short period, possibly leading to an overdose.
Signs of an overdose due to abusing Adderall include :
- Rapid breathing.
- Dilated pupils.
If you or someone around you is exhibiting these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Adderall addiction may also lead to Adderall withdrawal symptoms whenever you can’t get your regular dose or your dosage is reduced.
Withdrawal symptoms in people who abuse Adderall may include:
- Vivid dreams.
- Increased appetite.
- Mood swings.
- A drop in the person’s blood pressure.
- Memory impairment.
- Intense cravings for high doses of Adderall.
If you suffer from Adderall or substance abuse, getting addiction treatment is vital and should not be delayed.
Alternatives to Adderall
There are many alternative ways to boost cognitive function other than using Adderall.
If you are worried about the effects of the drug or possible Adderall abuse, get professional medical advice regarding alternatives to your treatment.
Some alternatives that may prevent drug abuse and health risks include:
Other ADHD medication options may effectively treat your condition without all the serious side effects.
Ritalin is a common alternative to Adderall XR in amphetamine treatment. It consists of a drug called methylphenidate and produces far less severe side effects. It is often prescribed for children and teenagers with ADHD as it is also less likely to cause abuse.
Nootropics are natural brain boosters that consist of research-backed ingredients to improve memory, cognitive function, and mental energy with little to no side effects.
Nootropics Mind Lab Pro and Performance Lab Mind offer significant benefits like better memory, less distractibility, and improved focus and motivation.
If you’re interested in using nootropics, check out our Mind Lab Pro review and Performance Lab review for more information.
Since most nootropics, including those mentioned above, are naturally stimulant-free and contain no additives, they often cause no negative side effects. At the same time, this over the counter Adderall alternative provides a much more sustainable solution for energy and focus boosts.
For more information about nootropics for memory or nootropics for energy, take a look at our detailed articles on both.
Below are the most frequently asked questions about the safety of Adderall.
Can Adderall Cause Sudden Death?
Abusing ADHD meds like Adderall can cause serious damage to your body and possibly lead to complications like a heart attack or stroke, resulting in sudden death.
If you use the prescription as directed, however, this is very unlikely.
Can Adderall Help for Anxiety?
No, Adderall is a prescription drug indicated for use for ADHD and narcolepsy. As a stimulant, Adderall may worsen your anxiety instead of ease it.
Is Adderall Safe for Kids?
Yes, Adderall is safe for children as long as they take the drug strictly according to their doctor’s prescription.
What Reduces the Side Effects of Adderall?
Some practices may help ease the severity of Adderall side effects, including:
- Taking Adderall in exactly the doses directed by your doctor.
- Taking your first dose of Adderall as soon as you wake up.
- Avoiding using any other stimulants, including coffee.
Can You Overdose on Adderall?
Yes, you can overdose on Adderall, which could be dangerous to your health and cause severe adverse effects like seizures or a heart attack.
Is Adderall Bad for Your Heart?
Adderall may cause high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate in some people, which could negatively affect your heart health, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition.
Adderall is a highly effective stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. However, its potential for abuse, side effects, and long-term health risks make it a risky choice for long-term medication.
On the other hand, nootropics provide a more sustainable option to treat these symptoms with almost no side effects and little to no potential for abuse.
- Berman, S M, et al. “Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review.” Molecular Psychiatry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2670101/.
- BP;, Chou NH;Huang YJ;Jiann. “The Impact of Illicit Use of Amphetamine on Male Sexual Functions.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26147855/.
- Sichilima, Tangu, and Michael J Rieder. “Adderall and Cardiovascular Risk: A Therapeutic Dilemma.” Paediatrics & Child Health, Pulsus Group Inc, Mar. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690554/.
- Volkow, Nora D. “Long-Term Safety of Stimulant Use for Adhd: Findings from Nonhuman Primates.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Nature Publishing Group, Nov. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3473329/.
- Vo, Kim, et al. “Concurrent Use of Amphetamine Stimulants and Antidepressants by Undergraduate Students.” Patient Preference and Adherence, Dove Medical Press, 22 Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4309786/.
- Simon, Leslie V. “Serotonin Syndrome.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 July 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482377/#:~:text=Signs%20and%20symptoms%20include%20agitation,and%20a%20bilateral%20Babinski%20sign.
- Lakhan, Shaheen E, and Annette Kirchgessner. “Prescription Stimulants in Individuals with and without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Misuse, Cognitive Impact, and Adverse Effects.” Brain and Behavior, Blackwell Publishing Inc, Sept. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3489818/.
- AC;, Fitzgerald KT;Bronstein. “Adderall® (Amphetamine-Dextroamphetamine) Toxicity.” Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23796480/#:~:text=%CE%B2%2DAdrenergic%20receptor%20stimulation%20leads,mydriasis%2C%20tremors%2C%20and%20seizures.