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Adderall is prescribed in the United States so often that many people are not aware that it is actually highly addictive and can have long-term effects on the body and mind. As ADHD diagnoses increase, so too do the prescriptions for Adderall, and that increases the risk of abuse. In fact, statistics show that Adderall was one of the most abused drugs in the U.S. in 2016. If you or someone you know uses Adderall, it is important to be aware of the long-term effects and harm reduction for Adderall addiction.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug that contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is a central nervous system stimulant, which means it affects the brain and the nerves. It is most often prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some doctors also prescribe it for narcolepsy and depression. In 2018, there were over 25 million prescriptions for Adderall, making it the 24th most prescribed drug in the United States. The drug comes in two different forms: immediate-release (IR) tablets and extended-release (XR) tablets. The 12-hour extended-release form is called Adderall XR. There is also a longer extended-release form called Mydayis that is meant to last for 16 hours. Both the immediate and XR versions of Adderall are available as generic drugs in the United States. However, Mydayis is only available in the States as a brand-name drug.While Adderall is meant to be used for the treatment of attention disorders, many people use the drug for other reasons. Some people use it to enhance their athletic performance. Others use it to improve cognition, suppress appetite, fight fatigue, lose weight, and enhance memory. Adderall is also used recreationally because it can produce a euphoric feeling in some people. Adderall has been nicknamed ‘the study drug’ because so many students use it to help with their studies. This is because it can help with focus, attention, organization, and productivity. As a stimulant, it also prevents users from falling asleep. A national survey revealed that up to 25 percent of college students used a non-medical prescription stimulant in the previous year1

How Does Adderall Affect the Body?

The ingredients in Adderall react with systems and chemicals in the body and the brain. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine stimulate the central nervous system. They also increase the activity of the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain, causing the brain to produce more of these chemicals. People with ADHD often have impairments in their dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter systems, which is why Adderall can be beneficial. For these people, Adderall can help manage hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Studies show that stimulants can alter brain structure and decrease brain abnormalities in people with ADHD2 most stimulants, Adderall can affect the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It can make the heart beat faster and raise your blood pressure. It can make the blood vessels constrict, causing you to feel numb in your extremities. It can also cause you to breathe faster and deeper than usual. This is why experts do not suggest taking Adderall if you have cardiovascular disease.Because Adderall reacts with chemicals in the brain, there are a number of cognitive effects that it can produce. These include alertness, wakefulness, and increased concentration. Some people find that Adderall can improve focus, memory, and reaction time. Stimulants can also improve endurance and reaction time and increase muscle strength.

Short-Term Side Effects of Adderall

With every drug there is the risk of adverse side effects. For most people who take therapeutic doses of Adderall as prescribed by their doctor, the side effects are minimal. However, recreational Adderall users and those who take higher doses, the chances of experiencing side effects are very high. These are just a few of the reported side effects of Adderall:

  • Dry mouth
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Tics
  • Anxiety
  • Change in libido
  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Heart palpitations

Is Adderall Addictive?

People who use Adderall recreationally are at a very high risk of developing an amphetamine addiction. This is because when you take high doses of Adderall on a regular basis, it overstimulates your dopamine pathway. Dopamine is a ‘feel-good’ chemical that activates the brain’s reward center. Adderall can alter the way the dopamine neurotransmitter works, so after extended Adderall use, you may not be able to feel pleasure without taking the drug anymore.The body also develops a tolerance to amphetamine drugs like Adderall. Over time, you may need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects. High doses of Adderall can cause the body to produce high levels of a protein called ΔFosB in your body. This protein is called the ‘master switch’ for addiction. Once it is activated, it can increase the severity of your addiction behavior, such as seeking out more drugs. It should be noted that people who take therapeutic doses of Adderall to treat attention disorders may not develop addictions. This is because therapeutic doses don’t throw the dopamine neurotransmitter into overdrive. Many people with ADHD take Adderall for their entire life and do not exhibit signs of Adderall addiction. In fact, a recent study shows that one of the Adderall effects long-term is a reduced risk of alcoholism and substance use disorders.

Adderall Effects Long-Term

Frequent and long-term use of Adderall at high doses can cause many health problems, some of which can even be fatal. These are some of the potential long-term effects of Adderall use:

  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Seizures
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Headaches
  • Panic Attacks
  • Toxic Psychosis

What is Toxic Psychosis?

Toxic psychosis is when a person has a psychotic episode that is brought on by substance use. When this happens, the substance user may lose touch with reality and their ability to communicate with other people. A psychotic break can include hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. Certain substances are known to cause toxic psychosis including stimulants like Adderall.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Most recreational Adderall users experience withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of taking their last dose. These symptoms can persist for weeks and be very uncomfortable to deal with. Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Adderall cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Increase in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lucid dreams

How to Treat Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction can be difficult to overcome, but it is possible with the right support system. A drug and alcohol addiction recovery center like Windward Way Recovery can help you quit Adderall and manage the addiction so that you can lead a healthy, meaningful life without depending on amphetamines. A good addiction recovery plan will include a number of components to support your sobriety.


Detoxifying the body of Adderall is the first step in breaking the addiction. This involves abstaining from the drug so that it no longer exists in the body. Detox programs usually take place in supervised environments where medical professionals are on hand to provide clinical care and support. You will probably experience withdrawal symptoms while you are detoxing. The medical staff may be able to provide you with medications to alleviate those symptoms.


There are no medications that have been proven to be useful in fighting amphetamine addictions. However, medical professionals may prescribe you medication to help alleviate your withdrawal symptoms. For example, they may prescribe antidepressants if you are feeling depressed or sedatives if you find that you are experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.


Rehabilitation is important for any recovering substance user because it helps you deal with the underlying issues behind your addiction. It also helps you develop skills and strategies to manage the addiction and deal with external stressors. An addiction recovery center can develop a rehabilitation program that best suits your lifestyle and needs.There are many types of rehabilitation programs. An inpatient program is where you stay at a residential center for a set period and receive 24-hour care. An outpatient rehabilitation program is where you live outside the center, but take part in activities that encourage and support your sobriety such as therapy sessions or a 12-step program. You can also opt for a partial hospitalization program that offers both residential stays and outpatient care.


Many people think that addiction recovery ends once the rehabilitation program ends, but this simply isn’t true. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process, so it is important to have a clearly defined aftercare program in place for harm reduction and to prevent relapses. Studies show that 40 to 60 percent of addicts relapse in the first month after treatment. Aftercare can reduce the risk of relapsing.Aftercare programs should be tailored to the individual based on their problems, needs, and what works best with their lifestyle. An addiction recovery center may develop an aftercare program that involves ongoing therapy sessions and membership in a support group or 12-step program. Physical activity is also important. Studies show that exercise can be an effective treatment for drug addiction3 People who use Adderall recreationally run a very high risk of developing a dependency and addiction to the drug. Adderall addiction can have very serious short-term and long-term effects that can even be fatal. If you or someone you know is addicted to Adderall or exhibiting negative health effects due to using Adderall, it is important to address the situation immediately. Talk to professionals at an addiction recovery center like Windward Way Recovery to find out how you can break an Adderall addiction for good.

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