Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

What Does Adderall Addiction and Abuse Look Like?

If you struggle with focus, whether due to ADHD or other attention-related issues, Adderall might be a helpful option. It can improve alertness and concentration. 

However, it’s crucial to be aware that Adderall carries a risk of addiction⁠—especially among students and young professionals who misuse it as a “study drug” to enhance their performance.

Used responsibly and with careful guidance from your doctor, Adderall can be a useful tool. Openly discussing the risks and benefits of this medication is essential for making an informed decision about your treatment.

Can You Get Addicted to Adderall?

Yes, you can. Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug, indicating its high potential for abuse and possible psychological or physical dependence. That’s why healthcare providers need a special license (a DEA license) to prescribe it.

Why is Adderall So Addictive?

Adderall is a stimulant medication designed to improve focus and alertness in those with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy.

It works by boosting the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain⁠—chemicals important for attention, motivation, and our reward system. The “feel-good” effect of these increased levels can lead to misuse, as people may want to replicate that feeling or feel they need the drug to function.

Adderall Misuse as a Study Drug

Adderall abuse is a serious problem, especially among young adults. Many students mistakenly believe Adderall gives them an academic advantage, earning it the nickname “study drug.”

A study by John Hopkins University revealed that 60% of Adderall abuse cases involve young adults aged 18 to 25. Often, these pills are obtained from friends or family members with prescriptions.2

“The number of prescriptions for Adderall has fallen, and yet we are seeing more medical problems from its use. This suggests that the main driver of misuse…is the result of diversion, people taking medication that is legitimately prescribed to someone else.”

Lian-Yu Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

This dangerous practice of sharing prescriptions highlights why only those with a doctor-issued prescription should ever take Adderall. Misusing or abusing this drug carries significant risks.

Is Adderall Addiction Affecting Your Life?

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Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

People addicted to Adderall end up compulsively seeking the drug out, even despite harmful consequences. Because you can build a tolerance to Adderall, people tend to need higher doses for the drug to be effective, reinforcing further drug misuse.

Other Adderall addiction symptoms may include or look like:

  • Increasing doses or asking your doctor to increase your doses
  • Stealing prescriptions from others
  • Inability to reduce or stop using
  • Relying on Adderall to do any kind of work
  • Spending a lot of time and money getting and using Adderall
  • Neglecting previous hobbies in favor of using
  • Inability to meet social, work, or educational responsibilities
  • Isolating from friends, family, or loved ones

What Does Adderall Withdrawal Look Like?

If someone has developed a psychological or physical addiction to Adderall, they will potentially experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the medication.

This is especially true if they stop abruptly and without any medical guidance or supervision from a doctor who can safely take them off the drug.

Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme hunger
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you or a loved one are going through Adderall withdrawal, make sure you have the guidance of a doctor or healthcare professional. If your withdrawal symptoms are still too intense, they can slow your tapering further.

Possible Risks of Adderall Misuse

Adderall addiction can increase the likelihood of experiencing risks associated with the medication. These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Weakness or numbing of the extremities
  • Blurred vision
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or throat
  • Hives

People who snort Adderall may also develop nasal issues and have trouble breathing through their nose. Crushing and injecting Adderall also comes with its risks, like exposure to dirty needles, toxic levels of the drug in the body, vein damage, and heart problems.

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What Are Some Long-Term Risks of Adderall Addiction?

In addition to short-term health effects, sustained Adderall misuse can lead to several long-term effects.

Some of these long-term risks include:

  • Mood swings: Increased hostility, depression, anxiety, and even bipolar symptoms.
  • Psychosis: Long-term misuse can trigger hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions
  • Brain damage: Heavy use may cause damage linked to psychosis symptoms
  • Heart problems: Increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke risk, and weakened heart
  • Brain damage: Nerve cell damage and higher stroke risk
  • Seizures: Increased risk, especially for those with a history
  • Weight Loss: Appetite suppression can lead to unhealthy weight loss

If you’re experiencing any of these long-term effects, contact your doctor immediately. You will be asked to slow or stop your usage of the drug for your safety, and your doctor will taper your use so you don’t suffer withdrawal.

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Symptoms of Adderall Overdose

An overdose is what happens to the body when a toxic amount of a drug enters it. It can occur anytime someone takes more than their prescribed dose of Adderall.

Adderall overdoses often occur when you’ve developed an addiction, as you end up taking more than your body can manage. However, it can also happen accidentally, even without an addiction.

Adderall overdose symptoms include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Blurry vision
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid breathing
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Fainting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Cramps and chest pain
  • Respiratory failure

It’s important to take the right dosage of your medication, as your doctor prescribed to avoid overdose. If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, call emergency medical services immediately.

Inform them of the drug use if you’re aware so they can prepare and respond accordingly. If you wait too long to act, an Adderall overdose can also lead to fatal consequences and even death.

Adderall Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you know is showing signs of an Adderall addiction, it’s best to get help right away. There are several resources available for anyone addicted to stimulants, including:

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Updated on April 3, 2024

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