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Updated on December 3, 2021

Adderall Overdose

Summary

  • Adderall is commonly used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
  • However, it's classified as a schedule II drug (it has a high potential for misuse and dependence).
  • If you take more than the prescribed dose, you're likely to experience an overdose.
  • The risk of Adderall overdose may increase if the drug is taken together with alcohol or other drugs such as antidepressants, antihistamines, Adrenergic blockers, and antacids, among others.
  • Although signs of Adderall overdose differ from person to person, common signs include headache, diarrhea, high fever, tremors, seizures, or even death (depending on the dose).
  • You can prevent Adderall overdose by strictly following your prescription instructions and never using the drug for leisure. Long-term use may lead to tolerance and physical dependence.
  • If you or a loved one has overdosed on Adderall, seek immediate medical attention.
  • For someone addicted to Adderall, seeking addiction treatment in inpatient and outpatient recovery centers is the way to go.

Can You Overdose on Adderall? 

Adderall is a prescription drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

This drug is made by combining amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These are central nervous system stimulants.1

Adderall is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. 

You can overdose on Adderall if you take more than the prescribed amount. Those who misuse Adderall (using it to get high) also have an increased risk of overdose.

According to research, overdose by psychostimulant medications, including Adderall, is on the rise.2

How Much Adderall Can Lead to an Overdose?

There is no defined dosage of Adderall that causes an overdose. 

This is because your response to an amphetamine such as Adderall may differ significantly from another person's response. In fact, in rare occurrences, an overdose may occur even at low dosages.

The FDA has determined 70mg a day to be the maximum safe dose for most ADHD medications, anything above that can lead to an overdose.

When you use Adderall regularly, it may result in tolerance, forcing you to take a higher dose to achieve the desired "high."

What’s the Normal Prescribed Dosage of Adderall? 

The amount of Adderall you take in a day depends on the condition the medication is treating. 

All amphetamines should be prescribed at the lowest effective dosage for your disorder. Your response to Adderall will determine the appropriate dosage for you.

Adderall comes in two main forms: 

  • Adderall. Comes in 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 20 and 30 mg capsules 
  • Adderall XR. Comes in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 mg capsules

Both of these drugs have the same active ingredients but are absorbed differently in the body.3

Adderall XR is an extended-release variant of Adderall. This means the pill breaks down slowly, and the active ingredients are delivered throughout the day. For this reason, it's taken just once a day.

Safe adderall dosage is as follows:

  • For Adderall, children should start with 2.5mg once a day, while adults should begin with taking 5mg once or twice a day. Take the first dose when you wake up and additional doses at intervals of 4 to 6 hours.
  • For Adderall XR, children should start at 10mg daily while adults should begin with 20mg daily.

A doctor may raise the dosage each week to ensure effectiveness. However, it's rare for children to exceed a dosage of 40mg a day. An adult can take up to 60mg daily and still be safe.

Whenever possible, medication delivery should be interrupted to see whether there is a resurgence of behavioral problems that require prolonged treatment.

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Signs of an Adderall Overdose

Adderall overdose can result in mild to severe symptoms.4 The severity of symptoms depends on the following factors:

  • The amount taken
  • Your body chemistry and sensitivity to stimulants
  • Whether you mixed Adderall with another drug

Mild symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Dark red or brown urine
  • Confusion
  • Hyperreactivity
  • Stomach pain

Severe symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressiveness
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High fever (106.7 °F/41.5 °C or higher)
  • Muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis)
  • Fainting (loss of consciousness)
  • Possible death

The symptoms may vary from one person to the next. If you or your child is experiencing a combination of such symptoms after taking Adderall, call your doctor or the National Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. For emergency treatment, dial 911.

Can Adderall Interact With Other Drugs?

The risk of Adderall overdose increases if you are engaged in alcohol or substance use while taking Adderall. 

Adderall and Alcohol Interaction

Adderall might make it difficult for people to feel the effects of alcohol, leading them to drink more than they would otherwise. This increased consumption increases the likelihood of alcohol poisoning, kidney and liver failure.5

Furthermore, alcohol and Adderall may harm the heart, raising the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Adderall Interaction With Other Prescription Drugs

Adderall can interact with other drugs, including:

  • Adrenergic blockers (alpha-blockers) such as doxazosin and prazosin may not be as effective.
  • Serotonergic drugs such as norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome (too much serotonin in the body).6
  • Adderall can increase the potency of tricyclic antidepressants such as Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, and Desipramine (Norpramin), increasing the risk of cardiovascular side effects.
  • Antacids such as Aluminum hydroxide gel, calcium carbonate, and magnesium hydroxide enhance the absorption of Adderall, increasing the risk of overdose symptoms such as tremors, aggressiveness, and seizures, among others.
  • CYP2D6 inhibitors such as Benadryl, Cymbalta, Paxil, and Prozac may raise Adderall levels in the blood and increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.7
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Isocarboxazid (Marplan), Phenelzine (Nardil), and Selegiline (Emsam) decrease the metabolism of Adderall, making it last in the body for longer. This can result in abnormally high blood pressure, high fever, metabolic acidosis, and other deadly effects.
  • Antihistamines such as Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), Clemastine (Tavist), and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may lose their sedative effects if mixed with Adderall.
  • Proton pump inhibitors such as Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), and Omeprazole (Prilosec) can affect Adderall's effects. Doctors should monitor this interaction closely if a patient is taking both medications.
  • When used alongside Adderall, seizure medications such as phenobarbital and phenytoin may cause an anticonvulsant effect.

This is not a complete list of all drugs that can cause a negative interaction with Adderall. 

You should always discuss any drugs you are taking with your doctor. These include over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and other nutritional supplements. Doing so will help your doctor select the appropriate medication and dose to limit your risk of drug interaction.

What to Do if You Overdose on Adderall

If you suspect that you're experiencing an Adderall overdose, seek emergency medical services. You can also call 911 for immediate assistance.

Do not try to sleep it off or make yourself vomit without consulting a healthcare professional.

If you're watching over someone who has overdosed on Adderall, do the following as you wait for help to arrive:

  • Place the victim in a calm environment
  • Cool them down using ice packs or a fan
  • Find out the victim's age
  • Find out how much Adderall they consumed
  • Find out any possible allergies to other medications
  • Find out their history of drug use
  • Find out if they mixed Adderall with alcohol or other drugs

Adderall overdose can be deadly, especially if taken with other illegal drugs. Whatever the case, be honest with the doctors and first responders. They need all the information they can get to minimize the effects of the overdose or save the victim's life.

Treatment for Adderall Overdose

There are many ways for doctors to treat an overdose. An Adderall overdose does not have a particular medication or therapy. 

Instead, the doctor will have to give supportive care as well as address any symptoms or issues that emerge.

Treatment may include:

  • Managing uncontrolled hypertension with IV medications such as phentolamine (Regitine) or dopamine (Intropin)
  • Using activated charcoal or gastric lavage to help the person's system eliminate the drug8
  • Benzodiazepines can be used to address cardiovascular and CNS toxicity, seizures, agitation, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms.
  • Administering nitrates to reduce chest pain associated with Adderall overdose
  • Administering medication to lower blood pressure

How to Prevent Adderall Overdose 

The most effective way to avoid an Adderall overdose is by adhering to the prescription instruction given by your doctor.

Secondly, avoid using Adderall for leisure. Adderall is considered a Schedule II drug in the USA. This means that Adderall has a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Most Adderall fatalities occur among inexperienced or first-time users. If it's your first time using, begin with lower doses as you increase gradually to give your body time to adjust.

If you ever forget to take your dose, never take a second dose to compensate. To ensure you don't forget to take your daily dose, take it at the same time each day. Set a daily reminder if need be.

If you're in doubt about how to take prescription Adderall safely, reach out to your doctor for professional advice.

Treatment for Adderall Misuse & Addiction

Just like other drugs, Adderall addiction can be treated. Inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities exist all over the country, offering effective addiction recovery programs.

  • Inpatient rehab. These treatment facilities require patients to stay within the facility for the period of their treatment (30 to 90 days).
  • Outpatient rehab. These facilities offer flexibility for patients to live their normal lives while attending rehab.

Substance abuse treatment programs for Adderall addiction may include:

  • Medical detox. To help eliminate the drug while minimizing the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Group therapy. To enable interaction with other victims and professional therapists.
  • The 12-step program that enables participation and learning how to build a life without drugs.
  • Aftercare (extended care). This is required after the completion of therapy to prevent relapse and ensure full recovery.
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Resources

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  1. Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine,” American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 15 April 2019
  2. Overdose Death Rates,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 29 January 2021
  3. ADHD Medications for Adults and Children: ADD Stimulants, Nonstimulants & More,” ADDitude Magazine, 19, August 2019
  4. Adderall XR,” US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  5. Mixing Adderall and Alcohol: Side Effects and Risks,” AlcoholicsAnonymous (AA), 23 June 2021
  6. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),”  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 17 September 2019
  7. MDMA, methamphetamine, and CYP2D6 pharmacogenetics: what is clinically relevant?,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 12 November 2012
  8. The Use of Activated Charcoal to Treat Intoxications,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 3 may 2019

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