Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a drug that increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals found naturally in the body, affecting physical and mental well-being. Functions such as mood, sleep, concentration, energy, and motor control are all influenced by these chemicals. Adderall boosts these levels to deliver feelings of pleasure, alertness, and focus.
Adderall is often prescribed to treat attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (unexpectedly falling asleep). However, the use of the drug when it has not been prescribed or using it in unprescribed doses has become common, especially with students. Known as the “study drug”, many students believe Adderall helps them to focus, stay awake, and excel in their studies. Surveys show Adderall to be second only to marijuana as the most abused drug on college campuses. The drug is also used recreationally for the euphoria it delivers.
Is Adderall Addictive?
Like many other prescription drugs, if Adderall is overused or misused it can lead to addiction. Addiction should not be confused with dependence. Individuals taking Adderall as prescribed by their physician do have a physical dependence on the drug but are not abusing the drug in order to get high. Unlike dependence, addiction is both psychological and physical. A person addicted to Adderall experiences excessive thoughts and cravings for the drug and will do whatever it takes to get more.
What are the signs of Adderall addiction?
A person addicted to Adderall has a compulsion to use the drug no matter what negative consequences may result. Warning signs of an Adderall addiction may include:
- Physical symptoms such as constipation, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, shaking, nervousness, weight loss
- Needing increasingly larger doses to achieve the desired effect
- Cravings override the damage to relationships, job or school opportunities
- Inability to remain alert, focused, and motivated without the drug
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
As the addiction progresses, the physical and psychological effects become more severe and may include:
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Rapid heart rate, shortness of breath
- Aggressive behavior
- Slurred speech
- Sleep problems
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts
Withdrawal from Adderall should be medically supervised, as symptoms may be severe. Anxiety, intense cravings, depression, and violent actions can occur. There are medically prescribed medications that can ease withdrawal symptoms.