adderall side effects

Adderall Side Effects and How to Spot Adderall Abuse

Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Finals are coming up, you’ve got a huge project due, or you need to shine at work. You’re exhausted but there’s no time to rest, so you pop an Adderall to keep you sharp. It’s no big deal, after all, it’s a legal prescription drug…

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. Studies show that over 16 million adults in the United States are taking prescription stimulants. An estimated 5 million are taking the drug illegally, without a prescription, in an attempt to improve concentration and increase their mental stamina.

Unfortunately, this drug, long known as the “study buddy” or the “get-ahead drug,” isn’t as innocent as it might seem. Adderall side effects are serious and can have a long-term impact on your physical and mental health. Let’s take a look at how this drug impacts the body and the brain, and review some of the telltale signs of Adderall abuse.

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall has both positive and negative side effects, which is why so many people take it whether they’ve been prescribed it or not. On the positive side, the drug can improve concentration, elevate your mood, make you more alert, and less tired. The drug will often make you feel like you can think more clearly and help to minimize hyperactivity.

On the flip side, however, you may also experience negative effects including:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Numb fingers and toes
  • Dizziness
  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Peeling skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Hair loss
  • Lack of appetite/weight loss
  • Stomach ache
  • Constipation
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling nervous or jittery
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced sex drive

When taken exactly as prescribed, these effects are usually minimal. You’re far more likely to run into problems when taking Adderall without a prescription or taking it more frequently or in larger doses than recommended.

Potential Effects of Long-Term Misuse

Abusing or misusing Adderall can cause serious long-term physical and psychological effects. Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues.

Adderall’s Effect on the Brain

When Adderall is prescribed for ADHD, it works by increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain. Since those with ADHD have lower levels of these important brain chemicals, the drug helps to balance them out.

However, when you don’t have ADHD, Adderall use can cause the brain to become overstimulated. This can lead to psychological issues including:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Mania
  • Hallucinations
  • Hearing voices

This problem is growing more common. A recent study found that adolescents and teens who have been prescribed stimulants like Adderall to treat ADHD are twice as likely as others to develop psychosis.

Development of Personality Disorders

Mood swings are a common side effect of Adderall use. When abused for a long time, however, these swings can become severe and begin to impact a person’s overall personality. Increased hostility is common, and extreme mood swings can begin to present themselves as a bipolar disorder.

Misuse of stimulants like Adderall can lead to schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Long-Term Physical Effects

Beyond the short-term physical effects, long-term Adderall use can also negatively impact the body. When prescribed to children, it can cause stunted growth. Cardiac issues are common, including irregular heartbeat, Cardiomyopathy, and Tachycardia.

Long-term users of Adderall are also at increased risk of necrotizing vasculitis, high blood pressure, seizures, stroke, or heart attack. In some cases, sudden death may occur.

Adderall Addiction

The longer you use Adderall, the more likely you are to build up a tolerance. Once your body gets used to it, you’ll need higher doses to achieve the same effects. Keep increasing your use, and you’ll develop a dependency.

Once you’re dependent on a drug, stopping its use will often result in withdrawal symptoms. These can include severe insomnia, fatigue, irritability, disorientation, and panic attacks. Urinary tract infections and stomach pain are also common withdrawal symptoms.

When attempting to recover from Adderall addiction, professional help is often necessary. Inpatient residential rehab is usually recommended for moderate to severe addiction. 

How to Spot Adderall Abuse

Most people who use Adderall without a prescription will go out of their way to keep it a secret. If you know what to look for, however, it’s not hard to spot the signs of Adderall abuse.

Exhaustion and weight loss are common among Adderall users. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for changes in personality including aggressiveness, risk-taking, and sudden outbursts. People on Adderall often talk fast, lose their train of thought, and become paranoid.

When Adderall addiction takes hold, it’s not uncommon to see a decline in personal hygiene. The addict is also likely to begin having problems at work or school and may run into relationship and financial issues.

If you notice your loved one frequently taking pills or sneaking around, it’s also a good sign that something isn’t right.

Staging an Intervention

When a loved one is in trouble with drugs, they’ll often deny it. The habit may be so ingrained that they can’t see the problem, or they may feel ashamed. Arranging a professional intervention is often the best solution. 

Since intervention is about more than just gathering family and friends in a room, it’s always a good idea to learn more before you get started. Research the process and make sure that you’re comfortable with it, then contact an intervention specialist to help walk you through it. 

Let Us Help You!

If you or someone you love is suffering from Adderall side effects, there’s a good chance you’ll need professional help to kick the habit. We can help!

Our addiction specialists are standing by. Don’t wait for things to get worse. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. 

References:

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.