Bipolar disorder is a type of mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood. It can be treated with a variety of different medications, as well as with therapy.

Sometimes, a stimulant medication called Adderall may be used to treat depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, this isn’t a common treatment method and may cause several side effects.

Adderall is a prescription medication that’s made up of a combination of the drugs dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It’s prescribed most often for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sometimes narcolepsy.

Adderall is a stimulant, which means that it works to increase energy levels and alertness. It does this by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves extreme shifts in moods, often with highs (manic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes).

In the past, it was referred to as manic depression or manic-depressive illness.

In a manic episode, a person may have increased energy, racing thoughts, and require less sleep. Meanwhile, those in a depressive episode may have lower energy, experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and have less interest in activities.

There are different types of bipolar disorder. All types involve clear changes in mood and energy levels. Some types don’t always involve depressive episodes.

While bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, its symptoms can be managed using a combination of medications and therapy.

Adderall isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of bipolar disorder. However, some people may be prescribed stimulants like Adderall off-label during depressive episodes to lift mood and increase energy.

A 2017 review evaluated the use of several stimulants for treating depression in bipolar disorder.

One of these was dextroamphetamine, which is an active ingredient in Adderall. A significant improvement in depressive symptoms was observed when dextroamphetamine was used.

However, the study also noted that the effectiveness of psychostimulants needs further study in people with mood disorders.

In a small study from 2004, eight participants took stimulants along with their normal medications for bipolar disorder. The stimulants were tolerated well and a moderate improvement of symptoms like depression and sedation was seen.

Overall, additional research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of stimulants such as Adderall in treating bipolar disorder. Currently, their use remains controversial due to several potential side effects that can occur while using them.

There are some downsides to using Adderall to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. These include:

  • Risk of manic episodes. Using stimulants like Adderall during a depressive episode may increase the risk of a manic episode. A 2008 study found that 40 percent of participants using stimulants for bipolar disorder experienced stimulant-associated mania.
  • Tolerance. Using Adderall over a long period of time may lead to tolerance. In these cases, a person may need higher doses of Adderall to feel its effects. This may increase the risk of severe side effects or overdose.
  • Addiction. Adderall has a high potential for misuse and addiction.

Some additional side effects that commonly occur when using Adderall include:

There are also several medications that can negatively interact with Adderall. Examples include:

During a manic episode, it’s common to have symptoms that are similar to those of ADHD. Some examples include:

  • trouble paying attention
  • feelings of restlessness
  • making impulsive decisions

These symptoms often go away when a manic episode ends. However, it’s also common for bipolar disorder and ADHD to occur together.

In people with both bipolar disorder and ADHD, stabilization of mood using medications like mood stabilizers or antipsychotics often takes precedence over treating ADHD symptoms. Sometimes, stimulants may be used along with these medications.

While Adderall can help treat symptoms common to both bipolar disorder and ADHD, the symptoms of mania may persist after the effects of Adderall wear off. However, some types of antipsychotics used in the treatment of bipolar disorder may protect against this effect.

Types of treatments that are more commonly used for bipolar disorder include:

  • Mood stabilizers. These medications work to manage the changes in mood associated with bipolar disorder. Examples include lithium and valproic acid.
  • Antipsychotics. Some types of antipsychotic medications may be used either alone or in combination with a mood stabilizer. Some examples include risperidone, olanzapine, and lurasidone.
  • Antidepressants. Antidepressants may be used occasionally to treat depressive episodes. However, they may sometimes trigger or increase the risk of a manic episode.
  • Therapy. Therapy can help you to better understand your condition and increase awareness of when you’re experiencing a manic or depressive episode. It can also help you pinpoint troubling thoughts or behaviors and work to positively change them.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT uses electrical impulses to stimulate your brain. It may be used during a severe depressive or manic episode, or when treatments like medications and therapy haven’t been effective.
  • Lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes can also help with symptom management. Some examples include things like getting regular exercise, maintaining regular routines, and tracking changes in your mood.

Adderall is a stimulant medication that’s used to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy. Some people may also use Adderall off-label to treat depressive episodes of bipolar disorder.

While some studies have indicated that stimulants may help with depressive symptoms, using them can have some potential downsides. These include an increased risk of manic episodes, tolerance, or addiction.

The treatment of bipolar disorder most often involves the use of both medications and therapy. Typically, this combination can help to effectively manage symptoms.