For people diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Adderall helps to improve concentration and focus. As a central nervous system stimulant it can also have the very same effects on people without ADHD.
If you take Adderall for ADHD, or for other purposes, it’s important to be aware of the side effects. Effects can be positive when Adderall is taken as intended, but for people without ADHD who use the drug without medical supervision, the effects can be dangerous. Learn more about the range of effects this stimulant has on your body.
Adderall is a brand name for the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It’s a prescription drug used primarily to treat ADHD or narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness). The medication alters certain naturally-occurring chemicals in your brain by enhancing the effects of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
For ADHD, Adderall is designed to improve hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and attention span. According to the Cleveland Clinic, stimulants like Adderall improve symptoms of ADHD in 70 to 80 percent of children, and in 70 percent of adults. The positive effects can be even greater when it’s used along with behavioral therapy.
Adderall comes in either a tablet form or as a time-release capsule. It can interfere with sleep, so it should be taken in the morning. Your doctor will most likely start you off with a low dose to make sure you can tolerate it. Then, the dose can be slowly increased.
Before taking Adderall, tell your doctor about any preexisting physical or mental health problems you have and list all other prescription and over-the-counter medications you take. Adderall is a federally controlled substance that should never be taken without medical supervision.
Central nervous system
When prescribed and taken as directed, Adderall’s effects on the central nervous system can provide some positive effects. You may be more awake during the day, as well as become more focused and calm.
Still, there are potential side effects, including:
- problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
- dry mouth
- slowed speech
- changes in vision
Adderall can also slow a child’s growth. In adults, Adderall may cause changes relating to your sex drive or sexual performance.
Serious side effects include fever and weakness, or numbness of the limbs. An allergic reaction to Adderall may cause swelling of the tongue, throat, or face. This is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.
Other serious side effects include:
- uncontrollable shaking, tics, or seizures
- hallucinations, paranoia, and other thought problems
- worsening mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Abusing or overusing Adderall and then stopping suddenly can cause symptoms of withdrawal, such as:
- feeling uneasy
- sleep problems, whether insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep) or sleeping too much
- anxiety and irritability
- panic attacks
- fatigue or lack of energy
- phobias or panic attacks
- suicidal thoughts
There’s no treatment for an Adderall withdrawal. Instead, you may have to wait out the symptoms, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Maintaining a regular routine can help with the withdrawal.
Circulatory and respiratory systems
Stimulants can make your blood vessels constrict, raise your blood pressure, and make your heart beat faster. In some cases, Adderall can cause further interference with your blood circulation. Your toes and fingers may become numb, or start to hurt. They may even turn blue or red.
Serious side effects of Adderall include heart attack and stroke. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or fainting. Adderall can lead to sudden death in people with preexisting heart conditions.
Taking Adderall alongside alcohol increases your chances of having heart problems. Adderall may also affect how drunk you feel, which can also increase your chance of alcohol poisoning.
Adderall increases the amount of glucose released into your system. This may lead to:
Loss of appetite and weight loss are also possible, which can slow down weight gain in growing children who take the medication. Weight loss in adults is a temporary side effect, and appetite should increase as your body adjusts to the medication.
Some people experience allergic reactions, which can cause the skin to itch. Taking Adderall may also result in:
Report serious side effects immediately to your doctor.
It’s important to remember that even though many people may take Adderall without a prescription — a study of 175 college students found that only two percent thought Adderall was “very dangerous” — it’s still a powerful stimulant.
Stimulants can be addictive, and it’s possible to become dependent on them if your dosage isn’t monitored by a medical professional. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any side effects from Adderall. They’ll be able to help adjust your dosage or suggest alternative remedies for your concerns.