As a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall can help improve concentration and focus in people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s also used to treat narcolepsy.

Adderall is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

The effects of the medication can be positive when Adderall is taken as intended, but for people who may use the drug without medical supervision, the effects can be dangerous. Keep reading to learn more about the range of effects this stimulant has on your body.

The Effects of Adderall on the BodyShare on Pinterest
Medical Illustration by Bailey Mariner

Adderall is the brand name for the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It’s a prescription stimulant 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 like dopamine, norepinephrine, and, to a lesser degree, serotonin.

Adderall comes in either an immediate-release tablet or a time-release capsule (Adderall XR). It can interfere with sleep, so it should be taken in the morning. If you’re prescribed Adderall, a 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, talk with a doctor about any preexisting physical or mental health problems you have and list all other prescription and over-the-counter medications you take. Certain other medications may interact with Adderall and cause serious side effects.

These medications can include:

  • certain anti-depression medications
  • certain blood pressure medications
  • seizure medications
  • blood thinners
  • decongestants
  • stomach acid medications, including antacids and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Adderall is a federally controlled substance and should not be taken without medical supervision.

Using Adderall without a prescription can lead to misuse or dependence, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) database for prescription and nonprescription drugs.

For people with ADHD, Adderall may improve focus and attention while reducing hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. It works by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

Dopamine helps the brain reinforce rewarding behaviors. Norepinephrine affects your heart rate, blood vessels, blood pressure, and breathing. It can also affect your blood sugar.

It may have similar effects on people who do not have ADHD.

Medications for ADHD like Adderall may be more effective when used along with behavioral therapy or a comprehensive treatment plan that may include psychological, educational, or social therapies.

When prescribed and taken as directed, Adderall’s effects on the central nervous system can provide some positive effects. You may feel more awake during the day as well as become more focused and calm.

Still, there are potential side effects. These can include:

  • stomach ache
  • decreased appetite
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • headaches
  • problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • hoarseness
  • slowed speech
  • changes in vision
  • irritability
  • increased heart rate

Adderall can also slow a child’s growth.

Serious side effects can include fever and weakness or numbness of the limbs.

Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction to Adderall may cause swelling of the tongue, throat, or face. This is a medical emergency and requires prompt emergency medical treatment.

If you’re sensitive or allergic to other stimulant medicines, you should not take Adderall.

Other serious side effects of Adderal can include:

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor or emergency medical services immediately.

Adderall withdrawal

Misusing or overusing Adderall and then stopping suddenly can cause symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal can include:

Medication to treat Adderall withdrawal

There’s currently 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.

Stimulants can make your blood vessels constrict, raise your blood pressure, and make your heart beat faster. It can increase also increase your breathing.

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 can include heart attack and stroke. Adderall can lead to sudden death in people with preexisting heart conditions.

If a person has a pre-existing heart condition, the psychiatrist may require that they have a cardiology consultation. This can help determine whether starting the stimulant is safe and whether other precautions are necessary.

Heart attack and stroke

In some people, taking Adderall can cause a heart attack or stroke.

If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or fainting, contact your local emergency medical services immediately.

Adderall and alcohol

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), drinking alcohol while taking Adderall can decrease the benefits of the medication while increasing adverse effects like sedation.

Taking Adderall alongside alcohol may increase your chances of having heart problems like cardiomyopathy, according to a 2021 review. Adderall may also affect how drunk you feel, which may increase your chance of alcohol poisoning.

Adderall increases the amount of glucose released into your system. This can increase your blood sugar and lead to:

Side effects like loss of appetite and weight loss can also occur while taking Adderall. In children, this can cause slow weight gain and growth. Treatment may be stopped if there’s a problem with growth.

Weight loss in adults can be a temporary side effect of Adderall, and appetite should increase as your body adjusts to the medication.

Some people can experience allergic reactions, which can cause the skin to itch. Taking Adderall may also result in:

Seek immediate medical care for serious side effects like an allergic reaction. If you’re sensitive or allergic to other stimulant medicines, you should not take Adderall.

Adderall can be effective at treating ADHD and narcolepsy. It may help people with ADHD maintain their attention and focus and decrease hyperactivity. In people with narcolepsy, Adderall may help prevent daytime sleepiness.

But Adderall and other stimulants also have side effects. Talk with a 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.

Adderall has been linked to serious side effects, including heart attack and stroke, in people with heart defects.

Stimulants can be addictive, and it’s possible to become dependent on them if your dosage isn’t monitored by a doctor. Misuse of prescription stimulants can cause an overdose.