It’s possible to overdose on Adderall, especially if you take it with other drugs or medications.
Adderall is the brand name for amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.
The medication is used to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Many people also misuse Adderall to increase their productivity and memory, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved this usage.
As a CNS stimulant, Adderall can have a wide range of effects on the body. It can also be extremely dangerous if it’s not taken under medical supervision. For this reason, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers Adderall a Schedule II controlled substance, which is a drug that can lead to severe dependence.
Children taking Adderall should be monitored very carefully to ensure that they’re taking the correct dose. An overdose can be fatal.
The prescribed amount typically ranges from 2.5 to 60 milligrams (mg) per day. This amount may be split between doses throughout the day.
Your dosage will depend on whether you take tablets (Adderall) or extended-release capsules (Adderall XR).
Adderall is FDA approved to treat ADHD and narcolepsy:
- For children with ADHD who are between 3 and 5 years old and taking Adderall, the prescribed amount may be 2.5 mg per day.
- For people with ADHD who are at least 6 years old, the starting dosage may be 5 mg or 10 mg per day.
- For children with narcolepsy who are between 6 and 12 years old, the starting dosage may be 5 mg per day.
- For people with narcolepsy who are at least 12 years old, the starting dosage may be 10 mg per day.
Adderall XR is only FDA approved to treat ADHD:
- People with ADHD who are between 6 and 17 years old and taking Adderall XR typically start with a dosage of 10 mg per day.
- Adults with ADHD may be prescribed a starting dosage of 20 mg per day.
Your doctor may gradually increase your dosage until you can manage your symptoms.
The amount of Adderall or Adderall XR that could potentially lead to an overdose varies widely from person to person. It depends on how much you’ve ingested and how sensitive you are to stimulants.
A lethal dose results in death. For adults, a lethal dose of amphetamine is reportedly between 20 mg to 25 mg per kilogram (kg) of body weight. For children, it’s 5 mg/kg.
For example, a lethal dose for an adult who weighs 70 kg (154 pounds) is between 1,400 mg and 1,750 mg. This is significantly more than the highest prescribed dose. However, a lethal dose has also been reported from as little as 1.5 mg/kg in an adult.
Never take more than your prescribed dose. If you feel as if your current dose is no longer working, talk with your doctor about your concerns. They can evaluate your current prescription and make adjustments as needed.
It’s possible to overdose on less than the lethal dose of Adderall or Adderall XR if you’re also taking other drugs or medications.
For instance, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can increase the effects of these medications and increase your risk of overdose. MAOIs are a class of antidepressants.
Common MAOIs include:
- isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- phenelzine (Nardil)
- selegiline (Emsam, Zelapar)
Taking drugs that inhibit the CYP2D6 enzyme — even at a low dose — can also increase your risk of negative side effects. CYP2D6 inhibitors are used to address a range of conditions.
Common CYP2D6 inhibitors include:
- bupropion (Aplenzin, Forfivo XL, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL)
- cinacalcet (Sensipar)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
Always talk with a doctor about any medications you’re taking. This includes over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins, and other nutritional supplements.
These discussions will help the doctor choose the right medication and dosage to reduce your risk of drug interaction.
Overdosing on Adderall, Adderall XR, or other amphetamines can cause mild to severe symptoms. In some cases, death is possible.
Your individual symptoms will depend on:
- how much Adderall or Adderall XR you took
- your body chemistry and how sensitive you are to stimulants
- whether you took the medication in conjunction with other drugs or medications
Common side effects
As with most medications, Adderall and Adderall XR can cause mild side effects, even at a low dose.
Common side effects of Adderall, Adderall XR, or both include:
These side effects usually aren’t serious. If you experience these side effects while taking your prescribed dose, it doesn’t mean you’ve overdosed.
However, be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects you’re experiencing. Depending on their severity, your doctor may want to reduce your dosage or switch you to a different medication.
Mild symptoms of overdose
In mild cases, you may experience symptoms, such as:
- stomach cramps
- rapid breathing
Severe symptoms of overdose
In severe cases, you may experience symptoms, such as:
- rhabdomyolysis, or the breakdown of muscles
Death may even occur.
People who overdose on a combination of Adderall and antidepressants may also experience serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a serious drug reaction that occurs when too much of the chemical serotonin builds up in the body.
Serotonin syndrome can cause:
- irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia
- changes in blood pressure
Death may even occur.
If you suspect an Adderall overdose has occurred, seek medical care right away. Don’t wait until your symptoms get more severe.
In the United States, you can contact the National Poison Center at 800-222-1222 and await further instructions.
You can also call your local emergency services. Try to stay calm and keep your body cool while you wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
In the case of an overdose, emergency personnel will transport you to the hospital or emergency room.
They may give you activated charcoal while en route to help absorb the medication and alleviate your symptoms.
When you arrive at the hospital or emergency room, a doctor may pump your stomach to remove any remaining medication. If you’re agitated or hyperactive, they may administer benzodiazepines to sedate you.
If you’re displaying symptoms of serotonin syndrome, they may also administer medication to block serotonin. Intravenous (IV) fluids may also be necessary to replenish essential nutrients and prevent dehydration.
Once your symptoms have subsided and your body is stable, you may be required to stay in the hospital for observation.
Once the excess medication is out of your system, you’ll most likely make a full recovery.
Adderall and Adderall XR should only be taken under medical supervision. To avoid an accidental overdose, never take more than your prescribed dose. Don’t adjust it without your doctor’s approval.
Using Adderall without a prescription or mixing Adderall with other drugs can be extremely dangerous. You can never be sure how it may interact with your individual body chemistry or other medications or drugs you’re taking.
If you do choose to misuse Adderall without a prescription or mix it with other substances, keep a doctor informed. They can help you understand your individual risk of interaction and overdose. They can also watch for any changes to your overall health.