Signs of Adderall Addiction: What To Look for and How To Get Help

Last Updated: September 21, 2023

How does a prescription medication become dangerous? Adderall, a well-known amphetamine, is commonly prescribed to people with ADHD or narcolepsy. Amphetamines like Adderall reverse some symptoms associated with these disorders, like hyperactivity, mood instability, irritability and impulsive behaviors, and have been shown to improve brain function and nerve growth in children with ADHD.

However, Adderall has a high risk of addiction and has been known to be used recreationally among populations like college students. Being touted as a “study drug,” Adderall has gained a reputation for being a miracle drug.

Although it may seem like a harmless medication, Adderall is a Schedule II drug, which means although it has a prescribed purpose, it also has a high potential for abuse. Let’s look at some signs of Adderall use, symptoms of withdrawal and how to get help if you or a loved one has become addicted to the ADHD medication.

Physical Signs of Adderall Addiction

When a person develops an Adderall addiction, they often start to show signs and symptoms. Many of these signs and symptoms reflect changes in the person’s physical health. If a loved one takes Adderall, it is important to recognize addiction signs.

Changes in Appetite and Weight

Because Adderall is a stimulant, it can suppress appetite. Because the sympathetic nervous system is revved up when someone takes Adderall, they may be less hungry than normal. In turn, the person may start to lose weight. 

Insomnia and Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Adderall is a stimulant, meaning it speeds up brain and body activity. This can make it hard for someone to fall or stay asleep. The person may sleep at odd intervals or be unable to get a full night’s sleep or fall asleep.

Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Adderall causes a surge of the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters act on the cardiovascular system, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. This can be dangerous and may lead to a heart attack or stroke in severe cases.

Dry Mouth, Dilated Pupils and Sweating

As Adderall increases the activity of the central nervous system by triggering the sympathetic nervous system, it causes an increase in symptoms associated with the fight or flight response. These can include dry mouth, enlarged pupils and sweating.

Hyperactivity and Restlessness

Because Adderall is a stimulant, it can cause increased side effects like hyperactivity, restlessness and anxiety in some cases. The drug works by triggering the release of neurotransmitters that speed up the brain and body, leading to side effects that reflect this action.

Did you know? Adderall can cause shortness of breath.

Because Adderall can speed up a person’s heart rate, oxygen-rich blood moves through the person’s body faster. In turn, a person will need to breathe more quickly to replete the oxygen in the blood racing through arteries and veins. This can lead to the sensation of being short of breath.

Needing a Higher Level of Adderall To Achieve Concentration

Whether you’re using Adderall when medically prescribed or recreationally, you may be building up a tolerance if you notice you need more of the drug to achieve the same concentration level. Tolerance to Adderall and requiring it to deal with everyday life can signal addiction.

Behavioral Signs of Adderall Addiction

A person’s actions and behaviors can change as they struggle with Adderall. In addition, changes in behaviors often reflect known Adderall side effects. Friends and loved ones may notice these behavior changes, which can signify that the person is developing an Adderall addiction.

Increased Focus and Concentration

Adderall can help increase a person’s focus and concentration, which is why the drug is especially important to those with ADHD. However, the drug is also sometimes abused by those wanting to increase their focus on assignments at school or work.

Talkativeness and Social Engagement

Because Adderall revs up the brain, a person may become more talkative or social after taking the medication. A crash can accompany this after the drug wears off, when the person may become tired and want to isolate and sleep, sometimes for long periods.

Euphoria and Elevated Mood

Adderall increases the brain’s level of the neurotransmitter dopamine, one of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. This can lead to euphoria and elevated mood as an Adderall dose kicks in and the drug triggers the brain’s reward system.

Impulsivity and Risk-Taking Behavior

Impulsivity and risk-taking can occur as known side effects of Adderall use. These can appear alongside other symptoms of mania, like delusional symptoms and psychosis. Although rare, these symptoms can be a serious behavioral side effect of Adderall use.

Irritability and Mood Swings

Irritability and mood swings are known side effects of Adderall. In addition, if a person’s Adderall dose starts to wear off, they may show signs of irritability as their levels of dopamine and norepinephrine drop as the Adderall starts to leave their body.

Feeling Dependent on Adderall To Complete Tasks

Adderall is often used as a “smart pill,” users have sometimes taken it before important tests, exams or other tasks involving studying and concentration. If you feel like you can’t study or complete an exam or any other important task without Adderall, you may be experiencing addiction.

Doing Anything To Get More Adderall

Addiction can take us to dark places. If you’re willing to go above and beyond to purchase and use Adderall, it may indicate abuse. This might include lying, cheating, stealing or committing a crime to obtain Adderall to support your use. If you are also selling your own prescription or buying it from someone who has one, this is a cause for concern. Here are a few signs of an addiction to Adderall:

Adderall Use Among College Students and Professionals

People don’t always abuse Adderall to get high. Sometimes, those who abuse Adderall do so to help minimize pressure at school and work. Students and professionals may attempt to manage their workload by relying on Adderall to help them stay focused.

Academic Pressure and Adderall Use

Students may use Adderall to help increase their focus during classes and stay awake longer at night to study and complete assignments. Studies show that in some schools, more than 25% of students abuse stimulants like Adderall. The risk of abuse of stimulants like Adderall increases if a student’s peers also misuse stimulants.

Occupational Pressure and Adderall Use

Adult professionals may struggle with work expectations and turn to Adderall to cope. They may take Adderall to stay awake longer than is healthy for their bodies, remain focused on tasks or complete more work. Unfortunately, over time, this can lead to an Adderall addiction and health consequences like high blood pressure and mental health problems.

Recognizing Adderall Use in Peers and Colleagues

Recognizing Adderall use in peers and colleagues can be difficult. However, if a peer is under a lot of pressure and struggling to cope, this can be a sign that they need or are seeking additional support. If the person then begins to display physical or behavioral signs of Adderall use, this can be a sign that the support mechanism they have decided on might be Adderall.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall Abuse

Little data are available on the long-term effects of Adderall when used for non-medical purposes. However, extensive data are available on the long-term effects of chemically similar drugs like methamphetamine. Long-term risks of stimulants like this can include physical health risks and psychological risks.

Health Risks of Adderall Abuse

Stimulant abuse can cause many health effects. These can include permanent effects on the cardiovascular system, like a stroke, which can carry permanent consequences like paralysis, pain and even swallowing difficulties. Long-term dental problems can also occur due to tooth breakdown from the dry mouth caused by Adderall use.

Psychological Effects and Addiction

Stimulant abuse can cause permanent brain changes. Not only can this lead to addiction, but also many psychological effects and mental health problems. Psychosis, memory loss, distractibility, mood changes, aggression and changes in thinking and motor skills are possible long-term side effects of stimulant abuse.

Damage From Snorting Adderall

Snorting Adderall can cause adverse health effects, including increased blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and weight, heart attack or stroke, tolerance and dependence.

Adderall Overdose

Taking too much Adderall in one sitting or mixing Adderall with other drugs, like alcohol, can lead to the likelihood of an overdose. An overdose is not always fatal and looks different depending on the drugs taken. It can happen unexpectedly because each user has a different metabolism and tolerance. Initial signs of an overdose include restlessness, tremors, confusion, hallucinations and panic. After the initial overdose stage, you may experience fatigue, depression and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Regular Adderall users who become addicted may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur as soon as you stop taking Adderall. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sluggishness

Adderall Addiction and Life Consequences

One of the most telling signs of addiction and drug misuse is the negative consequences in your life. Your life may become unmanageable, and you may experience adverse effects such as getting in trouble with the law, missing work, becoming ill and missing important responsibilities like child care or attendance at events. You might lose a job or relationship, forget to pay rent on time or not have money to pay the bills. You might hurt someone you love and care about by not being your best self. These are signs that Adderall may have taken over your life and everything else has become unimportant on your priority list.

Treatment for Adderall Abuse

Adderall addiction can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to be. The risks of prescription drug addiction don’t have to ruin your life. Recovery is available for anyone who wants it. Treatment can provide you with the support, medical monitoring and therapy you need to learn how to live without harmful substances.

Your physical and mental health and well-being matter to the length and quality of your life. Sobriety may be the change you need, and you do not have to do it alone. Help is available at Orlando Recovery Center, and living free from stimulants can lead you to recovery. Don’t wait; contact us today to get started.

Sources “Adderall: Package Insert.” May 1, 2023. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Fact Sheet: Stimulants.” October 2022. Accessed August 5, 2023.

Miech, Richard A.; Johnston, Lloyd D.; Patrick, Megan E.; et al. “Monitoring the Future Study: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2022: Secondary School Students.” 2023. Accessed August 5, 2023.

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