Long-Term Effects of Adderall Use: What To Watch for When Taking Adderall

Last Updated: November 1, 2023

Adderall is a prescription drug used primarily to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine salts and is classified as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. 

There are potential long-term effects of Adderall to be aware of, and the risk of these effects and their severity tends to increase when someone abuses the drug recreationally rather than taking it as prescribed. For this reason, it is important to take Adderall only as prescribed by your doctor.

Is Adderall Bad for You Long-Term?

When taken as prescribed by your doctor, the benefits of Adderall usually outweigh the risks. Long-term stimulant use in ADHD is generally defined as taking the stimulant for more than a year.
Many studies have been conducted about the long-term use of stimulants like Adderall in ADHD and found the medication is generally safe, with no negative long-term impact. However, the same is not true for people abusing Adderall long-term, who are at risk for several psychiatric and physical side effects.

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Long-Term Effects of Adderall on the Brain

Adderall has many long-term effects on the brain, and with physical Adderall effects, the severity tends to increase when someone abuses the drug. When someone takes Adderall, it works by changing the presence of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. With repeated misuse, these changes can become ongoing or lead to psychiatric side effects.

When taken as prescribed for ADHD, stimulants like Adderall can benefit the brain, even reducing the risk of depression and suicide.

Unfortunately, long-term abuse of Adderall may lead to the opposite. While rare, long-term Adderall abuse can lead to mental health issues such as:

  • Increased hostility
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Symptoms of bipolar disorder
  • Symptoms of psychosis

One specific condition that can occur with long-term Adderall abuse is called stimulant-induced psychosis. Symptoms of stimulant-induced psychosis include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking

When someone abuses Adderall for long periods, it can also lead them to feel a loss of motivation, particularly when they’re not taking the drug. Someone who misuses Adderall may feel like they can’t function or perform well in school or at work without it. Someone who has abused Adderall for a long time may be unable to experience pleasure without using the drug.

Addiction and dependence are also potential long-term effects of Adderall on the brain. Someone becomes addicted to Adderall with repeated exposure because the drug can activate their reward response. When someone is addicted to Adderall, their reward response triggers them to continue using it despite negative side effects. Physical dependence can form with or without addiction. Someone dependent on Adderall will go through withdrawal if they stop using the drug suddenly. Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Increased appetite

Permanent Effects of Adderall on Brain Functioning

Long-term Adderall use does not appear to negatively impact brain functioning, cognitive ability or mental health in those who take the drug as prescribed for ADHD.

However, if someone abuses a stimulant like Adderall, long-term mental health issues may develop due to changes in the brain’s cell structure. These changes can include:

  • Increased hostility
  • Increased depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased aggression
  • Severe mood swings
  • Psychotic symptoms

Adderall Use and Dementia

Although there is no evidence that people who take Adderall for ADHD under the care of a doctor are at risk for dementia, the same is not true for those who misuse Adderall. Studies show that those who abuse amphetamines like Adderall are at a higher risk for dementia later in life. This includes Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and other dementias.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall on the Body

Adderall has long-term physical effects. As a stimulant, Adderall speeds up processes controlled by the CNS, which can lead to short- and long-term effects, including increased blood pressure and heart rate. Other long-term physical effects of Adderall can include:

  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack and a weakened heart muscle
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Extreme weight loss

In children, Adderall may lead to long-term growth suppression.

Cardiovascular Risks

Adderall can carry cardiovascular risks, ranging from high blood pressure to stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death. If you take Adderall as a doctor prescribes, you will be closely monitored to minimize these risks. However, if you abuse Adderall without a doctor’s oversight, ensuring you are not damaging your long-term heart health can be difficult.

Sexual Side Effects

Adderall can have different sexual side effects, even if you take the medication as prescribed. These include changes in libido and frequent or prolonged erections or impotence in men. If you take Adderall as your doctor prescribes, you can discuss minimizing your risk of these side effects.

Long-Term Adderall Use Personality Changes

Although taking Adderall as prescribed for ADHD does not lead to personality changes, abusing the medication can change the cell structure of the brain’s neurons and lead to long-term personality changes like aggression, hostility and paranoia. This may occur because a person who takes Adderall without a medical reason may develop a dopamine deficiency, contributing to these symptoms.

Adderall Addiction

As a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. For this reason, it should only be taken as prescribed by your doctor. Symptoms of Adderall addiction include:

  • Spending a lot of time taking or trying to get Adderall
  • Going to multiple doctors and pharmacies to try to get Adderall
  • Stealing, borrowing or buying Adderall from someone else
  • Taking more Adderall or taking it for a longer time than intended
  • Ignoring family, school or work obligations because of Adderall
  • Social or interpersonal problems because of Adderall
  • Taking Adderall when it’s hazardous to do so 
  • Needing larger doses of Adderall for it to be effective
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit or cut back on Adderall

Benefits and Risks of Long-Term Adderall Use

In those who take Adderall for a legitimate medical purpose like ADHD, the medication is generally considered safe, with no negative impact over the long term. However, abusing Adderall can lead to physical side effects like increased risk of heart attack and stroke and psychological consequences like psychosis due to changes in the brain’s cell structure.

Adderall Addiction Treatment in Orlando, Florida

Adderall addiction potential is one of the effects of Adderall use. Only using Adderall as instructed reduces the risk of an addiction developing. If you or someone you care about is addicted to Adderall, Orlando Recovery Center can provide professional help to avoid the severe mental and physical effects its use can cause. Contact us to speak to a Recovery Advocate about how personalized addiction treatment programs can work for you. You deserve a healthier future.

Sources

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U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse, A DEA Resource Guide.” 2020. Accessed August 10, 2022.

Krinzinger, Helga; Hall, Charlotte L.; Groom, Madeleine J.; et al. “Neurological and psychiatric adverse eff[…]the current evidence.” Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, December 2019. Accessed August 10, 2022.

PsychDB. “Stimulant Withdrawal.” Accessed August 10, 2022.

Schweren, Lizanne; Hoekstra, Pieter; van Lieshout, Marloes; et al. “Long-term effects of stimulant treatment[…]oning, and cognition.” Psychological Medicine, January 2019. Accessed August 10, 2022.

Greenhill, Laurence L.; Swanson, James M.; Hechtman, Lily; et al. “Trajectories of Growth Associated With L[…]peractivity Disorder.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, August 2020. Accessed August 10, 2022.

Science & Practice Perspectives. “Stimulant Drug-Induced Changes to Brain Cell Structures.” December 2005. Accessed August 10, 2022.

Kohno, Milky; Dennis, Laura E.; McCready, Holly; Hoffman, William F. “Dopamine dysfunction in stimulant use di[…]ations for treatment.” Molecular Psychiatry, 2022. Accessed August 10, 2022.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Controlled Substances.” August 2, 2022. Accessed August 10, 2022.

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