Healthy Living

Adderall: Side Effects, High, Abuse, Withdrawal

Adderall: Side Effects, High, Abuse, Withdrawal

Key Takeaways

  • Adderall is meant to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy.
  • Adderall abuse is identified as the improper use of the medication, usually for leisure, so people can experience feelings like euphoria.
  • Due to its nature as a stimulant, people can become addicted to Adderall and therefore they can also experience withdrawal. 

What is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand name of a prescription drug that contains a mixture of amphetamine salts, specifically 75% dextroamphetamine and 25% levoamphetamine salts. It belongs to the drug class called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. It is also classified among psychostimulants, under the subcategory amphetamines. Amphetamines is the general category used for its stereo-isomers, including dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine. The potent combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity. The medication Adderall, like other CNS stimulants, is effective in treatment plans for ADHD and narcolepsy

Adderall is available in tablets. It also comes in an immediate-release and extended-release formulation, respectively Adderall IR and Adderall XR. Immediate-release is taken when immediate relief from symptoms is necessary. On the other hand, extended-release tablets, as the name suggests, lasts longer in the system of the human body, so its effects also last longer and relief is more consistent. Adderall is available in a wide range of strengths.

The exact mechanism of how Adderall functions and interacts with the body is unknown. However, it has been established that amphetamines work on ADHD symptoms by increasing stimulatory neurotransmitters of both dopamine and norepinephrine. Ironically, this stimulation causes a calming and focusing effect on people with ADHD, reducing their hyperactivity and improving their ability to concentrate on the task at hand.

What are the side effects of Adderall?

When a person takes Adderall, side effects may occur. Listed here are some of the minor side effects you may experience. These do not cause any severe harm, and at most they would only cause discomfort and inconvenience.

AdderallSideEffects

  • Anxiety or false sense of well-being
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of strength
  • Stomach pain or constipation
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Loss of sexual ability, drive, desire or performance; or an inability to have or keep an erection
  • Twisting, twitching or other repetitive and uncontrolled movements of the tongue, lips, face, arms, or legs

On the other hand, there are also other side effects that require immediate medical attention. At first, they can seem harmless, but they may be indicative of underlying serious conditions. If you experience any of these side effects, consult your doctor at once.

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Bloody, cloudy or dark-colored urine
  • Bladder pain; difficult, burning, or painful urination
  • Swelling of the feet or lower legs
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
  • Lower back or side pain
  • Chest pain or discomfort; or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back, or neck
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Muscle spasm or jerking of limbs; or uncontrolled repetitive movements or tics
  • Uncontrolled vocal outbursts
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Cough or hoarseness
  • Fever or chills
  • Convulsions
  • Headache, double vision, dizziness or faintness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Inability to move the arms, legs, or facial muscles
  • Slow speech or a total inability to speak
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Itching
  • Large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  • Blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • Red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Sweating

Adderall may also trigger allergic reactions. If you experience or suspect symptoms of allergy, contact your doctor immediately. Some common signs to watch out for are: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in the face, and itching to name a few.

It is also important to note that Adderall is not suitable for, or should be taken with great caution by, people with a history of heart problems as it can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other heart diseases. This also applies for people who have or had any of these conditions: hyperthyroidism, anxiety, bipolar disorder, glaucoma and other eye problems, Tourette’s syndrome and other sudden uncontrolled movements, liver disease, renal dysfunction and seizures.

How and why do people abuse Adderall?

If you are wondering whether taking this prescribed medication will lead to an Adderall high, the question is very much valid. Adderall is an amphetamine, which is a psychostimulant. Stimulants affect the dopamine levels in the body, and it is directly involved in the reward center of the brain. The increased levels of dopamine lead to feelings of euphoria, happiness, strength, even perhaps invincibility. This is why they are popular choice for recreational drugs.

Adderall abuse is identified as the improper use of the medication, usually for leisure. When Adderall is crushed and snorted, injected, or taken in high dosages, this leads to feelings of euphoria, and ultimately, to the cycle of addiction.

Can you get addicted to Adderall?

When a person takes this medication, Adderall addiction is a possibility and a risk, especially if the medication is not taken carefully as prescribed by the doctor. Because Adderall is a stimulant, it affects the dopamine levels in the system, which is directly involved in the way we perceive pleasure and rewards. This creates feelings of euphoria and even invincibility. For some people, they learn to depend on these false feelings of ease and happiness. When the effects of the medication die down, they crave that pleasure. This leads to addiction.

However, if Adderall is taken as prescribed by the doctor, experiencing euphoria is very unlikely. The doctor usually prescribes a lower dosage of the medication first. This allows your system to adjust and experience its therapeutic effects without getting a person high. So while Adderall abuse can lead to a high, normal usage of the medication will not do this.

If Adderall is used in long-term treatments, especially by an adolescent, a person may develop physical dependence on the medicine. People with ADHD may not be able to function normally without the interference of the medication and its regulating effects in the chemicals of the brain.

However, physical dependence should be differentiated from addiction. Addiction is characterized by intense craving, leading to obsessive thoughts and mental preoccupation of the drug. Physical dependence will not render a person irrational the way that addiction can. This is why it is important to regularly check in with a medical professional so that any adjustments to the medication may be made.

Adderall withdrawal symptoms

Once a person has stopped taking the medication, Adderall withdrawal symptoms may be expected, but this is not a given. Not everyone who has taken Adderall will experience withdrawal. This is more common in people who have taken the medication for a long time, for people who took the medication at higher dosages, and for people who have a history of addiction. This varies from person to person, because each individual’s physiology is different. This makes the medication react differently in each person’s body.

Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms are listed here.

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mental fog
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Agitation

Adderall withdrawal could last any time from only five days to three weeks, or longer. This varies largely from person to person. The type of Adderall you took may also make a difference. Typically, people who took the regular formulation of Adderall will begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms quickly, and these will also end quickly. On the other hand, people who had taken the extended-release formulation, Adderall XR, will not immediately feel any difference or experience withdrawal symptoms. This is because the body has not completely excreted the medication yet. However, this also means that the withdrawal symptoms may last longer.

If the doctor decides that you are well enough to be taken off of medication, this is good news. It means that you are doing well. However, you will still need to be observed closely and supported in the process. Because of withdrawal symptoms, you may lose confidence in yourself, or think that you cannot survive or function well without the medication. But in truth, you may only be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. And while withdrawal can make medication irresistible and compulsive, it does not last forever. Getting help from family and friends to ease you through this difficult process is just as important as their support of you throughout your treatment. Make sure that you inform them that you are going through this process, so that they can lengthen their patience and provide you with the help and support that you need.

Lastly, keep close and constant communication with your physician so that he or she may be kept abreast with your progress. This way, he or she is better able to evaluate your condition, and will be able to determine whether you are on track, or whether adjustments need to be made.

What is Adderall meant to treat?

Adderall is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as well as narcolepsy.

ADHD is a behavioral condition that affects children and adults alike. However, symptoms usually begin to show in childhood, although it may not be easy to spot and diagnose. Its many symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. For adults who have never been diagnosed with ADHD, these problems may sound familiar: having trouble managing time, setting goals, being organized, and keeping a job.

Narcoplepsy, on the other hand, is a disorder characterized by sudden episodes of deep sleep. Such episodes could happen at any time, and often at inappropriate and inconvenient times, even while a person is driving, eating or talking. These episodes could also happen more frequently when the brain is not being stimulated, such as during periods of inactivity or repetitive, monotonous activity.

This condition is more common in teens and adults, aged 15 to 30. There are also cases when the disorder manifests earlier or later in life. However, once symptoms appear, narcolepsy is present for life. Like ADHD, narcolepsy is also difficult to diagnose because daytime sleepiness is the most common symptom and is often associated with other things.

Narcolepsy has four main symptoms: excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations. Cataplexy is the sudden and temporary loss of muscle strength. At its most severe, cataplexy can cause a person to collapse on the floor, unable to move, and still be conscious. Next, sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move while a person is falling asleep or beginning to awaken. Episodes usually last several minutes. The last symptom, hypnagogic hallucination, creates dreamlike images that are seen during consciousness rather than during sleep. This is more common in people with sleep paralysis, and also happens as the person falls asleep or begins to wake up.

In healthy people, there are various sleep stages. Rapid eye movement or REM sleep usually occurs as the third stage of sleep so that the body transitions in various stages before the REM cycle begins. However, in people with narcolepsy, the brainwave pattern can skip on some or all of the other sleep stages. This causes the person to rapidly move from wakefulness to REM sleep, and vice versa, waking directly from REM sleep to consciousness.