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Adderall Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Medically reviewed: 02/19/2018
Last updated: 11/10/2021
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) is a prescription stimulant used to manage the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy. Although Adderall is safe and effective when taken as prescribed, many people misuse this stimulant for its euphoric and energizing effects. Chronic Adderall misuse can lead addiction, a condition characterized by uncontrollable Adderall use despite negative consequences. Nearly everyone who struggles with an Adderall addiction is going to be physiologically dependent on the stimulant as well, leading to unwanted withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly quit.1

How is Adderall Misused?

People who misuse Adderall do so by:

  • Taking higher or more frequent doses than prescribed
  • Taking it without a prescription
  • Mixing it with other drugs like alcohol
  • Using it in a way other than directed (e.g. snorting or injecting)

People misuse Adderall for several reasons, including:

  • To stay up longer to study
  • To improve focus and concentration
  • To feel pleasure and euphoria
  • To suppress their appetite
  • To enhance the effects of other substances

Adderall misuse can cause many harmful physical and mental health effects, and long-term use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and ultimately, Adderall addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction, also known as a stimulant use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing condition in which a person is unable to control their Adderall use regardless of how it may interfere with their life. If you are worried someone is struggling with an Adderall addiction, there are many physical and psychological signs to be aware of, as well as behavioral symptoms.

Signs of Adderall Misuse

If someone is misusing Adderall to get high or to improve concentration, you may notice these signs:2,4

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Uncontrollable shaking in a part of the body
  • Changes in sexual interest
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness

Some of the more severe side effects associated with Adderall misuse include:4

  • Teeth grinding
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Slowed speech
  • Exhaustion
  • Fever or rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscular tics
  • Seizures
  • Blistering of the skin

Someone misusing Adderall may also experience mental health complications that could include hallucinations and delusions.4 If you have observed these signs of Adderall addiction in someone you care about, call our helpline at 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?). We can help you find the right rehab for your loved one.

Symptoms of a Stimulant Use Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) classifies an Adderall addiction as a stimulant use disorder and outlines 11 symptoms, including:5

  • Taking larger amount of Adderall than planned
  • Experiencing unsuccessful attempts to control or quit use
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining and using Adderall, as well as recovering from its effects
  • Experiencing strong cravings for Adderall
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite the interpersonal or social issues it is causing or exacerbating
  • Giving up hobbies or recreational activities to use Adderall
  • Using Adderall in physically hazardous situations
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite knowing that it is causing or worsening physical or psychological issues
  • Needing higher doses to experience the desired effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing Adderall withdrawal symptoms when you quit (dependence)

If you suddenly discontinue Adderall use, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to tolerate. As such, many people may take Adderall or another stimulant to relieve these withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult for them to quit on their own.

Adderall withdrawal symptoms may include:1,5

  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Slowed movements and thoughts, or rapid, purposeless movements
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Intense Adderall cravings
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety and irritability

Who is at Risk for an Adderall Addiction?

There is a higher risk for Adderall misuse and addiction among certain populations. Students, especially those in college, and working professionals who must function in situations requiring a high level of focus and concentration, are among those with an increased risk of developing an Adderall addiction.6

Other people who may be at risk for Adderall misuse or addiction include:6

  • Athletes
  • Someone with an eating disorder
  • Someone who is trying to lose weight
  • Those with stressful jobs
  • Those with a history of drug misuse

Adderall can interact with several medications. Those taking the following medications may also be at higher risk for developing an addiction to Adderall:6

  • Decongestants
  • Antidepressants
  • Pain medication
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Blood thinner
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Lithium

Reasons for taking other drugs and Adderall include enhancing the effects of the medication or combining another drug to relax in an attempt to sleep. This can result in increased physical complications such as a heart attack.6

If you or someone you love is addicted, call our helpline toll-free at 800-926-9037 to speak with a caring treatment specialist that can help you get sober. (Who Answers?)

How to Treat an Adderall Addiction

Unlike opioids and alcohol, there are currently no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat an Adderall addiction.7 However, symptomatic medications may be administered during detox, which is the first step on the continuum of care.

Stimulant Detox

If your Adderall addiction is severe, you may need to first attend a detox program to manage your withdrawal symptoms. During detox, a medical team will monitor you closely to ensure your safety and provide you with supportive care, such as IV fluids. They will also monitor for mental health complications, such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis.8

When you are withdrawing from Adderall, your treatment team will encourage you to drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day and take multivitamin supplements containing vitamin C and B group vitamins.8

Once acute Adderall withdrawal resolves, you are ready to transition into an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, where you can develop coping skills and address the underlying issues that motivated your Adderall use.

Treatment Settings

The two main treatment settings for Adderall addiction include inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient is the most intensive option and involves living at the facility for the duration of the program, whereas outpatient provides you with more flexibility since you live at home while attending treatment. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and the right rehab for you will depend on your needs.

Inpatient treatment may be best for those who:

  • Have a severe Adderall addiction
  • Have a polysubstance addiction
  • Have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression
  • Have previously dropped out of an outpatient program
  • Don’t have a sober support system at home
  • Don’t have reliable transportation to an outpatient center

You may want to consider outpatient treatment if you:

  • Have a mild Adderall addiction
  • Have a strong support system
  • Want to keep your costs down
  • Want to continue working or attending school during treatment
  • Have other major obligations you must fulfill

What Adderall Addiction Treatment Involves

Regardless of whether you choose inpatient or outpatient, Adderall addiction treatment may involve several different therapies or interventions, depending on the program. These may include:7

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): A therapist helps you understand the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help manage your emotions and substance use.
  • Contingency management (CM): You receive tangible rewards for positive behaviors, such as abstinence.
  • Community reinforcement approach (CRA): You receive a variety of social, familial, vocational, and recreational reinforcers, along with tangible incentives, to encourage a substance-free lifestyle.

You may also attend group counseling or family therapy sessions, depending on your individualized treatment plan. If you need help finding a rehab program, call our confidential helpline at 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) to speak to a treatment support specialist about options in your area.

Aftercare and Ongoing Support

Recovery is a lifelong process. Once you complete your Adderall addiction treatment program, you will want to consider receiving some form of aftercare or ongoing support. Aftercare builds upon the skills you learned in rehab so you can continue to improve and remain abstinent once you’ve fully transitioned back into your everyday life. Common aftercare options include:

  • Sober living homes
  • 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Non-12-step programs, such as SMART Recovery
  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling

Which type of aftercare is right for you depends on your preferences and needs. What works for some people may not work for you, but what’s important is that you choose ongoing support options that you feel will most benefit you.

Resources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 23). Prescription Stimulant Medications (Amphetamines).
  2. Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Adderall.
  3. United States Drug Enforcement Administration (2018, June 10). Drug scheduling
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, April 16). Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine
  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.).
  6. Greely, H., Sahakian, B., Harris, J., Kessler, R. C., Gazzaniga, M., Campbell, P., & Farah, M. J. (2008). Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature, 456(7223), 702–705.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Treatment of Stimulant Use Disorders.
  8. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009. 4, Withdrawal Management. 

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