Adderall Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

Are You Addicted to Adderall?

Some prescription drugs have a high potential for addiction. Adderall is one of these drugs. Though it is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, some people may take more than the prescribed dose or use the drugs non-medically to study or stay awake.

Is Adderall Addictive?

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The short answer is: yes.

Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine , which are central nervous system stimulants that influence chemical signaling throughout the brain and nervous system. It is a potentially dangerous substance with a high potential for abuse that could lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.1

When Adderall is taken in quantities and/or ways other than those prescribed, it can increase the activity of dopamine - a neurotransmitter that is involved in feelings of pleasure and reward - in a rapid and exaggerated manner. This disrupts healthy communication between brain cells, produces a "high" and increases the risk of addiction.2

Over time, someone abusing Adderall builds a tolerance. The body adapts to the drug, needing more and more to achieve the desired effect. This pattern can eventually lead to addiction.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted?

Adderall can become addictive quickly - especially if it is combined with other drugs.
People who have an appropriate diagnosis and do not abuse Adderall or take more than prescribed are the least likely to become addicted. But long-term use of Adderall should always be monitored by the prescribing physician.

For the rest of the population, Adderall has a reputation as a drug that will make you smarter, create more energy, help you lose weight, give you an edge in business, etc. Because Adderall acts as a potent stimulant when it is abused, it can become addictive quickly - especially if is being regularly abused and/or combined with other drugs, including alcohol.

Adderall is a time-release medication that is designed to be ingested in pill or capsule form. People have been known to snort and inject Adderall to achieve a faster or more intense "high." This is extremely dangerous and also increases the risk of addiction.

Who Is at Risk of Becoming Addicted?

Anyone with a prior history (or family history) of addiction to other substances (including alcohol) are more likely to abuse prescription drugs such as Adderall.

However, as with all potentially addictive stimulants, anyone who abuses Adderall can develop an addiction.

  • There are countless stories of mothers trying a child's Adderall to see if it will help them get through the workday.
  • College students are rumored to share their prescriptions because of Adderall's reputation as a study aid.
  • Athletes sometimes use Adderall to enhance performance.
  • Pharmacists and doctors even fall prey to Adderall addiction.
  • The New York Times featured a story on April 18, 2015, about adults in high-pressure jobs using Adderall to increase productivity and get ahead in a competitive business environment.3

Sources of Prescription Stimulant Diversion

Many college-age people obtain stimulant medications in spite of not having a prescription. This is a serious issue that may give way to rampant abuse. But where do these young men and women get these prescription drugs?

In 2016, a Recovery Brands survey revealed that more than 60% of people in their 20s get access to ADHD medications via friends. More than 20% acquire them through a member of their family, more than 18% from other students, and more than 14% from an illicit dealer.

People with doctor approval for these medications should keep track of their ADHD stimulant meds to protect vulnerable young people from misuse.

Where Do Young Adults Get Prescription Stimulants?

How to Tell If You or a Loved One Is Addicted

People who have become addicted to Adderall may lose weight, have trouble sleeping and appear unusually restless or nervous. You may notice that their medication is running out sooner than it should and that they are spending more money than normal. In extreme cases they may become paranoid, aggressive and seem to take unnecessary risks.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has outlined the criteria for an addiction to stimulants such as Adderall. If you or someone you love has displayed at least 2 of the following symptoms within a 12-month period, you may have an addiction:young man with Adderall addiction sitting on bed4

  • Taking Adderall in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.
  • Experiencing unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control Adderall use.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining Adderall, using it or recovering from its effects.
  • Experiencing cravings or strong urges to use Adderall.
  • Failing to take care of responsibilities at work, school or home due to Adderall use.
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite interpersonal problems caused by or made worse from the effects of Adderall.
  • Giving up activities you once enjoyed in favor of Adderall use.
  • Regularly using Adderall in physically dangerous situations.
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite having a physical or psychological problem likely to have been caused or made worse by Adderall use.
  • Tolerance: needing more Adderall to achieve the same effect as before or experiencing less of an effect with the same amount of Adderall.
  • Withdrawal: experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using, or taking Adderall to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery

Need Help Choosing a Program
Call 1-888-319-2606Who Answers? to speak with a treatment support specialist about which program is right for you and what your insurance will cover.
When seeking treatment for Adderall addiction, it is good practice to start with advice from a professional who is familiar with your situation. A mental health screening and a comprehensive physical assessment should be the first step. You or your loved one should be assessed for the proper level of care likely to be needed for both detox and treatment. Personal factors will mostly likely be considered when determining the best course of action.

You should receive:

  • An evaluation of how Adderall use began.
  • Medical history and evaluation to determine underlying medical issues.
  • Screening for and, when indicated, assessment of mental health issues.5

After you've had an evaluation by a doctor or a counselor, you will need to decide what form of treatment might offer the best outcome. It is important to consider who is being treated, as treatment for adolescents will typically differ from treatment for adults. Treatment length will depend on the severity of the substance use disorder, as well as the type of recovery program you determine best suits your situation.

Types of Adderall Addiction Treatment

  • Inpatient treatment is often recommended addiction to prescription medication. This typically lasts 28-30 days , but many facilities have 60-day or 90-day programs or longer. Here you will find medically supervised care, which is advisable if there is severe withdrawal from Adderall. Programs treating clients with addiction to prescription medication must have access to appropriate dose-tapering or other detoxification services; psychiatrists with expertise in addiction treatment and psychotropic medication management; medical personnel; addiction counselors, social workers and/or psychiatric nurses with experience and training.5
  • Outpatient treatment is another form of treatment and also helpful as a step-down treatment after inpatient Adderall rehab. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) will vary in time commitment but, as an example, may involve an 8-week, 3-time per week, 3-hour per session commitment followed by a 12-week continuing care group once a week for an hour. Many facilities offer IOP programs specifically geared toward adolescents.
  • Mutual support groups have long been used in recovery programs. You will most likely be introduced to a 12-step program during treatment and encouraged to use the help of Narcotics Anonymous . For people who would rather not participate in a 12-step program, SMART Recovery is another popular option.
  • Wilderness-based programs are sometimes chosen by families of young people with an Adderall addiction. These facilities offer treatment for adults as well, but they are usually most popular for teens and young adults. When seeking this type of program, be sure to work with trusted professionals and get referrals from reliable sources.

Paying for Treatment

Treatment costs vary widely and will depend on which type of recovery program you choose, how long you stay, where it's located and what kind of amenities it offers.

Working with a recovery professional will assist you in finding a facility that fits your budget. Insurance will often pay for a portion of your treatment, which is why it is also a good idea to have your doctor involved in the process.
If you do not have insurance, most treatment centers will work out payment arrangements. This should all be done on the front end of treatment so that there will be no unnecessary disruption in the process once it's begun.

  • If you have insurance. Call 1-888-319-2606Who Answers? to verify your insurance coverage and find treatment options based on your coverage.
  • If you don't have insurance. Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tips for Choosing a Program

  • Whatever you decide, do your research. No one treatment will work for everyone.
  • Make sure there will be a medical component. It could be supervision by your own physician during outpatient treatment or a competent medical staff at an inpatient program.
  • Treatment should address more than drug abuse alone. Addiction affects families, other relationships, school, career, health and a person's mental state. For recovery to stand a better chance of success, all areas of one's life must be examined.
  • Treatment by itself is not a magic bullet. There will be work to do while in treatment, and recovery will continue after formal treatment is finished.

Can You Recover Without Rehab?

Recovering on your own can be dangerous.
Some people can recover without treatment. However, it is unusual and unlikely. It may also be dangerous depending on what physical or mental conditions may have developed as a result of Adderall abuse.

One of the benefits of inpatient or residential treatment is that you or your loved one will be removed from the triggers and elements of the "using" environment. You will have an opportunity to gain some traction in recovery by being away from "people, places and things" for a period of time.

Adderall Dependency Short- and Long-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of Adderall addiction include:

  • Increased arousal or wakefulness.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Anorexia.
  • Dehydration.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Euphoria, which can lead to abuse of the drug.
  • Disturbances of mood and behavior.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. 6
Possible long-term effects of Adderall addiction include:

  • Signs of psychosis, such as delusion and hallucination.
  • Myocardial infarction.
  • Cardiomyopathy.
  • Sudden death.7

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Adderall Addiction Change Your Personality?

All addictions cause some degree of personality change. Because Adderall can interfere with sleep, this alone can cause moodiness. Inability to obtain the drug may also contribute to irritability.

Preoccupation with using and getting the substance is another symptom of addiction. A person will often begin to neglect their usual activities and become disinterested in things that once held importance. Their social circle may noticeably change or they might become isolated.

How Does an Addiction to Adderall Affect Pregnancy?

nurse showing sonogram to pregnant woman The online consumer version of the Merck Manual explains that amphetamine use during pregnancy may result in birth defects and inadequate growth before birth. 8

Because Adderall is an amphetamine, it is important to let a doctor know if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while you are taking Adderall so this can be addressed correctly and safely.

Does Adderall Addiction or Withdrawal Cause Suicide?

Withdrawal from Adderall should be monitored carefully by a doctor, especially if you have been overusing this medication. The dosage will be decreased gradually over time under medical supervision. If you suddenly stop taking Adderall without medical supervision, you may become severely depressed and extremely tired.

Addiction alone is a risk factor for suicide; depression and exhaustion exacerbate this situation. 9

Find an Adderall Recovery Center

If you are worried about you or your loved one's use of Adderall, call 1-888-319-2606Who Answers? to speak to a treatment support representative about rehab centers near you. A representative can answer your questions about treatment options and ways to pay for services.

Put together a comprehensive list of concerns and questions so you can find the best possible treatment for your situation.


[1]. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Drug Scheduling .

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines .

[3]. Schwarz, A. Workers Seeking Productivity in a Pill Are Abusing A.D.H.D. Drugs . The New York Times, April 18, 2015.

[4]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

[5]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Substance Abuse Treatment ADVISORY News for the Treatment Field 5(2).

[6]. Berman, S. M., Kuczenski, R., Mccracken, J. T., & London, E. D. (2008). Potential adverse effects of amphetamine treatment on brain and behavior: A review. Molecular Psychiatry Mol Psychiatry, 14(2), 123-142.

[7]. Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain Behav Brain and Behavior, 2(5), 661-677.

[8]. Gunatilake, R. and Patil, A. Drug Use During Pregnancy - Women's Health Issues . Merck Manual Consumer Version.

[9]. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine .


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