Adderall Addiction: Signs, FAQs, and Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

August 14, 2023

Table of Contents

The issue of Adderall addiction in the United States is a growing concern. While Adderall is a prescription medication primarily indicated to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, the misuse of this medication is prevalent. Adderall abuse can trigger the development of tolerance, dependence, and stimulant use disorder (Adderall addiction). High school and college students are especially susceptible to abusing Adderall.

This guide addresses the following issues:

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  • Is Adderall addictive?
  • Can you be addicted to Adderall after using the medication as prescribed?
  • What are the side effects of Adderall abuse?
  • What are the most common Adderall abuse symptoms?
  • How can you identify Adderall addiction signs?
  • What are the effects of Adderall abuse?
  • How can you connect with treatment for Adderall addiction in California?
a woman sits with her head in her hands to represent how addictive is adderall

Can Adderall Be Addictive?

Although Adderall is a prescription stimulant, it has addictive properties and shares similarities with methamphetamine in terms of its effects. Due to its potency and easy accessibility, there is a significant risk of abuse associated with Adderall. Classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall is placed in this category due to its high potential for addiction.

While not everyone who uses Adderall will develop an addiction, those who regularly consume unprescribed doses of the medication are at an increased risk of becoming addicted. When someone uses any addictive substance like Adderall frequently, the brain gradually becomes accustomed to its presence. The repeated administration of addictive substances can alter brain chemistry. As a result, tolerance to the drug may develop, compelling individuals who misuse the substance for nonmedical purposes to consume higher doses or take the medication more frequently in order to achieve the desired effects. Any Adderall misuse establishes a destructive cycle that can easily trigger the development of addiction.

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) warns that the misuse of prescription stimulants like Adderall is associated with substance use disorder (addiction). Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain condition characterized by compulsive substance use regardless of adverse outcomes.

How Addictive Is Adderall?

Adderall has a high addictive potential due to its stimulant properties and the way it affects the brain. The drug contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, substances that stimulate the CNS (central nervous system) and increase the levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain.

Dopamine, in particular, plays a central role in the brain’s reward system and is associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation. Adderall can create an intense euphoric effect, often prompting people to seek those pleasurable sensations repeatedly.

Adderall’s addictive nature is further inflamed by the way the medication causes physical tolerance. With continued use, the brain adapts to the drug, meaning that higher doses are required to achieve the desired effects. This cycle of escalating doses can quickly lead to the development of dependence and addiction and is one of the most common signs of Adderall abuse.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting Adderall can also contribute to its addictive potential. When someone abruptly stops or significantly reduces their Adderall use, they may experience symptoms like fatigue, depression, irritability, and intense cravings for the drug. These withdrawal symptoms can drive people to continue using Adderall to alleviate their discomfort, reinforcing the addictive cycle while doing nothing to address the underlying issue.

When Adderall is taken as directed for legitimate medical reasons, the risk of addiction is relatively low. However, the effects of Adderall abuse include a significantly increased likelihood of developing an addiction to this controlled prescription stimulant.

Adderall should only be used under medical supervision and as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

If you or a loved one is battling Adderall addiction, seeking professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist will facilitate a proper assessment, appropriate treatment, and support throughout ongoing recovery.

a woman is looking out a window to represent signs of adderall addiction.

 Signs of Adderall Addiction

Stimulant use disorder, as outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, revised fifth edition), is characterized by the following Adderall addiction symptoms manifesting within a one-year period. Symptoms of Adderall addiction trigger significant distress or impairment in daily functioning.

  1. Using stimulants in larger doses or for longer than originally intended.
  2. Persistent desire to use stimulants or repeated unsuccessful attempts to reduce or discontinue use.
  3. Spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of stimulants.
  4. Cravings, urges, or a strong desire to use Adderall.
  5. Consistent Adderall use leading to failure in fulfilling responsibilities at school, home, or work.
  6. Ongoing Adderall use despite negative impact on social relationships and personal life.
  7. Reduction or abandonment of important activities.
  8. Repeated use in situations or environments that may cause physical harm.
  9. Continued use despite awareness of physical or psychological problems likely caused or worsened by stimulant use.
  10. Tolerance, which is characterized by a need for larger amounts of the substance to achieve the intended effect or a diminished effect with continued use of the same amount. (This symptom does not apply if stimulants are used as prescribed by a physician.)
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or using the substance to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. (This symptom does not apply if stimulants are used as prescribed by a physician.)

Adderall Addiction FAQs

What can happen if you take Adderall every day?

Taking Adderall every day can lead to dependence, increased tolerance, and potential side effects like insomnia, irritability, and changes in appetite.

Does Adderall make you motivated?

Adderall can potentially increase motivation for individuals with ADHD, but its effects on motivation may differ depending on the individual and the specific circumstances.

Does Adderall improve mental health?

While Adderall may temporarily alleviate symptoms of certain mental health conditions like ADHD or narcolepsy, it is not a cure for mental health issues and should be used only under proper medical supervision.

What does Adderall do if you don’t have ADHD?

If taken without a legitimate medical need, Adderall can cause unwanted side effects such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and potential dependence. It is essential to use medication only as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

A woman sits on a hill watching a sunset to represent side effects of adderall abuse

Get Treatment for Adderall Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Welcome to Renaissance Recovery Center in Southern California. Our center is dedicated to providing top-quality outpatient treatment for those struggling with Adderall addictions and mental health conditions like ADHD. Our comprehensive outpatient treatment programs are designed to offer the support and structure you need to initiate long-term recovery from Adderall abuse. Choose from the following options:

Regardless of the program you select, you can access personalized addiction treatment that incorporates a holistic and evidence-based approach to recovery. Our interventions include:

Taking that initial crucial step towards recovery is as simple as reaching out to our admissions team at 866.330.9449. They are here to guide you through the process and provide the necessary assistance every step of the way.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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