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Adderall Addiction

Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. The drug is structurally similar to illicit amphetamines (like methamphetamine) and is highly addictive.

Struggling with Stimulant Addiction? Get Help Now

Although Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) has legitimate medical uses, people often misuse it for its euphoric and stimulating effects. Chronic Adderall abuse is dangerous and can lead to tolerance, physiological dependence, and addiction. [1] Adderall addiction involves compulsive use despite negative consequences.

As such, people with stimulant use disorder may find it challenging to quit on their own. Fortunately, professional Adderall addiction treatment is available to help you or someone you love quit abusing Adderall. Knowing the Adderall addiction signs can help you determine if you or a loved one needs help.

Almost 7% of American adults use prescription stimulants like Adderall. About 2% misused these drugs.[2] Up to 20% of college students abuse prescription stimulants like Adderall.[3]

Symptoms vs. Signs of Adderall Use Disorder

Adderall Addiction SymptomsSigns of Adderall Abuse and Addiction
Strong Adderall cravingsSeizures
Using large and frequent dosesIncreased energy and euphoria
Failing to quit despite wanting toNausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Spending a lot of time obtaining and using AdderallStomach cramping
Neglecting previously enjoyed activities and important eventsConvulsions
Interpersonal, medical, or psychiatric issues caused by Adderall useComa
Failing to meet obligations at work, school, or homeTrack marks, collapsed veins, lesions, and scars
Experiencing tolerance and withdrawalNasal damage, sinusitis, or nosebleeds
Paranoia, anger, and psychosis

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand name for the prescription stimulant drug, amphetamine/dextroamphetamine. Adderall is prescribed to treat conditions like narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a recognized medical use but also a high potential for abuse, diversion, and dependence.

Defining Adderall Addiction

Adderal addiction is a chronic and complex condition characterized by uncontrollable Adderall abuse despite harmful effects on a person’s life. [4]

Stimulant use disorder or Adderall addiction can range from mild to severe, depending on how many symptoms an individual exhibits or experiences. [4]

Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), describes the symptoms of stimulant use disorder or Adderall addiction, including: [4]

  • Using Adderall in greater doses or for longer than intended
  • Unable to quit Adderall despite efforts to
  • Spending a lot of time getting and using Adderall as well as recovering from its effects
  • Having a strong desire or craving to use Adderall
  • Failing to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home due to Adderall use
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite social issues caused by use
  • Neglecting important recreational, social, or occupational activities due to Adderall abuse
  • Using Adderall in hazardous situations
  • Continuing to use Adderall despite physical or psychiatric issues caused or worsened by use
  • Needing higher and higher doses to feel the desired effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing Adderall withdrawal symptoms after suddenly quitting

A mild Adderall addiction is characterized by 2-3 symptoms, while a moderate involves 4-5 symptoms, and a severe addiction is characterized by 6 or more symptoms.[4]

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are prescribed Adderall and take it as directed, you will develop physiological dependence on the medication. However, this doesn’t mean that you are addicted—it simply means your body and brain have adapted to the presence of this stimulant. If you want to stop taking Adderall, talk to your doctor about a tapering plan so you can avoid withdrawal symptoms.

On the other hand, if you abuse Adderall, you will develop dependence more quickly and severely and are at risk of becoming addicted. Once you are dependent, you need to keep using this stimulant to avoid Adderall withdrawal symptoms, which may include:[1],[4]

  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Suicidality
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Drug cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed movements and thoughts
  • Rapid, purposeless movements

Quitting Adderall cold turkey is associated with more distressing withdrawal symptoms, which aren’t typically life-threatening but can cause severe depression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Moreover, people who use stimulants like Adderall may use this drug in a “binge and crash” pattern. This involves taking repeated doses of the stimulant to keep the intense high going, followed by a “crash” which is characterized by intense depression and fatigue, necessitating many days of rest to recover.[4]

If you are concerned about a loved one, you may notice them going through this binge and crash cycle.

Observable Signs of Adderall Abuse and Addiction

In addition to symptoms, there are many observable signs of Adderall misuse that you may notice in a friend or family member.

Adderall High

While the person is high on Adderall, they might do the following:[4]

  • Talk too much or too quickly
  • Jump from one task to another
  • Seem joyful and happy
  • Become aggressive or impulsive 
  • Remain energetic without the need for sleep

Someone using this drug can stay awake for days, as long as they keep taking the medication regularly. Some people go on amphetamine binges and take huge amounts of the drug all at once to keep the high going.

General Signs

Other signs of Adderall abuse include: [1],[4],[5]

  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors and convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia or panic attacks
  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping
  • Coma
  • Secretive behavior
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Multiple prescription bottles
  • “Doctor shopping” or going to many different physicians
  • Straws or mirrors for snorting Adderall
  • Syringes or tie-offs like shoelaces

Signs of Injecting Adderall

Signs that someone is injecting Adderall may include:[4]

  • Circular scars
  • Track marks
  • Collapsed veins
  • Cellulitis
  • Puncture marks
  • Abscesses

Signs of Snorting Stimulants

Signs that a loved one is snorting Adderall may include:[4]

  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Perforated nasal septum
  • Nasal damage
  • Chronic sinusitis

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, when misused or abuse, Adderall can be very addictive. This is because it causes a surge in dopamine, the pleasure chemical, in your brain. Dopamine teaches your brain that a certain activity, such as having sex or eating delicious food, is rewarding. Adderall abuse hijacks the reward system in your brain by causing massive increases in dopamine levels, which causes intense euphoria—because of this very pleasurable high, your brain wants to repeat this behavior, prioritizing it over natural rewards.

Who is at Risk of Developing an Adderall Addiction?

Anyone who abuses Adderall is at risk of developing an addiction to Adderall. However, some demographics or populations may be at higher risk.

High School Students 

In the 2022 Monitoring the Future Survey, 2.3% of 8th-grade students, 2.9% of 10th-grade students, and 3.4% of 12th-grade students reported misusing Adderall within the last year.[6] 

Young students are under pressure to get good grades and enroll in a prestigious college. Some use drugs to cope.

College Students

Adderall abuse among college students is widespread. An estimated 20% of college students abuse stimulants like Adderall.[3] 

A heavy course load can lead to tight deadlines and late-night test-cramming sessions. Some people lean on drugs to make these actions possible. If they started using drugs in high school, they may keep using these drugs in college. 

Collegiate & Professional Athletes

Stimulant medications like Adderall are listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.[7] Athletes caught using Adderall without a prescription can be stripped of their awards or prevented from competition. Rules like this can keep athletes from abusing drugs. 

But Adderall can result in increased energy and attentiveness. Some athletes look for ways to keep using the drug to boost their performance. They may shop for doctors to get the drugs they want. 

Professionals in High-Stress Work Environments 

Job performance can mean a big difference in salary and overall quality of life. Lawyers, salespeople, dentists, and real estate agents might use Adderall to help them find more clients, complete more projects, and work longer hours. 

Understanding how many professionals fall into this category is difficult. Some adults get valid prescriptions to cover up their drug abuse. 

Adderall Side Effects

High blood pressurePsychosis Impaired speech
Higher risk of cardiac diseaseInsomniaIrritability 
Decreased appetiteParanoiaLack of motivation 
Weight lossDepressionAddiction and dependence on stimulants
Dry mouthSuicidal thoughts
Source: [1, 4, 5]

Treatment Options for Adderall Addiction 

Medical Detox

Often, the first step in the Adderall addiction recovery process is medical detox, which involves 24/7 medical care and supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms. This process may involve:

  • Symptomatic medications
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Supportive care, such as IV fluids
  • Detox counseling
  • Medical care for physical conditions
  • Case management

Once you are medically stable and go through Adderall detox, the treatment team will help you transition into an addiction treatment program where you can build coping skills and address the underlying reasons you misused this stimulant.

Rehab Settings

Adderall addiction treatment can occur in several settings, such as:

  • Standard outpatient treatment: The most flexible and least structured treatment option, you attend a couple hours of therapy per week.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs): More intensive than standard outpatient, you live at home and attend therapy for between 9 and 20 hours each week.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs): The most intensive outpatient option, you live at home and attend up to 30 hours of treatment each week.
  • Inpatient rehab: The most structured and intensive setting, you live at the treatment center for the duration of care and receive round-the-clock monitoring and supervision.

If you are looking for high-quality and evidence-based treatment, contact us at Boca Recovery Center. We have several locations and we treat patients from all the country, including those with stimulant use disorder and co-occurring conditons.

Adderall Addiction & Abuse FAQs

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Adderall addiction and abuse. 

Is it safe to take Adderall while pregnant?

If you’re pregnant and using Adderall, talk to your doctor. The FDA hasn’t proven that Adderall is safe to take during pregnancy.[4]

What is Adderall used for?

Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat ADHD in adults and children.[4]

Why do people take Adderall?

People without ADHD take Adderall because they feel smarter and more energetic when high. There’s no proof that Adderall makes anyone more intelligent or more productive, however.[14]

Why is Adderall so popular among students?

Adderall’s stimulant effects make all-night study sessions easier. Students also tend to feel smarter while using Adderall, even if the data doesn’t bear this out.[14]

What are the side effects of Adderall?

Common side effects include irritability, nervousness, insomnia, and anxiety.[4]

Is Adderall addictive?

Yes. Adderall is a stimulant medication with a high abuse potential.[13]

Can you overdose on Adderall?

Yes. You can take too much Adderall and overdose.[13] 

Updated April 3, 2024
  1. Prescription stimulants DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 2018. Accessed July 20, 2023.
  2. Compton WM, Han B, Blanco C, Johnson K, Jones CM. Prevalence and correlates of prescription stimulant use, misuse, use disorders, and motivations for misuse among adults in the United States. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(8):741-755. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17091048
  3. Kennedy S. Raising awareness about prescription and stimulant abuse in college students through on-campus community involvement projects. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2018;17(1):A50-A53.
  4. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).
  5. Adderall prescribing guide. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2007. Accessed June 30, 2023.
  6. What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published February 2023. Accessed June 30, 2023.
  7. What do athletes with ADHD need to know about TUEs? USADA. Published July 2, 2018. Accessed June 30, 2023.
  8. Elizabeth Bowman et al., Not so smart? “Smart” drugs increase the level but decrease the quality of cognitive effort. Sci. Adv. 9,eadd4165(2023).
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