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Snorting Adderall: Dangers & Potential Health Risks

Snorting method of Adderall use is considered misuse, and it comes with serious risks.

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Crushing Adderall and then snorting the medication in a powder form causes the drug to enter the bloodstream more rapidly compared to swallowing the pill whole. The onset of effect takes a few seconds to a few minutes instead of 20 minutes to an hour.[1]

Why Do People Snort Adderall?

People may snort Adderall to seek a quicker and more intense high compared to taking the drug orally. 

When the pills are snorted, it bypasses the extended-release mechanism built into the long-acting version of the drug, causing a full day’s worth of the drug to enter the bloodstream all at once. This high-level single dose will then produce effects that are far greater than experienced if the drug were allowed to break down and release a smaller dose slowly throughout the day.[1]  

Adderall is often prescribed to manage symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies show that up to a quarter of people with ADHD may misuse their prescribed medication.[2]

What Are the Dangers of Snorting Adderall?

Snorting Adderall poses many potential health risks that can impact an individual physically, mentally, and behaviorally.[1]

Physical Dangers

  • When Adderall is snorted, it directly affects the nasal passages, leading to irritation, inflammation, and potential damage over time. Chronic snorting of any drug can cause nosebleeds, chronic sinus problems, and even a loss of sense of smell.
  • Inhaling drugs may also have an adverse effect on the respiratory system, causing chronic symptoms that may include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. These side effects are particularly prevalent among people who already suffer from preexisting respiratory conditions before they start abusing the drug, such as those with asthma or allergies.
  • Snorting Adderall may place individuals at risk of infection depending on the paraphernalia used and whether or not those items are shared with others. For example, sharing a straw or using a dollar bill that has germs and bacteria on it can introduce pathogens to the user. 
  • Snorting Adderall may cause cardiovascular issues, including elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for cardiac-related issues that could be deadly.[1]

Mental Dangers

  • Snorting Adderall increases its effects, potentially exacerbating anxiety, agitation, and restlessness in users.[1]
  • Adderall misuse can also lead to psychological dependence, where users feel that cannot function in their daily tasks or manage emotions without it.[3]
  • Misuse of this substance can cause mood swings that alternate between periods of euphoria and times of extreme irritability or episodes of depression.
  • Long-term misuse of Adderall can have serious adverse effects on cognitive function, taking a toll off the memory, attention span, and decision-making capabilities.[1]

Behavioral Dangers

  • Snorting Adderall may lead to risk-taking behaviors due to impaired judgment and increased impulsivity.
  • Addiction and dependence on Adderall can result in substantial damage to both relationships and academic performance due to the prioritization of drug use and the changes in behavior. This can mean big changes in the person’s life, including things like job loss or divorce, which may make them crave the escape of Adderall use even more. 
  • As dependency increases, people may withdraw into themselves, prioritizing their drug use over social interactions and personal responsibilities.
  • Students misusing Adderall for academic performance enhancement may experience a decline in achievement as the short-term benefits fail to outweigh the long-term side effects that make it harder to keep up with their responsibilities at school.[1]

Overdosing on Adderall 

Substance misuse, such as snorting Adderall, increases the risk of overdose significantly. When taken in this way, more active ingredients will enter the bloodstream more rapidly than the body can metabolize and eliminate. This leads to a domino effect of chemical mechanisms that increase the chances of an overdose and could result in fatal consequences.[1]

  • Cardiovascular strain: Snorting Adderall can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, placing strain on your cardiovascular system. This could lead to cardiac events like heart attacks and strokes in individuals who already have preexisting heart conditions.[3]
  • Seizures: Adderall may decrease the seizure threshold and increase the risk of experiencing seizures, especially in people who already suffer from epilepsy or seizure disorders.[4]
  • Respiratory complications: Snorting drugs can cause respiratory problems, including difficulty breathing or lung issues. In severe cases, this can even lead to respiratory failure, which is life-threatening.
  • Hyperthermia: Adderall misuse can lead to hyperthermia, which, if left untreated, can increase body temperature to dangerously high levels. This can result in organ damage as well as overdose.
  • Mental health instability: Misuse of Adderall may result in emotional swings and anxiety that worsen mental health issues and contribute to self-harm behaviors or suicidal thoughts.
  • Excessive stimulation: Snorting Adderall increases its effects, leading to extreme feelings of euphoria, agitation, and anxiety that can overload the nervous system. This could trigger unpredictable choices and behaviors that ultimately lead to dangerous outcomes.
  • Tolerance and rebound effect: Adderall misuse can result in tolerance, necessitating higher doses to achieve the desired results. If someone suddenly stops or reduces their use, they may experience an adverse rebound effect, which leads them to return to drug use and possibly take even higher amounts of the drug with potentially deadly outcomes.[5]
  • Mixing with other substances: Many people who misuse Adderall may also engage in polydrug use, combining it with alcohol or other illicit substances like cocaine to increase its effect. These dangerous combinations increase the risk of overdose dramatically.

What Are the Signs That Someone Is Snorting Adderall? 

Most people who are abusing Adderall by snorting it often try to cover up the behavior, making it harder for those who love them to recognize what is happening and what often turns out to be the beginning stages of a serious Adderall addiction. However, there may be some indicators that demonstrate that the person is struggling with an Adderall abuse issue and potentially on their way to an overdose or a full-blown addiction disorder.[6] 

Physical Signs

  • Frequent nasal bleeding and congestion symptoms
  • Persistent sniffing or rubbing of the nose
  • Red, irritated, or inflamed nostrils
  • White powder residue around the nostrils or on surfaces

Behavioral Signs

  • Unusual bursts of hyperactivity, followed by periods of exhaustion or fatigue
  • Heightened levels of alertness or excessive talkativeness
  • Rapid mood swings or irritability
  • Unexplained and sudden changes in social circles or withdrawing from usual friends and family
  • Neglecting personal hygiene or appearance

Psychological Signs

  • Extreme focus on tasks or activities, sometimes for extended periods without taking breaks
  • Increased self-confidence or a sense of invincibility without cause or explanation
  • Impulsive behavior or engaging in risky activities
  • Difficulty in concentrating or memory lapses during periods when they aren’t using Adderall

Physical Health Changes

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns[4]
  • Decreased appetite

Academic or Work Performance Changes

  • Drastic changes in academic or work performance, such as declining grades or a drop in productivity and quality of work
  • Missing work or school or chronic lateness

Financial Issues

  • Unexpected financial problems or a sudden decrease in funds due to spending on drugs
  • Loss of employment due to increased erratic behavior on the job
  • Disorganization of finances caused by a lack of management, such as forgetting to pay bills or overspending on unnecessary items (including Adderall pills)

While it’s true that some of these issues in isolation may indicate other problems outside of Adderall abuse, when seen together and when use of Adderall is known, they often add up to a substance use disorder.

If you suspect someone of using drugs, including Adderall, inappropriately, your first step may be an open and honest conversation in which you share your concerns without judgment and give them an opportunity to discuss their experience. If they admit to struggling with their use of the drug, show empathy and help them to connect with the addiction treatment professionals who can help.

What Is the Best Treatment for Adderall Addiction?

Effective treatment for Adderall addiction will include elements that address both its physical and psychological effects. 

Individual therapy sessions, peer support groups, and experiential therapies all play an essential part in helping people to put their use of substances into correct context. With this type of help, they can make lifestyle changes that will decrease cravings and help them manage the problems they formerly solved with drug use. For example, CBT and contingency management are two widely utilized techniques that help people to recognize triggers, develop coping skills, and alter behaviors related to drug use.[6]

The physical components of Adderall addiction should be addressed through a personalized medical care plan that treats underlying issues that predated addiction as well as the new difficulties that may have occurred as a result of chronic drug use.

No matter what the specifics of any person’s treatment plan, it should include a focus on relationship-building and peer support as well as rebuilding close relationships that may have been harmed during active addiction. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for any addiction disorder, there are signs of progress that can help the treatment team know where to put the bulk of their efforts in a client’s recovery. This allows treatment team members to support the client in a way that speaks to their unique needs. With this kind of personalized help, they have an increased chance of maintaining their new life in recovery for the long term. 

Updated May 10, 2024
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