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Does Adderall Abuse Trigger Depression?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 28, 2019

Abusing Adderall can have a number of negative side effects including depression. Treatment for depression and Adderall addiction often includes a formal treatment program.

Depression has been a reported side effect for some people taking Adderall. This can occur whether the drug is being taken as prescribed or is being abused.

Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine and is commonly prescribed in the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). This drug is a central nervous stimulant and is a Schedule II substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse.

When used as prescribed, Adderall typically produces increased energy, concentration, and motivation. It can also help combat symptoms of hyperactivity such as excess fidgeting.

Adderall is prescribed to improve a person’s ADHD symptoms and overall quality of life. However, some people may experience adverse effects such as depression. This is especially true for people who abuse the drug.

Depression And Adderall Abuse

Adderall is a drug that is often abused. Its stimulant properties can create feelings of euphoria and heightened confidence, making it an attractive drug for a variety of people. This substance is also abused as a “study drug” to help people perform better at their job or in school.

Individuals who abuse Adderall often do so in a binge-like pattern. This is when the drug is taken continuously over a period of time. When the drug starts to wear off, many people experience a “crash.” This crash can cause symptoms of depression.

Additionally, people who abuse Adderall as a performance enhancer may also experience depression when not on the drug. Many people can become dependent on the motivation and energy Adderall provides. When not on the drug, individuals may become overwhelmed and feel depressed when trying to handle performance-related situations.

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Can Adderall Be Used To Treat Depression?

Adderall is typically not used in the treatment of depression. However, someone may self-medicate with Adderall in order to mask symptoms of this mental health condition.

Someone with a prescription for Adderall may begin to take the drug in order to cope with depression. People may also use someone else’s prescription or find Adderall in another way to deal with their depression. Both instances are considered abuse and can lead to addiction and worsened depression.

When someone abuses Adderall, especially over an extended period of time, symptoms of depression can become more pronounced. A person’s abuse can lead to addiction, which can affect every area of his or her life.

Mental and physical health can decline with Adderall abuse and addiction. Someone’s relationships and career or schooling will also be negatively affected. The worse the abuse and addiction become, the more likely a person is to experience a decline in overall quality of life.

People who abuse Adderall may also rely on the drug to cope with everyday life situations. Without the drug, people may feel unable to deal with these situations. This can cause worsened depression as well as a lack of confidence in one’s self.

Adderall Withdrawal And Depression

Adderall affects a number of chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine. When someone abuses Adderall, the brain’s production of these chemicals can change. This is especially true in the case of dopamine.

Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. It is part of the reward center in the brain. When Adderall is abused, the brain can become dependent on the drug to produce dopamine. This means that without the drug, a person can have a hard time feeling pleasure and in turn can feel depressed.

Quitting Adderall abruptly can cause someone to experience withdrawal symptoms. One of these symptoms may be depression.

Other symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:

  • hunger
  • extreme fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • irritability
  • suicidal ideations
  • lack of energy
  • inability to concentrate

People may continue to abuse Adderall in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This can worsen the addiction and result in more extreme mental and physical issues.

Getting Help For Adderall Abuse And Addiction

Someone who is experiencing Adderall addiction may also be dealing with depression. This can be caused by the drug or can be an underlying mental health condition. Getting appropriate treatment will depend on why someone is experiencing depression.

However, no matter the cause of depression, Adderall addiction will also need to be treated. Inpatient treatment programs have shown great success for addiction and offer intensive and daily personalized plans.

To learn more about Adderall abuse and depression, contact our treatment specialists today.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) - Depression

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Nonmedical Use of Adderall[R] among Full-Time College Students. The NSDUH Report

Child Mind Institute - Can Adderall and other drugs used to treat ADHD cause depression?

Adderall Withdrawal - How Long Does Withdrawal From Adderall Last?

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