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Long-Term Effects Of Adderall Abuse

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

Medically reviewed by

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

April 2, 2019

Abusing Adderall can have significant mental and physical long-term effects. A formal treatment program may be recommended to successfully overcome Adderall addiction.

Adderall (amphetamine-dextroamphetamine) is a prescription drug used in the treatment of ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. While helpful for treating this disorder, Adderall can be highly addictive and lead people down a path of physical and mental dependence.

This drug is a central nervous stimulant that increases energy and concentration. This allows people to focus on tasks and overcome fatigue. Adderall also decreases the need for sleep and suppresses the appetite.

Because of its effects, Adderall is a commonly abused substance in a number of populations. Long-term Adderall abuse can have serious health and life consequences, including depression, weight loss, and heart attack.

How Does Adderall Work?

Adderall works by increasing the levels of several neurotransmitters in the brain. The neurotransmitters affected by this drug are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, with primary effects being seen in dopamine.

Increased dopamine and other neurotransmitters can result in a better concentration and focus as well as increased energy. For people with ADHD, Adderall can produce a calming effect and counteract the hyperactivity of the condition.

By flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters, Adderall also produces feelings of pleasure. Dopamine is part of the reward system in the brain, so people can feel intense euphoria when on the drug.

However, when Adderall is taken continuously, it can change the dopamine production in the brain. Abusing Adderall can result in the inability to feel pleasure without the drug.

A tolerance to Adderall can quickly build up when abusing this drug. This means that more of the drug needs to be taken in order to feel the same effects. This can lead to people taking excess amounts of Adderall to feel the high it can produce.

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Why Do People Abuse Adderall?

There are many reasons why someone may abuse Adderall. This drug is commonly used on college campuses as a “smart drug” to help students study longer and more efficiently. It can also be abused for similar reasons in an intense work setting or other environments that require intense concentration and energy.

Because of its appetite-suppressing effects, Adderall can also be abused to obtain weight loss. People who take Adderall often don’t feel hungry for extended periods of time. This allows them to go without eating for several hours or days.

People also use Adderall with other drugs like alcohol, especially in party settings. Adderall can counteract the intoxicating effects of alcohol. This allows people to drink more and for a longer period of time without getting overly drunk.

What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Abusing Adderall?

When used as prescribed, Adderall is typically safe to take long term. Some people may experience minor side effects when taking the drug such as dry mouth, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

However, when abused, long-term use of Adderall can lead to a number of serious side effects. This includes psychological and physical dependence on the drug.

Other long-term effects of Adderall abuse can include:

  • fatigue
  • skin disorders
  • insomnia
  • psychosis, including hallucinations
  • damage to the heart
  • extreme weight loss
  • depression
  • irritability
  • mood changes

Additionally, the heart muscle can become weakened with extended Adderall abuse. This can lead to a number of health complications related to the heart, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and heart palpitations.

Long-Term Effect On The Brain

Long-term Adderall abuse doesn’t only have physical effects. Changes to the brain can also occur when people abuse Adderall for an extended period of time.

One of the most common brain changes seen with long-term Adderall abuse is a decreased amount of dopamine in the brain. This can lead to the failure to feel pleasure without the drug. The longer Adderall is taken, the more likely these changes in the brain will occur.

Abusing Adderall can also lead to a tolerance to the drug. This can cause people to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.

Stimulants like Adderall have also been shown to cause psychosis and schizophrenia-related symptoms in some people. These symptoms may include hallucinations and paranoia. Adderall can also trigger extreme anxiety and panic attacks in some cases.

Symptoms Of Adderall Abuse And Addiction

Stimulants such as Adderall have a high abuse rate throughout the nation. People who take these drugs can quickly develop physical and psychological dependence and increased tolerance.

Chronic abuse of Adderall may lead to symptoms that include:

  • hyperactivity
  • trouble sleeping
  • mood changes
  • psychosis
  • dermatoses

An Adderall addiction will also commonly result in severe withdrawal symptoms when not on the drug. These symptoms may include sleep problems, depression, and severe fatigue.

Getting Help For Adderall Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to Adderall, a formal treatment plan may be needed to successfully overcome this disorder.

Due to the physical and psychological dependence that Adderall can cause, a medical detox program may be recommended. A detox program gives people a safe place to stop using the drug as well as provide any medical assistance needed to ease symptoms.

Detoxing from Adderall is often not enough to help people overcome their addiction. After a detox program is completed, an inpatient treatment program may be recommended to prevent relapse and promote long-term sobriety.

To learn more about the long-term effects of Adderall abuse, contact our treatment specialists today.

Molecular Psychiatry - Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ScienceDirect - Misuse of prescription stimulants for weight loss, psychosocial variables, and eating disordered behaviors

Pharmacy - Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students

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