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Adderall Abuse Among Women

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 19, 2019

Adderall is an addictive stimulant that affects women across the U.S. People between the ages of 18-24 are especially at risk for Adderall abuse, and may take the drug to assist with studying. Adderall abuse can cause serious side effects in females, including heart attack and anorexia.

Adderall is the prescription name brand of the drug dextroamphetamine-amphetamine. This drug is often prescribed to treat sleep disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Although men are more likely to abuse this drug, millions of women are affected by Adderall abuse. Because Adderall causes a feeling of intense focus, some people call Adderall a “smart drug,” and believe it enhances their academic performance.

One study found that up to 70 percent of students had used stimulants for studying purposes. However, research shows that recreational use of stimulants may not actually help people study and that Adderall abuse comes with serious side effects, especially for women.

Why Do Women Abuse Adderall?

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. This drug interacts with areas of the brain related to focus, impulse control, and movement. Prescribed for both men and women, Adderall can be highly addictive.

A woman who struggles with narcolepsy or ADHD may seek medication for treatment of these symptoms. Once they have an Adderall prescription, some people may be curious to see what happens if they take their medication more often than prescribed.

Some people may experiment with taking larger or more frequent doses of their medication. Others may crush and snort the tablet, instead of taking it orally. These methods of Adderall abuse are especially common during exam weeks on college campuses.

For some women, Adderall may also cause a change in appetite. Some people may take Adderall for appetite suppression and weight-loss purposes. Abusing Adderall in this way can cause anorexia, an eating disorder that puts severe stress on the heart, lungs, and digestive tract.

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What Happens When Women Abuse Adderall?

Taking Adderall causes a person to feel focused and alert. Most people who abuse Adderall end up crushing and snorting the medication (insufflation). This method of use causes the medication to hit the brain all at once and can lead to strong feelings of well-being or euphoria.

For those who struggle with ADHD or narcolepsy, taking this medication as directed can help them conquer daily tasks. But if a person takes Adderall recreationally, the negative effects of the drug may be intensified.

Abusing Adderall can also lead to a rapid change in blood pressure. This drug can cause blood pressure to either spike or drop dangerously low. This dramatic shift can put severe stress on a person’s heart.

Adderall is considered to be a habit-forming drug and can result in addiction (especially if the drug is being abused). Anytime a prescription drug is used in higher amounts than directed or taken other than how it’s prescribed, the drug is being abused.

There are several situations that can result in Adderall abuse. Some people who are prescribed Adderall may begin to take the medication other than how it’s directed. Other individuals may obtain Adderall by buying it off the street or from an acquaintance.

Does Adderall Have A Different Effect On Women?

Abusing Adderall may seem like a quick way to stay up all night studying, but this drug can have serious effects on a woman’s health.

The Food And Drug Administration states that Adderall’s effects are influenced by a person’s weight (body mass). Generally speaking, females tend to have lower body mass indexes than males.

Because of this, researchers found that women processed Adderall up to 30 percent faster than men. This caused people to have very different reactions to Adderall, based on their sex. When doses are adjusted based on weight, Adderall has a similar effect on both males and females.

Women can also be affected by the method in which Adderall is used. Adderall tablets and capsules are meant to be taken orally. If a person crushes and snorts a tablet to enhance the drug’s effects, they risk permanent nasal tissue damage and a heightened chance of overdose.

Side Effects Of Adderall Abuse

As with most medications, Adderall comes with a list of potential side effects. If a person has been prescribed Adderall, their doctor has decided that the medication’s benefits will likely outweigh any possible side effects.

However, a person can experience side effects from Adderall even if they take the drug the way they’re supposed to.

If a person is abusing Adderall or taking the drug recreationally, these side effects may become more severe.

Manipulating an Adderall prescription can quickly result in dependence or addiction. If a person becomes physically dependent on the medication, they may also experience withdrawal symptoms.

Adderall can cause side effects in women that include:

  • agitation
  • alertness
  • headache
  • teeth grinding
  • dry mouth
  • gastrointestinal issues (nausea, diarrhea, or constipation)
  • fatigue
  • shakiness
  • trouble sleeping
  • change in appetite
  • labored breathing
  • change in sex drive
  • racing or pounding heart

Adderall Overdose Symptoms

If a person is taking Adderall with other drugs (especially depressants like alcohol), the risk of overdose increases. Adderall overdose can cause life-threatening medical conditions, including sudden death.

Additional signs of an Adderall overdose include:

  • restlessness
  • tremors or convulsions
  • fast breathing
  • feeling of panic
  • high fever
  • aggression
  • hallucinations
  • blurred vision
  • abnormal blood pressure
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • coma

Adderall overdose is a medical emergency. If you see a person displaying any of these signs or symptoms, call 911 emergency services immediately.

Getting Treatment For Adderall Addiction

If you or someone you love is battling an addiction to Adderall, help is available in the form of addiction treatment. Addiction rehab centers can be a life-saving tool for women who are struggling with Adderall abuse.

Dual diagnosis treatment centers provide recovery therapies that range from detox programs to women-only group counseling. In a dual diagnosis treatment program, the symptoms of both ADHD and the substance abuse will be treated by a team of medical professionals.

To help ensure treatment is kept affordable, many public and private insurance providers help to cover the cost of addiction rehab programs.

To learn more about Adderall abuse among women, or to explore treatment options near you, contact one of our specialists today.

MedlinePlus - Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Stimulants

U.S. Food & Drug Administration - MEDICATION GUIDE ADDERALL XR® (ADD-ur-all X-R) CII

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects

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