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Adderall Side Effects

young woman smiling with friends not thinking about adderalls side effects

What Are the Side Effects of Adderall Misuse?

My son James was diagnosed with ADHD this year. After he got the diagnosis and was prescribed Adderall, things got better for a little while. He was doing better in school, and he seemed like he had more self-confidence and was able to focus on tasks much more easily. After a couple of months, I started to get nervous. He seemed like he was doing nothing but studying and was intensely focused all the time. He even asked if there was a way to refill his prescription early. That was when I started to worry that something was seriously wrong and that he might be taking too much Adderall. Adderall is an amphetamine and stimulant commonly prescribed in the U.S. to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Adderall is a controlled substance, which means it is legally available only when prescribed by a doctor. While Adderall is effective at treating ADHD, it is also misused regularly and is often sold illegally. Adderall is only legal to use if you have a prescription and you take the drug as prescribed by your doctor. It is not uncommon for students to use Adderall non-medically to stay up or focus on studying. While increased prescriptions don’t necessarily mean increased illegal use, the National Emerging Threats Institute found that Massachusetts had the highest rate of stimulant prescriptions of all of the 26 states they studied in a 2019 study.

How to Identify Adderall and Signs of Addiction

A few months after he got his prescription, James started hanging out with a new group of people. He was still doing better in school than he had been before, so I wasn’t that worried, but I did notice that I occasionally caught him lying about where he was going and with whom. James had a prescription for the immediate release pills. His was a blue 10 mg pill that had the dosage and the letters “AD” printed on them. When I walked into his room one day, I saw a pill lying on his desk. It looked a lot like his prescription pill, but it was orange and had “AD 20” printed on it instead of “AD 10.” I knew that wasn’t prescribed to him. I thought maybe I was confused, so I opened his desk drawer to look at his prescription bottle. In the drawer, I found razor blades and hollowed-out pens, as well as his prescription bottle with the 10 mg pills in it and a plastic baggie with the 20 mg pills in it. I realized he might be crushing pills and snorting them. Adderall typically comes in pill form. The exact look of the pill depends on the dosage, the release rate, and the brand of the drug.

Immediate Release Adderall

Typically, an Adderall immediate release pill is round, and the brand name pill is usually stamped with “AD” followed by the dosage in milligrams. Here are some examples of brand name immediate release pills:

  • A 5 mg Adderall dose is typically white, and since it is the lowest standard dose, it sometimes doesn’t have the dosage printed on the pill
  • A 7.5 mg Adderall pill is usually a round or oval blue pill with “AD 7.5” on it
  • A 10 mg dose of Adderall often comes in a round blue pill with “AD 10” printed on it
  • A 20 mg dose of Adderall usually comes in a round orange pill with “AD 20” printed on it

While these are the most common doses of Adderall, this list is not complete. People who misuse Adderall often run out of their own prescription early or have Adderall that is not prescribed to them. Even if someone has an Adderall prescription, they may buy more illegally and store it with their own prescription or in something else like a plastic baggie. Sometimes people who are misusing Adderall will crush the pill form of the drug into powder and snort it because this method gets the drug into the bloodstream more quickly. Signs of this would include things that are typically used to snort drugs. Snorting tools can include:

  • Razor blades
  • Straws
  • Hollowed-out pens
  • Rolled up dollar bills

It is not unheard of for people misusing Adderall to inject it to get it into the bloodstream faster. Tools used for injection can include:

  • A lighter to heat the substance
  • A needle to inject the substance
  • A burnt spoon used to melt down the substance
  • A band or something to tie around the arm to make veins easier to identify

Extended Release Adderall

Extended releases are similar to the immediate release pills with a few key differences. Brand name extended release Adderall typically:

  • Comes in capsule form
    • One half of the capsule is clear and usually shows what looks like small, round balls
  • The opaque part of the capsule is typically blue or orange
  • The word “Adderall” along with the dosage in milligrams is typically printed on it

These lists are not complete. If you find a pill and are unable to identify it, you can take it to your local pharmacy and a pharmacist should be able to identify it for you.

Signs of Addiction

Just because someone has a prescription for Adderall doesn’t mean they will become addicted. Adderall is effectively used to treat millions of people every year. However, there are some telltale signs of drug addiction that could indicate Adderall is being misused. People with a new or worsening drug addiction often:

  • Lose interest in hobbies
  • Stop spending time with their friends and family
  • Start spending a lot of time with new friends
  • Have sudden financial problems
  • Have sudden changes in performance at school or work
  • Get caught in lies about where they’ve been, where they’re going, or what they’re doing
  • Act secretive
  • Change their eating or sleeping habits

These are typically signs of a worsening recreational drug habit. Some people do use Adderall for its euphoric (pleasurable) effect, which comes with high doses. However, Adderall is often also misused as a “study drug” that students or even adults in high-stress jobs will use to help them stay up and focus on material longer than they would typically be able to without breaks or rest. This type of misuse may look slightly different. Performance at school or work may improve, but someone using Adderall to study may show signs of lack of sleep and spend extensive amounts of time trying to get work done.

Adderall Intoxication and Short-Term Side Effects

When James first got his prescription, the only effects I noticed were the intended ones that the doctor had said we would see, like better focus and self-control. But after a while, I noticed that James would get really anxious a lot and wouldn’t be able to sleep. The doctor had said that as long as James took the right dose at the right time of day, the Adderall shouldn’t have affected his sleep schedule. It was becoming increasingly obvious that James wasn’t using Adderall as prescribed, but I didn’t want to believe he would do that. Someone who is getting high on Adderall may experience:

  • Euphoria (great happiness)
  • Increased energy
  • Increased concentration
  • High self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to sleep

Long-Term Side Effects of Adderall

Eventually, James started acting really aggressive. He started acting really paranoid and accused me and other family members of lying to him and doing things to make him feel bad or think he was crazy. He would have these intense bursts of energy, but they were different from the ones he had when his ADHD was undiagnosed. These outbursts were more angry and excited. Nothing we did could calm him down. He also had some physical changes. I noticed that he started to run really warm and would always complain that the house was too hot. He started to get this weird rash on his arms, and none of the ointment I gave him would get it to go away. The longer a person misuses Adderall, the more severe the symptoms get. A person who has been misusing Adderall for a prolonged period of time may have:

  • Chest pains
  • Increased blood pressure and other heart problems
  • Increased or feverish body temperature
  • Changes in or worsening vision
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness in or difficulty feeling the extremities (hands or feet)
  • Seizures
  • Aggression, paranoia (fear of someone or something), and manic (hyper) behavior
  • Blemishes to the skin like rashes and blisters

What to Avoid If You’re Taking Adderall

Another time, when James was out with his friends, I found a bottle of alcohol in his room. I didn’t move it because he had already been so aggressive and paranoid that I didn’t want to make things worse. I didn’t know where he had gotten it, but I knew that he wasn’t supposed to be mixing his Adderall with alcohol. I felt so overwhelmed because everything was going so wrong. I didn’t know what to do. Adderall is a controlled substance that should only be taken as prescribed by a medical professional. Using Adderall with other substances can be extremely dangerous. Adderall and alcohol should not be mixed. When alcohol is taken with certain extended release Adderalls, it can increase the release rate, which can result in an accidental Adderall overdose. In addition, the stimulant nature of Adderall can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, causing a person to drink more alcohol than intended, which can lead to an alcohol overdose. All in all, alcohol and Adderall are a dangerous combination. Marijuana is legal in the state of Massachusetts. However, marijuana should not be used in combination with Adderall. Marijuana and Adderall are both known to increase a person’s heart rate significantly, and if taken together, a person runs a risk of a much more serious cardiovascular event.

Symptoms of an Adderall Overdose

If you believe someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. One day I came into James’ bedroom to tell him that dinner was ready. He was lying on his bed barely conscious. He was shaking uncontrollably and muttering to himself about things that didn’t make sense. There was a small pool of vomit next to his bed. I realized immediately that it was a medical emergency and called 911. Once the EMTs got there and asked me about any medications he was on, we quickly realized it was an Adderall overdose. An Adderall overdose occurs when a person takes more Adderall than their system can handle at one time. The amount of Adderall that leads to an overdose differs depending on the person. It depends largely on the person’s tolerance, age, weight, and sex. Some symptoms of an Adderall overdose include:

  • Shaking or tremors
  • Loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Panic attack
  • Severe confusion
  • Hyperventilation
  • Psychosis (loss of contact with reality), including paranoia and auditory/visual/ physiological hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

While James was in the hospital, I started doing research about Adderall addiction. I realized that James was definitely suffering from addiction. I felt so terrible for not getting him help sooner, but I knew I couldn’t blame myself. I knew he had to stop using Adderall, but when I looked into it, I realized that quitting could be difficult or even dangerous. I knew that he couldn’t do it on his own and that he needed help from an experienced professional. While Adderall withdrawal is not usually deadly, it can be an uncomfortable and stressful process. This is especially true because Adderall impacts the way a person’s brain produces dopamine (a feel-good chemical), and the brain will struggle to produce its own dopamine once a person quits using Adderall, which is why they experience withdrawal symptoms. Detox should never take place at home and should only be done under the supervision of an experienced, qualified professional. Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can include:

  • New depression, irritability, and other changes in mood
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Unusual or new intense tiredness or fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Stomach aches and cramping
  • Vomiting

Treatment at Vertava Health – Massachusetts

After James’ overdose and hospital stay, I knew he needed rehab. I got him into an inpatient program as quickly as I could. Rehab really helped him learn to cope. He got much better. They taught him a lot about how to use Adderall as prescribed and taught him ways to cope through therapy so that he didn’t feel like he needed to take extra Adderall. Here at Vertava Health Massachusetts, we offer a high-quality Adderall rehab for people suffering from addiction. Unlike with other substances, there is no medication-assisted treatment for Adderall addiction. However, we do use carefully monitored medications to minimize the negative symptoms of withdrawal so that you can focus on recovery. Here at Vertava Health Massachusetts, we recognize that each of our clients is a unique individual with needs that are unique to them. That’s why each person’s treatment program is individualized so they can get the most out of treatment. At Vertava Health Massachusetts, we offer inpatient treatment and:

  • 24-hour supervision and support
  • Individual counseling
  • Trauma therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Skill-learning groups
  • Yoga and dietitian services
  • Expressive therapies

Get Help Today

Does James’ story remind you of yourself or someone you know? Are you or a loved one struggling with an Adderall addiction? Get the help required to beat addiction. Call (844) 906-0978 today.

FAQs

What does Adderall do to a normal person? Adderall is used to help people focus. While Adderall can help a person with ADHD focus their energy and attention, it may have different effects in people without ADHD. In people without ADHD, Adderall often causes hyper-focus, increased energy, and mood swings, although effects vary depending on the person. Adderall is a controlled substance and should only be used as it is prescribed. What should I avoid while taking Adderall? Two major things to avoid while taking Adderall, both as a prescription and recreationally, are mixing the drug with alcohol and/or marijuana. Alcohol can cause the drug to release more quickly, which could cause an accidental overdose. It is also easier to overdose on alcohol when it is mixed with Adderall. Marijuana is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, as is Adderall, and taking the two together could result in more serious heart problems. Why do I feel so bad on Adderall? Because Adderall is a stimulant, it can make people feel extremely anxious and give people mood swings, even in relatively small doses. If you take too much Adderall and overdose, it could result in panic attacks as well as a number of digestive issues or more serious problems like a seizure or heart attack.