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Adderall Side Effects: The Complete Facts

adderall side effects

Adderall is a prescription medication that treats ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) by controlling the amounts of natural chemicals in the brain. It is also used to combat sleep disorders, by activating chemicals in your body to help patients stay awake. In this post, we will discuss the side-effects of Adderall use, and the consequences of abusing this medication.

Adderall is not as common in the UK as it is in the USA, but this prescription medication does have a presence in Britain. In fact, it has a slightly chequered history in the UK; in 2018 major newspapers covered the rise in the use of Adderall as a ‘study drug’ amongst British teenagers and university student. [1] Despite this, the average person doesn’t know too much about this drug and why it is prescribed to many people in the UK.

What Is Adderall (and What is it Used For)?

Adderall is a particular brand of a prescription medication comprised of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. This medication is most commonly given to patients dealing with ADHD (though it can also be prescribed for those dealing with narcolepsy).

ADHD is a misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition which is estimated to affect 1.5 million adults in the UK alone. Despite this, there are only 120,000 formally diagnosed cases. [2]

For those who have ADHD, Adderall is used to stimulate the central nervous system, increase focus, control behaviour, and help them to pay attention by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain.

1. Adderall Side-Effects For People Who Need It

For those who actually need Adderall, the effect of this drug is to stabilise them – to bring them back to a state of ‘normality’, for lack of a better term. By providing stimulation to specific parts of the brain, Adderall helps those who struggle with ADHD and narcolepsy to stay aware, focussed, and awake. Of course, these same stimulating properties are what draw in people who don’t have ADHD or narcolepsy.

2. Adderall Side-Effects For People Who Don’t Need It

Adderall is one of the most commonly abused ‘study drugs’. For those who do not need Adderall, taking it may increase focus and information retention but some studies show that this could be a placebo effect. [3]

Likewise, for those who self-medicate and find that it does work, these studies suggest that they may, in fact, be one of the many undiagnosed adults with ADHD. [4] Those who self-medicate are far more likely to face negative side-effects.

The Positive Side Effects of Adderall

Adderall has many side effects, both positive and negative. The positive side effects, of course, are the intended effects. These include: [5]

  • Increased focus
  • Improved concentration
  • Improved mood
  • Increased alertness and cognitive function
  • Reduction of hyperactivity
  • Decreased fatigue/exhaustion

These effects are, of course, the goal for those who struggle with narcolepsy or ADHD, and while people who abuse Adderall may get some of these positive side effects, they are just as likely to deal with the negative side effects as well.

Short-Term Side Effects

Taking Adderall can cause various unwanted effects, especially when mixed with other medications or if you have underlying conditions which you do not disclose to your doctor. Thankfully these side effects are short-term and mostly avoidable if you stay within the correct dosing limits. Short-term side effects include:

  • Circulatory issues (including finger numbness and discolouration)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach ache
  • Back pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Jitteriness
  • Sleep disruption
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea

Men may also experience erectile dysfunction or an increased sex drive as well as an increased likelihood of headaches, dizziness, and sleep problems.

Long-Term Side Effects

Abuse of Adderall can lead to a number of long-term, serious side effects which have implications for mental and physical health in the long run. The most serious long-term side-effects connected to Adderall abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Mania
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Hypertension
  • Tachycardia
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrest
  • Suppressed growth (in children)
  • Peripheral vasculopathy (a disorder of the blood vessels)
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (restriction of blood flow to the extremities, particularly fingers and toes)

Adderall Use in Children

Children diagnosed with ADHD are often prescribed Adderall and/or Ritalin by their doctor in order to manage their symptoms. Because of the potential growth suppression, psychological, and physical side effects, Adderall is not prescribed lightly.

Because of this, ADHD must be diagnosed through a series of tests which rule out other likely options. For children positively diagnosed with ADHD Adderall is approved for prescription once they reach the age of 3. Those with narcolepsy can have it prescribed after the age of 12.

Things You Should Know Before Taking Adderall

If you are being prescribed Adderall, or your child is, there are something things that you should know. First and foremost, Adderall is a habit-forming medication so you should never take it unless prescribed, and you should always stay within your doctors dosing limits.

Furthermore, if you have any of the following conditions you should not take Adderall at all:

  • Glaucoma
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Severe anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Vascular disease
  • A history of addiction

Assuming that there are no health reasons to prevent you from taking Adderall safely, you should still be aware of how it affects your brain and the potential for long-term dependency.

Long Term Adderall Use: The Signs

Stimulants like Adderall increase concentration and energy levels by increasing the activity of several neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Over time the changes caused by Adderall can actually change our brains’ reward centre and alter how we experience pleasure.

The longer the period of use (or abuse), the more the ingrained these changes become, and over time this can become permanent. The effects (and symptoms) of long-term Adderall use or abuse include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Constipation
  • Stomach or chest pains

Of course, there are other possible side effects and symptoms of Adderall abuse including twitching and a dry mouth. These physical symptoms, of course, appear in conjunction with the usual social and lifestyle changes which are common amongst those abusing any kind of drug.

How to Take Adderall Safely

The most obvious advice we have when it comes to ensuring your safety while taking Adderall is to only take it when prescribed and to take it exactly as instructed by your doctor. Do not take it in larger or smaller amounts than prescribed, and do not take it for longer than recommended.

More than anything else – never share it with another person. Beyond the usual safety and health concerns that come with sharing medication, Adderall is a class B drug in the UK so there are serious legal ramifications as well.

You should read all patient information fully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns. Do not crush, break, chew, or otherwise open an extended-release capsule. Simply swallow it whole as instructed.

What to do if You Miss a Dose

If you miss a dose take it as soon as you remember unless it is already evening in which case skip that does and begin taking your prescription, as usual, the next day.

How to Deal With an Overdose

Symptoms of an overdose include restlessness, rapid breathing, hallucinations, panic attacks, muscle pain, aggression, muscle weakness, dark coloured urine, tremors, stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, and even seizures.

Which Medications Should Not be Taken With Adderall

There are a number of things which may interfere with Adderall, including vitamin c supplements, but certain medications are more dangerous than others. This is why you should always tell your doctor about medications that you’re on currently.

You should also alert your physician to any over the counter medications you buy regularly so that they can give you proper advice. The following medications seriously interfere with Adderall:

  • Buspirone
  • Lithium
  • SSRI drugs including Citalopram and Sertraline
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Blood pressure medicine
  • Heartburn medicine
  • Opioid medicine
  • Seizure medicines
  • Decongestants
  • Blood thinners

This list is, of course, incomplete which is why being transparent with your doctor is so important. Likewise, if you have started to use Adderall without a prescription and you notice negative side effects, either physical or mental, please contact your doctor for advice and support.

Adderall Withdrawal

If you cease Adderall use either because your doctor recommends it, or because you are trying to cease illicit use you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disruption
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings

most cases, Adderall withdrawal is not dangerous and will not warrant medical intervention. However, if you find that you are having intense cravings to take Adderall again, or if you feel physically ill when you do not take it, please do contact your doctor for addiction support.

Adderall is a habit-forming medication and so it poses a risk to anyone taking it in large doses or over prolonged periods of time; just like strong pain killers, this is a prescription medication which is known to be addictive. If you are worried that you or someone you love is becoming dependent on Adderall please reach out to a healthcare professional for advice and support.

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