Adderall is a medication that is supposed to help those with ADHD manage their symptoms and live more normal lives. Thousands of people across the country rely on the medication to help them concentrate and perform daily tasks better.

Unfortunately, Adderall can be addictive if abused and there are people who use it for non-medical reasons, either as a performance enhancer or recreationally for a high. It’s most common in college students, who are at higher risk of Adderall abuse than others.

Adderall has also been linked to cardiovascular problems and sudden death. The FDA has issued a black box warning pertaining to these issues. Additionally, many believe that Adderall is over-prescribed, compounding these problems.

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What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a medication that is typically prescribed to treat ADHD. It’s a stimulant that can help those who take it to focus better, pay attention, and control behavioral problems. Adderall can also help people to improve their listening abilities and to become more organized. It is not considered a cure for ADHD but can help patients by improving or reducing the severity of symptoms like lack of focus, inattention, and excessive physical activity. Adderall is often considered to be the first-line treatment and many doctors prescribe the medication before trying any other drug.

What Is Adderall Made From?

Adderall is a combination drug, which means that it has more than one active ingredient. Adderall contains “mixed amphetamine salts” which includes amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and levoamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine are both converted to amphetamine in the bloodstream.

How Does Adderall Work?

Adderall is a stimulant that works by increasing the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine that are in the brain.

Who Takes Adderall?

The number of patients diagnosed with ADHD has dramatically increased since the 1990s and as of 2011, more than 11 percent of all children aged 4 to 17 were diagnosed with ADHD. In many cases, ADHD symptoms decrease as children age but some adults are also affected. Many of these adults experience significant disabilities and may not have had their disorders recognized when they were children.

Individuals who have issues like an overactive thyroid, severe or moderate high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart disease, glaucoma, severe agitation, or a history of alcohol or drug addiction should not use Adderall. Individuals who have a history of using an MAO inhibitor in the previous two weeks should not use Adderall as well.

Who Manufactures Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name for a specific medication manufactured by Shire LLC. There are other brands of the medication and also generic versions of Adderall that are also used to treat ADHD. These medications may be referred to as Adderall, no matter the actual name.

What Does Adderall Treat?

Adderall is most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD but may also be used to treat narcolepsy.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Symptoms typically begin during childhood and continue into adulthood. Adult ADHD is just ADHD as experienced as adults, rather than ADHD that begins in adulthood. Anyone who is diagnosed with ADHD as an adult most likely developed the condition starting in childhood but the diagnosis was delayed. Those diagnosed with ADHD as children may find that their symptoms are less severe in adulthood, but that’s not always the case. ADHD has no cure but can be managed using medication like Adderall.

What Are the Types of ADHD?

There are three different types of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive/impulsive
  • Inattentive
  • Combined hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive

ADHD may be expressed differently in boys and girls. Boys may more commonly exhibit symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD while girls may more frequently have inattentive ADHD. Hyperactive/impulsive is also the more commonly known type of ADHD, possibly due to the fact that ADHD is recognized more often in boys than in girls.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Children?

Children who have ADHD may have difficulties at school, trouble in relationships, and lower self-esteem. The symptoms of ADHD in children depend on the type of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive/impulsive ADHD:
    • Being in constant motion
    • Running and climbing in inappropriate situations
    • Talking too much
    • Blurting out answers to a teacher’s questions
    • Trouble taking turns
    • Fidgeting
    • Squirming
    • Difficulty remaining seated
    • Interrupting
    • Intruding in on others’ conversations and games
    • Difficulty working quietly
  • Inattentive ADHD:
    • Making careless mistakes
    • Failing to pay attention
    • Not listening, even when directly spoken to
    • Easily distracted
    • Avoiding tasks that require mental concentration
    • Difficulty with organization
    • Easily losing things
    • Failing to finish things
    • Trouble following directions
    • Forgetting daily tasks

A child with combined ADHD may exhibit symptoms from either category.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Adults?

While in some people, the symptoms of ADHD are less severe as adults, that’s not always the case for everyone. Additionally, some people are never diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. The symptoms can be different in adults than they are in children and may include:

  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Inattentiveness
  • Trouble managing time properly
  • Difficulty with prioritizing tasks
  • Disorganized
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Too much activity
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Temper
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty handling stress
  • Trouble planning
  • Difficulty completing tasks

What Is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a type of sleep disorder in which those suffering from it are excessively drowsy during the day and have difficulty staying awake for longer periods of time. Those with narcolepsy may experience sudden episodes of sleepiness throughout the day. This may result in serious disruptions to daily life. There isn’t a cure for narcolepsy, but it can be managed with medication, such as Adderall.

What Are the Symptoms of Narcolepsy?

The symptoms of narcolepsy may include:

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone caused by strong emotions)
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Changes in REM sleep

What Are the Side Effects of Taking Adderall?

The common side effects of taking Adderall may include:

  • Mood changes
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Nervous feelings
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia

What Are the Serious Side Effects of Adderall?

Adderall may also cause some more serious side effects, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Faster heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A feeling that you might faint
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggression
  • Hostility
  • Paranoia
  • Pain
  • A cold feeling
  • Numbness
  • Changes in skin color in the toes and fingers
  • Inexplicable wounds
  • Vision changes
  • Muscle twitches
  • Seizures
  • Hives
  • Swelling in the lips, tongue, throat, and/or face

If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor straight away.

What Are the Risks of Taking Adderall?

In some, Adderall may increase blood pressure and heart rate. This could make taking Adderall dangerous for someone who already has high blood pressure or who already has a history of cardiovascular problems. Additionally, Adderall has been linked to an increased risk of psychological problems such as panic attacks and paranoia. It may also be addictive if taken improperly, so there’s a risk of Adderall abuse.

What Are the Symptoms of Adderall Addiction?

Adderall may be a habit-forming drug, which means that some people who take it become addicted to the medication. Adderall is listed as a Schedule II (C-II) controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which indicates that it has a high potential for abuse and may be addicting. Drug abuse is defined as the use of medication for non-medical purposes or in larger doses than prescribed.

When used for ADHD symptoms, the risks of Adderall are often outweighed by the benefits of the medication but when the medication is used for non-medical reasons, it is likely to be taken in larger doses or more often than it should be. Side effects of Adderall abuse may be more severe and may result in more damaging effects, both physical and psychological.

The symptoms of addiction to Adderall may include:

  • Spending a lot of time seeking out more Adderall
  • Taking more and more in order to experience the same high
  • Shirking responsibilities
  • Doctor shopping
  • Fear of not having enough Adderall
  • Taking Adderall in a way not according to the prescription (for example, crushing it for snorting)
  • Fast thoughts
  • Talkativeness
  • Sociability
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Feelings of intense wellbeing
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Nervousness

Who Is Most at Risk for Adderall Abuse?

People who take Adderall as prescribed for symptoms of ADHD rarely become addicted. Most cases of addiction occur in those who are abusing the medication. Many people who abuse Adderall take the medication at doses that are much larger than those that are considered safe. Over a period of time, the person may require larger and larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired result.

As the number of ADHD diagnosis have risen, Adderall has become much more widely available. It is only approved to treat the symptoms of those with ADHD but it has also been used by some people who do not have the disorder. Emergency room visits for stimulant-related events increased more than four-fold from 2005 to 2011 and estimates show that up to one-third of college students have misused prescription stimulants.

Most Adderall abuse occurs in younger people. College students are twice as likely to abuse the medication as those who are not in school and the rate of abuse in college is estimated at about 6 percent. Many people with Adderall prescriptions are pressured to give or sell the medication to others.

In addition to a non-medical use for “increased focus” often by college students, it has also been used as a performance enhancer for sports and recreationally to induce feelings of euphoria. Many of the people who abuse Adderall have gotten the medication from someone else for whom it was prescribed, with or without that patient’s knowledge. People who abuse Adderall for extended periods of time may become addicted to the medication.

Properly supervised treatment may help those who have become addicted to Adderall.

What Are the Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal?

People taking Adderall in small or normal doses may not be as likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Those who take the medication periodically on binges may experience short-term withdrawal, known as crashing. This may occur because the person taking Adderall may have been awake for much longer than normal and may not have eaten for a long period of time. People who crash may experience extreme hunger and fatigue and may sleep for an extended period of time.

Someone who has become addicted to Adderall who stops taking the medication or doesn’t take enough to achieve the same high as before may experience symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Confusion

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Adderall Withdrawal?

If someone abuses Adderall over a long period of time, they may experience sustained withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Tooth decay or oral disease
  • Cardiac damage, including cardiomyopathy
  • Vascular damage, including necrotizing vasculitis from inflammation of blood vessels

People who withdraw from Adderall may also have intense psychological cravings for the drug. Treatment that includes behavioral therapy, group therapy, or participation in a 12-step or other support program may help to increase the chance of recovery from Adderall addiction.

Is Adderall Over-Prescribed?

While Adderall may help manage the symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy, some believe that it is over-prescribed and that other treatments with lower risks may be better suited to treat the condition. Additionally, some professionals are concerned that people diagnosed with ADHD may not have the condition at all, which would lead to many risking addiction and other negative side effects unnecessarily. Others believe that ADHD isn’t over-diagnosed and that it was under-diagnosed in the past, which makes it appear to be over-diagnosed now.

What Are Non-Medical Uses for Adderall?

  • Use as a study aid to increase focus
  • Use in sports activities to enhance performance
  • Use as a recreational drug to induce euphoria
  • Use as a recreational drug to enhance libido
  • Use to decrease the sedative effects of other recreational drugs or alcohol
  • Use as a weight loss agent

Over time, people who use Adderall may develop tolerance to the medication and require larger doses to achieve the same effect. When taken for non-medical reasons, people may take doses that are much larger than those that are safe.

Has the FDA Issued a Warning About Adderall?

The FDA has issued a black box warning regarding Adderall. A black box warning label is the FDA’s strongest possible warning. The warning states that Adderall is potentially addictive, as well as warns of a risk of cardiovascular events or sudden death. This warning was issued in 2007.

Why Are People Filing Adderall Lawsuits?

Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Shire LLC, the manufacturer of Adderall, for severe side effects that they experienced, including cardiovascular events. Others have claimed that Shire LLC overstated the efficacy of Adderall medications in treating ADHD. Anyone who has experienced harm from taking Adderall may be eligible for legal action against the manufacturer.

What Adderall Lawsuits Are There?

There are ongoing lawsuits that have been filed for a number of different reasons. A lawsuit in California was filed in 2022 not against Shire LLC but against Cerebral, a company that was accused of over-prescribing medication to patients with ADHD, increasing their risk of addiction to the medication.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA. 


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