Long-term Effects of Adderall

Adderall, a prescription stimulant, is one of the most popularly prescribed medications in the U.S. It is also one of the most commonly abused prescription medications. In 2012, an estimated 16 million prescriptions for stimulants such as Adderall were written. Adderall is the brand name medication for a combination of the active ingredients dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is a medication often used for short-term treatment and management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is safe when taken as prescribed and as intended. However, when taken outside of medical guidelines, the drug can become addictive and dangerous.

When used for the treatment of conditions such as ADHD, it can help users improve the ability to focus, decrease impulsivity, and improve mood, productivity and attention span. It helps to bring the brain down from a state of intense overstimulation to a state of normal baseline stimulation. 

It also affects the area of the brain responsible for controlling hyperactivity and impulse while clarifying the ability to process attention and decision-making functions. On the other hand, research has also found that Adderall doesn’t have much of a positive effect on those who do not have conditions such as ADHD. In fact, it can lead to the opposite desired effects.

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Who is most likely to misuse Adderall?

The FDA-approved medication is a Schedule II controlled substance and can only be legally attained through a medical prescription. It is a highly potent central nervous system stimulant that is often misused for purposes such as weight loss, studying, athletic performance and staying awake. Students and young adult professionals commonly misuse it. The drug helps them stay awake and focused for longer in order to help meet the demands of school or their professional careers. In fact, research has found that college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their peers who are not in college.

Athletes are also more prone to abusing Adderall to help counter fatigue and enhance their physical performance. This can be especially useful during practices and competitions. Another group who is likely to abuse the drug are those who suffer from eating disorders. Adderall is known to suppress appetite and therefore abused by those who are seeking alternative weight loss options.

In 2012, over 116,000 people were admitted to rehab for an addiction to amphetamines such as Adderall. Adderall dependency is a naturally occurring physiological response to the drug due to how it interacts with the chemicals in the brain and body. It can produce feelings of confidence, euphoria and increased concentration and mental focus. An Adderall addiction is characterized by a person’s physical and psychological dependence on the drug.

Adderall usually comes in two forms: an oral tablet and an extended-release oral capsule. Street names for Adderall include speed, uppers, euphoria, black beauties, addys and pep pills.

Signs of potential Adderall abuse:

  • Being overly talkative
  • Unusual loss of appetite and excessive weight loss
  • Social withdrawal from peers, friends, families and co-workers
  • Sleeping for long periods of time
  • Secretive behavior
  • Impaired memory and memory loss
  • Decline in relationships with others
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Frequently taking pills
  • Development of financial difficulties due to drug use
  • Overworking or over-concentrating
  • Disorientation
  • Mania
  • Impulsive behaviors

Because Adderall is recommended as a short-term solution, the long-term effects of Adderall use can lead to serious consequences. The most concerning side effects include the development of dependence and addiction. Prescription stimulants such as Adderall alter the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain by enhancing the effects of various neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. 

Norepinephrine affects how the brain responds to events, how the brain is able to focus and pay attention and the speed at which the brain is able to react to outside stimuli. Dopamine is the “feel good” chemical that acts on the reward system of the brain. Ultimately, Adderall is able to produce unnaturally high levels of these brain chemicals leading the user to develop a tolerance and dependence on the substance.

Infographic showing the long and short term effects of Adderall use.

Long-term Effects of Adderall

Long-term side effects of Adderall are a high concern. Not only does the stimulant amphetamine have a high potential for abuse, it can lead to damaging effects on the brain and body. One major symptom includes its effects on personality. Taking too high of a dose, or too frequently can cause a “zombie-like” effect. This occurs when a person begins to feel numb and lacking in the expression of a normal emotional range of behavior. 

Another dangerous symptom includes the changes in how your brain produces and processes neurotransmitters. These physical changes can also lead to brain neurotoxicity. It’s a condition in which the user experiences behavioral changes and develops mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. The condition can be described as having psychosis and schizophrenia-like symptoms that include paranoid delusion and intense hallucinations.

Other long-term side effects include:

  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Stomach issues
  • Head pain and nausea
  • Decreased energy or intense fatigue
  • Development or worsening of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation
  • Panic
  • Low or irritable mood
  • Heart conditions – increased risk for heart attack and stroke, increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Uncontrollable tics and seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Blurred vision
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Stunted growth and development in younger users

Short-term side effects of Adderall include:

  • Feelings of more energy and focus
  • Motivation and productivity
  • Impulse control
  • Restlessness
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep issues
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth

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Adderall Withdrawal Timeline

In 2022, the U.S. saw a shortage in the manufacturing of Adderall. Manufacturers and pharmacies were unable to refill needed prescriptions for patients in need of treatment for their ADHD. Reasons for this were caused by a number of factors. The shortage resulted in some experiencing varying levels of Adderall withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription stimulant drugs have a high potential for abuse that often leads to withdrawal. Adderall is a potent stimulant drug. Users can experience withdrawal symptoms after high doses of the substance have been dramatically decreased or stopped completely. During Adderall withdrawal, the brain begins to produce stress hormones that can lead to a heightened stress response in the body. 

Typical symptoms of withdrawal include body aches, insomnia, worsening anxiety and depression, intense cravings, panic attacks, mood swings, extreme fatigue and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Users can also experience rebound symptoms that include the inability to focus, decreased energy, problems with concentration and short-term memory loss.

  • The first 6-36 hours of withdrawal are characterized by initial signs of withdrawal within the first few hours after the drug was taken. Users begin to feel intense depression and fatigue.
  • Days 3-5 of withdrawal include intense feelings of irritability along with feelings of anxiety and depression. Some users also experience headaches and nightmares. This period is usually the height of the withdrawal intensity.
  • During days 5-7 withdrawal symptoms will begin to fade, but can still continue to linger.
  • During weeks 3-4, users may develop symptoms of rebound effects that can continue for weeks after. Rebound symptoms are the return of symptoms linked to the condition that becomes more severe compared to its initial prompt before drug use. This can be especially true for those who have a higher tolerance for the drug.

There are in fact, many other ways to help cope with and manage withdrawal conditions.

  • Take a few days off from work or school. Take this time to physically and mentally rest.
  • Stay hydrated and stock up on healthy food and snacks. Good nutrition will help nourish and heal the brain from the damage created by the drugs.
  • Get rid of the substance so you’re not tempted to use them.  
  • Have friends and family check up on you. Having a good support system helps keep you accountable in your recovery journey.
  • Find a therapist or counselor to talk to. Evidence-based therapy has proven highly effective in helping people overcome their addiction to stimulant amphetamines.
  • Find a hobby or activity that you can do when you feel the urge. Finding other productive and healthier ways to occupy your time can help in your recovery from your addiction.

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

Hotel California by the Sea provides substance use disorder treatment for those experiencing an addiction to prescription amphetamine medications such as Adderall. The wide range of treatment care includes detox, residential, PHP and IOP programs. The behavioral health recovery program specializes in treating co-occurring mental health conditions that many patients have when they are trying to overcome an addiction.

Unique treatment programs such as CBT, EMDR therapy and group therapy help clients learn effective ways to cope and manage distressing feelings and situations related to their addiction. Hotel California by the Sea believes each client has his or her own obstacles and challenges to overcome. By creating an individualized treatment plan, clients are more likely to find success in their recovery at one of many locations around the nation.