Adderall side effects can range from mild to severe. The side effects that occur when someone abuses this prescription medicine are more likely to be severe and negative than if someone takes it as prescribed.
Adderall is a brand-name prescription medication. The medication is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Primarily for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sometimes Adderall is also used to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are central nervous system stimulants. These stimulants change the number of natural substances in your brain, affecting impulse control and hyperactivity.
What Does Adderall Do?
When you take Adderall, since it stimulates your central nervous system, it can improve focus and concentration and may reduce impulsive behavior. The prescription drug boosts certain brain chemicals, improving focus and having specific other positive effects.
However, it speeds up other functions controlled or affected by the central nervous system.
The medicine works by changing the chemicals in your brain. Specifically, it increases the effects of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine is a reward chemical. That’s why Adderall can create euphoric feelings. Epinephrine increases the activity of your sympathetic nervous system. That means your body is thrown into fight-or-flight mode, so you feel more alert and you experience clarity, as well as a decrease in appetite.
While Adderall is an FDA-approved prescription medicine, it also has a high abuse potential, particularly among young people such as college students. People abuse Adderall to improve their performance in school or at work or boost their physical performance.
It’s also relatively common to combine Adderall with other substances like alcohol or illicit drugs, which increases the risk of potential side effects and even sudden death.
Adderall Common Side Effects
When this medicine is used as prescribed, the risk of adverse side effects is lower than if it’s abused, but they still exist. Any stimulant drug, including Adderall, can raise body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. It stimulates the processes of your body. As a result, you may also stay awake for longer-than-normal periods and have a reduced or non-existent appetite.
Other Adderall side effects can include:
Central Nervous System Effects
Central nervous-related side effects include:
- Sleep problems
- Dry mouth
- Slow speech
- Vision changes
Severe central nervous system side effects that can be a medical emergency include:
- Weakness or numbness of the limbs
- Allergic reactions
- Shaking, seizures, or tics
- Muscle twitches
- Muscle stiffness
- Worsening symptoms of a mental health condition like anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression
With use over prolonged periods and especially misuse, someone may have withdrawal when they try to stop. Withdrawal symptoms are related to the central nervous system and its function and can include:
- Sleep problems
- Aggressive behavior
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts
Circulatory and Respiratory Symptoms
As a nervous system stimulant, this medication can significantly affect both the circulatory and respiratory systems. Stimulants cause your blood vessels to constrict. They raise your blood pressure and cause your heart to beat faster.
You could experience severe or dangerous adverse reactions, including:
- Numbness of the fingers and toes is one of the signs of circulation problems
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
If you take Adderall with alcohol, it raises the risk of heart problems. Someone with a pre-existing history of heart disease or blood circulation problems should not use this medicine.
Symptoms Related to the Digestive System
When you take this stimulant, it increases the amount of glucose your body releases. This can lead to symptoms including:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Other Possible Side Effects
Other potential effects of Adderall can include:
- Kidney problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Reduced or increased sexual desire
- Blurred vision
- Psychosis or similar cognitive effects
- Mood swings or symptoms of a worsening mental health disorder or mental illness
Dependence and addiction are also among the possible side effects. Dependence is when you’re physically dependent on a substance. Without that substance, you will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction is a psychological, chronic brain disorder. When you develop an addiction to Adderall, you’re no longer in control of your use of the drug. Your use is compulsive. Addiction can lead to adverse consequences for your health, relationships, career, and other parts of your life.
Often someone with an addiction to Adderall will need professional treatment, as they would with any other chronic medical condition.
An Adderall overdose can also occur. Overdose symptoms can include unwanted side effects like:
- Rapid breathing
- Rhabdomyolysis is a breakdown in muscle tissue that can damage the kidneys
- High or low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Overactive reflexes
- Sudden death
Adderall Side Effects in Men
Some Adderall side effects are specific to men, including sexual side effects.
Erectile dysfunction is one of the potential side effects of this stimulant medicine. Some men who use Adderall feel it leads to decreases in libido and interest in sex. It may also impact a man’s ability to get and maintain an erection.
Adderall could affect men this way because it constricts blood vessels to impact the penis.
Some men feel that since it is a stimulant, Adderall has the opposite effect on their sex drive, but everyone is different. There’s no way to predict exactly how a medication or drug will affect you.
Adderall Side Effects in Women
Women may be more likely to experience certain side effects like anxiety, depression, or mood disturbances.
In general, women can experience medication and drug side effects differently than men for a few reasons.
First, women’s lower average body weight than men changes how bioavailable one of the amphetamines is in Adderall. Some medical studies also show estrogen affects how bioavailable Adderall is.
During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, which is the first 14 days, Adderall is more likely to cause negative side effects for women. This is likely because estrogen levels present enhance amphetamines and trigger the brain to release dopamine. These effects can also raise the risk of dependence and addiction to Adderall.
If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t take Adderall. It can lead to low birth weight, premature birth, and abnormalities. You shouldn’t use this medicine if you’re breastfeeding, either. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant and you take Adderall.
How Long Do Adderall Side Effects Last?
The effects of Adderall, including potential adverse effects, can last for different amounts of time depending on the version of the drug. If you take immediate-release Adderall, the positive or negative effects will usually last for around four to six hours. Side effects can last much longer with the extended-release version (Adderall XR).
Long-term side effects include potential heart, circulatory, and mental health problems that can last far beyond the last time you use Adderall. Addiction and dependence are two examples of long-term side effects.
Paranoia and psychosis are also effects of long-term use.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the misuse of prescription stimulants getting help sooner rather than later is vital. Addiction and dependence are progressive and worsen over time. The effects of prescription stimulants can be serious or even deadly.
Contact the Mental Health Center of San Diego by calling (858) 258-9883 to learn more about a substance use disorder treatment, including prescription stimulant misuse. Long-term effects even outside of addiction and dependence can include heart conditions, serious mental health symptoms, and more, so getting help can be life-saving.