Adderall is a combination of two central nervous system stimulants—amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Stimulants like Adderall increase the levels of dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine in the brain. This can cause a rise in your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
- The amphetamines affect how chemicals are released by neurons in your brain, which not only affects how awake you feel but also how you learn.
- With ADHD, these neural processes are impaired, so taking Adderall helps bring them back to normal. Because of this effect on learning and memory, it’s sometimes used for people with other neurological conditions too (although never without talking to a doctor).
- Narcolepsy is an incurable disorder that causes severe daytime drowsiness associated with sudden sleep attacks. It also causes cataplexy (the loss of muscle control), hallucinations, sleep paralysis (being awake but unable to move), and disturbed nighttime sleep.
While it is not easy to overdose on Adderall, it can happen, especially when taken in large doses or in combination with other drugs.
A large dose of Adderall is considered to be over 30 mg a day. Taking more can lead to symptoms like:
- Muscle twitches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and panic attacks
If you’re taking a large dose of Adderall and suddenly have any of the above symptoms, seek medical help immediately. If you think someone has overdosed on Adderall, call 911 right away. Don’t try to treat the overdose yourself—it could be life-threatening. If you or someone else is having seizures, it’s possible that first responders will administer benzodiazepines (like diazepam or lorazepam) to help stop them. Benzodiazepines are powerful anti-anxiety drugs that can help prevent increased heart rate or possible brain damage from seizures. In some cases, doctors may also use activated charcoal if you’ve taken an excessive amount of Adderall in order to keep your body from absorbing the drug further into your system.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of emergency room visits involving ADHD medications has increased dramatically among people aged 45 and older over the past eight years.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of emergency room visits involving ADHD medications has increased dramatically among people aged 45 and older over the past eight years. The highest rates of emergency department visits for ADHD medications are among adults aged 45 to 64 (age groups are based on age in 2016). In fact, between 2005 and 2010, ER visits by this group rose by 165%.
This increase may be linked to the side effects that older people are more likely to experience while taking these drugs.
The effects of Adderall may be more apparent in older people, which can lead to side effects that are sometimes serious. This increase may be linked to the side effects that older people are more likely to experience while taking these drugs. For instance, a doctor may need to raise your dose slowly and carefully because your nervous system will respond differently than a younger person’s.
Some other reasons why the drug may affect you differently than a younger person include:
- Changes in chemistry as you get older can make it harder for your body to process drugs quickly enough. If the drug builds up in your system, you’re more likely to have serious side effects.
- You’ll also have conditions that didn’t affect you as much when you were young, like high blood pressure or diabetes, or problems with memory or sleep. The side effects of Adderall could make these problems worse.
- Older adults tend to be more sensitive to the drug’s stimulating effects because they have less dopamine in their brain cells than younger people do. As a result of this difference in sensitivity, they’re also more likely than younger people are to develop dependence on this drug (and other stimulants).
Adderall can be considered an addictive substance because it can cause cravings and compulsive drug seeking.
When the stimulants in Adderall are in your brain, they reduce the activity of neurons that release dopamine—the neurotransmitter that activates the reward center in your brain. When you take amphetamines, less dopamine is released into your reward center, and this causes you to experience cravings for more of the drug.
It’s not just Adderall that can cause this effect; using any drug that impacts how dopamine works can lead to addiction. When someone becomes addicted to a substance, he or she will experience intense cravings for it. If these cravings aren’t met by taking more of the drug, withdrawal symptoms may occur—and these can be both psychological and physical. For example, when people try to quit smoking cigarettes, they often experience symptoms like irritability and craving for nicotine because their brains and bodies have become dependent on it. The same thing happens when you stop taking a prescription stimulant like Adderall: you may get fatigued or depressed because your brain isn’t getting as much stimulation as it was when you were taking it regularly. You might also have trouble concentrating without Adderall there to help with that function.
Many colleges do not test for amphetamine use on their drug tests, but some schools have started including Adderall on their tests because so many students use it as a study aid.
Many colleges do not test for amphetamine use on their drug tests, but some schools have started including Adderall on their tests because so many students use it as a study aid. Students take Adderall without a prescription in order to improve their academic performance. This practice is known as cognitive enhancement, and research shows that this method works—students who take Adderall do tend to perform better academically on tests than those who don’t. However, students must weigh the benefits and risks of taking this medication when deciding whether or not they want to try it themselves.
Students who take Adderall without a prescription are using a method called cognitive enhancement to try to improve their academic performance.
Cognitive enhancement is the use of prescription drugs by healthy people to improve their mental performance. You might hear cognitive enhancement referred to as “neuroenhancement,” which is a broader term that can also include methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). The term “cognitive enhancement” is more specific because it refers only to taking prescription drugs without a medical need.
Cognitive enhancement is not the same thing as medical treatment. The FDA doesn’t approve any medicines for cognitive enhancement in healthy people, so using prescription stimulants without a diagnosis and a doctor’s advice isn’t recommended or legal.
The side effects of Adderall and its addictive potential make it a potentially dangerous substance if used improperly.
A stimulant medication, Adderall can cause a range of side effects. These include insomnia and difficulty sleeping, trouble with normal bowel movements, loss of appetite and weight loss, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, headaches and dizziness, and dry mouth. In children who are prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD or narcolepsy, the medication is believed to be quite safe when used properly under the supervision of a doctor. However if an adult takes it to treat ADHD without first consulting a doctor—or uses it recreationally without a prescription—Adderall has the potential to be dangerous.
Because Adderall is also addictive for many people who take it regularly (whether for valid medical reasons or not), there’s also a risk that someone taking it will become dependent on it or even abuse it. As with other drugs like alcohol or illicit substances like cocaine or heroin, this can lead to some very negative consequences in someone’s life including job loss and even criminal behavior as they seek out more of the drug at all costs. If you’re considering using Adderall yourself—whether you have been diagnosed with an illness like ADHD that this medication could help with or not—it’s important to understand both how helpful this drug can potentially be when used properly but also how harmful it can be when misused.”