What is Adderall?
For people with ADHD, Adderall increases norepinephrine and dopamine activity in the brain and stimulates the nervous system. As a result, the user is more focused, concentrated, alert, and motivated.
Although Adderall is an effective and generally safe drug when taken as directed, it has a high potential for abuse and can cause physical dependence, and addiction. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States.2
While Adderall helps many people with ADHD function well on daily, some people also abuse it to get high or to enhance their academic or physical performance. Misusing any prescription stimulant, such as by taking someone else’s prescription or taking it in any way other than prescribed, is dangerous and can have serious, life-threatening effects.
Despite the risks, Adderall is one of the most commonly abused prescription stimulants in the U.S. Based on data from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 5.1 million people ages 12 or older in 2018 misused prescription stimulants in the past year.3 Additionally, Adderall contributes to nearly 1,500 emergency room visits annually and 1 in 5 (20 percent) college students report misusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime.4,5
Is Adderall Dangerous?
All prescription stimulant use comes with inherent risk, but if you have already discussed these risks with your doctor and you take your Adderall prescription exactly as prescribed, sudden death is very unlikely to occur.
While there have been several sudden deaths related to Adderall use, most of them were not caused by Adderall use alone and studies have confirmed that the drug is unlikely to cause deadly cardiovascular events without the user having any pre-existing conditions or engaging in risky polydrug use.6
In most cases, the people who have died from using Adderall either had pre-existing conditions that made death more likely to occur (such as structural heart problems/heart defects, a family history of abnormal heart rhythms, or fatty liver) or the deaths occurred under abnormal circumstances, such as during vigorous exercise in extreme heat.7
Taking very high doses of Adderall can also cause a heart attack or overdose, which may be fatal in some instances. Using Adderall with alcohol and/or other drugs can dramatically increase the likelihood of serious cardiovascular side effects or death.8
Harmful Side Effects of Adderall Use
When you take Adderall, it mainly affects your central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Even if you take the appropriate dosage prescribed by a doctor, you may experience some of the following harmful side effects of Adderall use:9
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Damage to heart tissue
- Digestive problems
- Psychosis (more likely to occur with long-term Adderall abuse)
- Sudden death
If you abuse Adderall, the side effects are likely to be more severe. Side effects of chronic Adderall abuse include:
- Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
- Mental illness
- Problems breathing
- Behavioral disorders
- Mood swings
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Skin disorders
- Loss of coordination
Adderall may also interact with other medications, so taking it with the following drugs may cause additional undesirable or uncomfortable side effects:
- Cold or allergy medications
- Heart or blood pressure medications
- St. John’s Wort
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor XR
An exhaustive list of Adderall drug interactions can be found via the FDA’s Adderall drug label.10
Can You Die From Taking Adderall?
Generally speaking, Adderall is a safe and effective drug when it is taken as prescribed. However, you can die from taking Adderall if you:
- Use Adderall to get high
- Use Adderall without a prescription
- Use Adderall in ways other than prescribed (chewing, snorting, injecting)
- Use Adderall with alcohol or other prescription drugs or illegal drugs
How to Prevent Death by Adderall
- Talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options.
If you have trouble concentrating, focusing on tasks, getting organized, or you are restless, these may be symptoms of ADHD. However, medication isn’t always the answer. Talk with your doctor about holistic treatment options before defaulting to prescription drugs, especially if you’ve previously had a substance use disorder. You may be surprised to find that you can learn to cope and function well without Adderall.
- Educate yourself on the risks, benefits, and side effects of using Adderall.
If, after talking with your doctor, you decide to start taking Adderall for ADHD, you will want to make sure you thoroughly understand the risks, benefits, and side effects of using it. Doing so can help you make informed and smart decisions about how you will use it.
- Take your Adderall prescription exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
As mentioned previously in this article, Adderall is rarely deadly when it is taken as prescribed. That is, of course, if you don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that could put you at risk. Taking your Adderall prescription in the right dosage and at the right frequency will greatly reduce your risk for adverse side effects or death.
- Don’t give your Adderall to anyone else.
It may be tempting to give a few Adderall pills to a friend or family member, especially if they pressure you to do so, but giving in to peer pressure could put them at risk for very harmful or even life-threatening effects.
Get Help for Adderall Addiction Now
If you are addicted to Adderall, you can recover and regain your life back. Prescription drug abuse is a widespread problem in the U.S. and you are not alone in this struggle. Call Nova Recovery Center at (512) 605-2955 to speak with an admissions representative about your treatment options today. We are here to help and we accept most forms of insurance.