Last Updated: October 25, 2022
Article at a Glance:
- Adderall is a Schedule II substance with a high potential for abuse, dependence and addiction.
- Adderall IR is FDA-approved to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy in both children and adults, while Adderall XR is approved for ADHD only.
- Adderall is associated with several side effects, including anxiety, headaches, insomnia and chest pain.
- If someone becomes physically dependent on or addicted to Adderall, medical detox is often recommended to manage unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, followed by rehab treatment.
What Is Adderall Used For?
Adderall IR is FDA-approved to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy in both children and adults, while Adderall XR is approved for ADHD only. In people with ADHD, Adderall can improve attention and focus while reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive and spontaneous daytime sleepiness. Since Adderall promotes wakefulness, it can allow people with narcolepsy to maintain normal daytime routines. There are off-label uses for Adderall as well, including treatment-resistant depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, there is some controversy about whether Adderall is truly effective for these disorders.
Adderall is often misused for its stimulant properties. High school and college students are particularly likely to misuse Adderall for its ability to enhance focus and concentration, hence its popularity as a “study drug.” Some people use Adderall as an alternative to other stimulants, such as methamphetamine.
Adderall and other ADHD medications are all CNS stimulants that increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. They are all classified as Schedule II drugs, meaning that they require a prescription and have a high risk for misuse and addiction. Although they are similar in many ways, they also have some different characteristics:
- Vyvanse vs. Adderall: Vyvanse and Adderall both have dextroamphetamine as their primary active ingredient. Similar to Adderall XR, Vyvanse is a long-acting medication and is taken once daily. However, in Vyvanse, the dextroamphetamine is only active after being processed by the body and reaching the red blood cells. This may make it less likely to be abused through injection or snorting than Adderall, which is effective immediately.
- Ritalin vs. Adderall: Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in Ritalin, rather than the mixture of amphetamine salts in Adderall. Ritalin is more likely to cause stomach pain than Adderall. There are two versions of Ritalin: short-acting, which can be taken two or three times daily, and long-acting, which is usually taken once daily.
- Concerta vs. Adderall: Like Ritalin, the active ingredient in Concerta is methylphenidate. Also like Ritalin, Concerta is more likely to cause stomach pain than Adderall. Concerta is formulated to be a long-acting drug and is taken once daily.
- Focalin vs. Adderall: The active ingredient in Focalin is dexmethylphenidate, which is the most active component of methylphenidate. Focalin is taken twice daily.
What Does Adderall Look Like?
Adderall comes in pill form. Pills are round or elliptical, and the colors vary based on the dosage:
- 5 mg: White to off-white, round, stamped with “5” on one side and “dp” on the other side
- 7.5 mg: Blue, oval, stamped with “7.5” on one side and “d | p” on the other side
- 10 mg: Blue, round, stamped with “1 | 0” on one side and “dp” on the other side
- 12.5 mg: Peach, round, stamped with “12.5” on one side and “d | p” on the other side
- 15 mg: Peach, oval, stamped with “15” on one side and “d | p” on the other side
- 20 mg: Peach, round, stamped with “2 | 0” on one side “dp” on the other side
- 30 mg: Peach, round, stamped with “3 | 0” on one side “dp” on the other side
Adderall XR comes in capsule form, and the colors vary based on the dosage:
- 5 mg capsules: Clear/blue, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 5 mg
- 10 mg capsules: Blue/blue, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 10 mg
- 15 mg capsules: Blue/white, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 15 mg
- 20 mg capsules: Orange/orange, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 20 mg
- 25 mg capsules: Orange/white, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 25 mg
- 30 mg capsules: Natural/orange, imprinted with ADDERALL XR 30 mg
Adderall Dosage and Administration
Adderall should always be started at the lowest dose and, if needed, incrementally increased until an effective dose is reached. The starting dose is generally 5 mg per day. Dosage can be increased at a rate of 5 mg per week until an effective dose is reached. The maximum recommended dose is 40 mg per day (for narcolepsy, the maximum recommended dose is 60 mg per day). The first dose is taken upon waking, and subsequent doses are taken at 4–6 hour intervals.
The only approved administration route for Adderall is oral. Routes of administration when Adderall is misused include snorting, smoking or injecting intravenously.
What Are the Side Effects of Taking Adderall?
Adderall is associated with several side effects, including:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Mood swings
- Excessive sweating
- Decreased libido
Some serious side effects may warrant medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Aggressive or erratic behavior
- Numbness or pain in fingers or toes
Adderall may indirectly increase serotonin levels, which can be dangerous when other drugs (particularly antidepressants) are taken with Adderall. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by excess serotonin in the brain. If you notice any of the following side effects, call your doctor:
- Muscle spasms
Before starting Adderall, make sure your doctor is aware of any other drugs you may be taking. Even over-the-counter drugs may potentially have adverse interactions with Adderall.
Is Adderall Addictive?
As a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall can be addictive even when taken as prescribed. Regular Adderall use causes tolerance, which means that higher and higher doses are needed in order to achieve the same effect. Adderall dependence means that withdrawal symptoms are experienced when the dose is reduced or eliminated, but it is not associated with compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Adderall addiction is an extension of dependence and is characterized by an inability to control the impulse to use Adderall.
Adderall Use Statistics
Adderall Use in Ohio
Adderall and Alcohol
Adderall and alcohol are a bad combination. A drug interaction between them increases the risk of cardiovascular side effects like high blood pressure and increased heart rate. If you have pre-existing heart problems, this can be especially dangerous.
In addition, consuming alcohol while on Adderall can be risky. Since Adderall is a stimulant, it can mask the effects of alcohol, making you feel less drunk than you otherwise would. This can be dangerous if you feel sober enough to operate a vehicle and don’t realize you’re drunk. In addition, you may continue to drink, which can increase your risk of alcohol overdose.
When you take Adderall for an extended time and suddenly stop, you may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body tries to adjust to no longer having the stimulant. A medically supervised detox can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms. In detox, doctors and nurses can help you get off Adderall and treat any withdrawal symptoms that occur.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
- Mental status changes like agitation, irritability, depression, paranoia, disordered thoughts and hallucinations
- Increased sleep time
- Increased appetite
- Aching muscles
In addition, you may also experience a longer-term, protracted withdrawal phase (PAWS) after the first withdrawal phase is complete. PAWS can last up to two months and may include symptoms such as:
- Emotional changes
- Erratic sleep
- Adderall cravings
Adderall withdrawal can be hard, and each person can have their own method of coping with Adderall withdrawal. Attending a medical detoxification program can help. Medical detox programs treat the withdrawal side effects as they occur to keep you comfortable and safe. Medical detox is highly recommended for those with moderate to severe Adderall addictions.
Some programs will help you taper off Adderall to minimize withdrawal symptoms. When you gradually decrease your Adderall dose, you can minimize withdrawal effects. The taper is then continued until your body is completely rid of the stimulant. Those with mild Adderall use disorders may discuss this option with their doctor. Your detox center can help you pick which method works best for your needs.
Adderall Detox Timeline
Everyone’s withdrawal and detox journeys are different. However, a general Adderall timeline is predictable for some people. A common Adderall withdrawal timeline is:
- Within 24 hours: Withdrawal symptoms are likely to begin.
- Week one: You may start to feel sluggish, tired, hungry and have sleep problems. These can vary widely and range from insomnia to excessive sleep. You may also have mood swings, including anxiety, panic attacks and irritability. Counseling and group therapy can help, and your detox program may encourage you to start attending sessions as soon as possible.
- Month one: Cravings can remain constant and can result in a relapse. You may still experience sluggishness, anxiety, emotional swings and erratic sleep.
- Month two: Your withdrawal symptoms may begin to improve at this point.
Treatment for Adderall Addiction
Treatment for Adderall addiction should begin with an evaluation by a medical professional who specializes in addiction. Mild Adderall use disorders may be successfully treated by participating in an outpatient rehab program that can provide behavioral therapy sessions.
More serious addictions may require a detox period and residential rehab. Ending Adderall use when a strong addiction has taken hold can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often include profound fatigue, lethargy, depression and even suicidal thoughts. For these reasons, moderate to severe addiction detox is best done under the care of professionals in a medically assisted detox program.
After detox, many people find that they have the most success in recovery by participating in a residential rehab program that provides cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. Both of these therapies help clients reframe negative thoughts and understand why they misused Adderall. Another important objective of rehab is to identify and define specific short- and long-term goals for recovery.
Finding a rehab center that can evaluate whether a dual diagnosis treatment is appropriate can be incredibly valuable. For many people, Adderall use disorders are tied to underlying mental health disorders. When treated, it can drastically reduce the desire to misuse Adderall. Look for a rehab center with a multidisciplinary team that can evaluate whether Adderall use disorder may be one part of a co-occurring disorder.
Ready to start your recovery?