Adderall’s Long-Term Effects (What the Studies Show)

Adderall is a prescription medication for ADHD. Some people abuse this drug to experience its stimulant and focus-enhancing effects.
Abuse of this drug may have an impact on mental and physical health. Some effects can have long-term consequences for overall health.

Why Do People Abuse Adderall?

A person may abuse Adderall for a few reasons. Some people abuse it to experience the euphoria it can trigger. This makes them feel happier and more social than they usually feel.

The primary reason for Adderall abuse is to gain an edge. People take this drug to get more done and to stay awake longer. This is why it is a popular choice among young professionals and college students.
Between 2006 and 2011 in the U.S., nonmedical use of Adderall by adults increased by about 67.1 percent.

Misuse of Adderall appears to be highest among people ages 18 to 25. One study showed that people in this age group who abuse Adderall usually obtain it without a prescription. They get the drug from family members or friends.

Mental and Physical Effects of Adderall

Abuse of Adderall can cause various physical and mental effects. The effects may be more noticeable with higher doses.
When someone takes Adderall, it increases the activity of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — chemicals in the brain.

The dopamine activity changes that occur can result in alterations to the reward center of the brain. If someone abruptly stops using Adderall, they may find it difficult to experience pleasure in life.

These changes become more ingrained as a person increases their dose of Adderall. This can eventually result in tolerance. Once a person has a tolerance to Adderall, they need to increase their dose to continue to achieve the desirable effects.

Abuse or overuse of this drug can cause a variety of effects such as:

  • Sleep issues, including sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Lack of energy or overall fatigue
  • Panic attacks or phobias
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Hunger
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

With abuse, the risk of serious side effects is increased. These include paranoia, hallucinations, tics, seizures, and uncontrollable shaking.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Use

When someone uses this drug, some of the effects depend on whether they use it long term or short term.
The short-term side effects can occur with the first dose. They are possible whether someone is abusing the drug or not.
The following are possible short-term side effects of Adderall:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sleep issues
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Stomach pain
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth

When someone uses this drug long term, they risk becoming dependent on it. This means that if they do not have Adderall in their body, they may start to function at a lower level. This happens because the neurons in the brain adapt to being repeatedly exposed to Adderall.

Once someone develops a dependence on Adderall, they are at risk of becoming addicted to it.
Withdrawal symptoms occur when someone who is addicted to this drug stops using it. Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall include the following:

  • Cravings for the drug
  • Unusually slow heart rate
  • Concentration or thinking problems
  • Unpleasant or vivid dreams
  • Headaches
  • Slowed reflexes or movements
  • Increased appetite

One study looked at how withdrawal from amphetamines may affect a person’s ability to handle stress. It determined that people may find minor stressors challenging to deal with due to brain chemistry changes during withdrawal.

People who abuse this drug long term are at risk for serotonin syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by levels of serotonin in the body getting dangerously high. It can cause the following:

  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • Goosebumps

In the most severe cases, it may cause seizures, unconsciousness, high fever, and irregular heartbeat. If this syndrome is left untreated, it is potentially life-threatening.

Don’t go through the process of recovery alone

Don’t go through the process of recovery alone

Are the Effects Reversible?

Some of the effects may be reversible if the person stops abusing Adderall. For example, if someone is experiencing insomnia as a result of this drug, their sleep patterns may return to normal when they stop using it and get through the withdrawal period.

The effects a person experiences and how severe those effects are both play a role in what may be reversible.
People who overcome addiction to this drug should talk to their doctor about coping with the effects. Since there are mental and physical effects that come with abusing this drug, people may need a team of health care professionals to aid them.