Adderall is a psychostimulant amphetamine drug that is most commonly prescribed to reduce symptoms of ADHD. Unfortunately, it is also widely abused due to its supposed “cognitive-enhancing” effects, which can lead to addiction and other serious negative consequences. Read on to learn about its potential adverse side-effects and other risks associated with it!
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for Adderall. This medication is only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical disorders, and can only be taken by prescription and with oversight from a licensed medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind Adderall’s effects, mechanisms, current medical uses, and potential risks. Adderall Side Effects
Given that Adderall has met FDA approval for official medical use, the majority of scientific evidence supports the overall safety and effectiveness of Adderall when used as prescribed, and under the supervision of qualified medical professionals .
Nonetheless, like any drug, there is always at least some potential of experiencing adverse side-effects, and so it’s important to be aware of these.
In general — and similar to many commonly-used pharmaceutical drugs — the rate of adverse side-effects tends to increase at progressively higher doses [ 1 ].
Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication for ADHD that has a good safety profile compared to other stimulants when used properly.
If you experience any of the following symptoms occur after taking Adderall, contact your doctor immediately [ 2 , 3 ] : Seizures (convulsions)
Changes in vision or blurred vision
Pupil dilation (mydriasis)
Allergic reactions: symptoms of this can include itching or hives, swelling of the mouth, face, or hands, difficulty breathing, feeling like you are about to pass out, or tightness in the chest.
Fever or sweating
Muscle problems such as spasms or twitching
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Hallucinations (visual and auditory)
Signs of heart problems (can be fast, slow, or uneven heartbeats)
Signs of circulation problems (unexplained bruises, numbness, cold , color changes, or pain in fingers or toes)
Finally, abuse of Adderall by athletes may be especially dangerous, as it can cause dramatically elevated body temperature ( hyperthermia ), which may, in turn, induce heat stress . The dangers are further increased because the subjectively “stimulating” and “energizing” effects of Adderall abuse can cover-up (“mask”) the symptoms of heat stress — such as sudden exhaustion or fatigue — which, when ignored or unnoticed, can result in major medical emergencies [ 4 ].
Serious side effects like seizures, confusion, elevated body temperature, changes in perception, and heart problems are rare. Get immediate medical help if you experience any of them.
The following side-effects are not as severe, but have been reported to occur slightly more frequently in patients taking Adderall [ 2 ]: Dry mouth
Loss of appetite
Weight loss (Although weight loss may potentially be counteracted through the use of other (complementary) medications such as cyproheptadine , or even simply by consuming a higher-calorie diet [ 5 ]) Insomnia Stomach pain According to one report, Adderall may impair short-term memory in some users [ 4 ].Adderall may also lead to “antisocial” feelings, keeping users from enjoying or participating in interactions with others [ 6 ].Some of the psychological side-effects of Adderall may occur due to the greatly elevated levels of dopamine that Adderall (and other amphetamines and stimulants) cause throughout the brain — a mechanism that is also shared by other major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. For example, according to one study of 14 amphetamine-dependent patients, 12 were reported to go on to develop psychosis. This reportedly led to a number of schizophrenia-like symptoms, such as intense paranoia and hallucinations [ 7 , 8 ].According to one study of 56 child and adolescent ADHD patients, one of the most commonly reported negative side-effects of Adderall was weight loss. This was more prominent at higher doses [ 1 ].Although Adderall-induced weight loss is usually not severe, in some cases it has been reported to lead to anorexia. For example, one study of 584 children found that anorexia occurred in 21.9% of psychostimulant patients. Similarly, a study of 287 teens reported the occurrence of anorexia in as much as 35.6% of the treated ADHD patients [ 1 , 9 , 10 ].However, in some relatively rarer cases, Adderall may actually cause weight gain . For example, the authors of a single case study of an 11-year old boy reported that Adderall use increased one young boy’s weight by 8.8 lbs. in just 6 weeks. Changing the timing of Adderall consumption from right after meals to 45 minutes before meals reportedly helped to normalize this sudden and severe weight gain [ 11 ].Mild weight loss is among the most common side effects, although weight gain has also been reported. Psychological side effects, such as anxiety and antisocial feelings, are also possible but rarely severe.One of the most dangerous side-effects of treatment with amphetamines — including Adderall and others — can be a heart attack or stroke. Although these side-effects can potentially occur in anyone, patients with a personal or family history of heart conditions are believed to be at an especially elevated risk of experiencing such complications [ 12 , 13 ].These heart problems and other adverse cardiovascular side-effects may be brought about by the significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure that are commonly seen following Adderall consumption. On average, Adderall increases heart rate by 1-2 beats per minute. As the dose is increased, heart rate increases proportionately — and this can result in dangerously elevated heart rate or blood pressure [ 14 , 5 ].Adderall also stimulates β-adrenergic receptor sites all over the body, which causes the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine . Norepinephrine is believed to play a prominent role in stimulating increased heart rate and blood pressure, which may further contribute to some of Adderall’s potential cardiovascular risks [ 3 , 15 ].Additionally, some researchers […]