What Is Adderall®? Uses, Effects, and FAQs

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On April 17, 2024

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On November 10, 2023

What you will learn

  • Adderall® is a central nervous system stimulant that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
  • The two FDA-approved uses for Adderall® are in treating ADHD and narcolepsy.
  • Adderall® is a Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for physical dependence and abuse.
  • Short-term side effects of Adderall® use include insomnia, headaches, reduced appetite, heart palpitations, and restlessness.
  • Long-term effects of Adderall® use can include psychological dependence and cardiovascular complications, among other potential side effects.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What Is Adderall®?

Adderall® is a prescription medication most commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. This stimulant-based substance increases dopamine and norepinephrine release in the brain to increase concentration and improve wakefulness.

Adderall® Drug Facts

Adderall® is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to the potential for dependence or misuse. This prescription medication is a highly specific blend of two neutral sulfate salts, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.[1] It is prescribed as an extended-release capsule or tablet, taken orally.

What Are The Official Prescription Uses For Adderall®?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the approved uses for Adderall® are to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.[2] The prescription stimulant improves concentration for people with ADHD and wakefulness for those with a narcolepsy diagnosis.

Common Adderall® Dosage [Chart]

Adderall® and Adderall® XR offer the same relief but on different dosing schedules. For Adderall® XR, 50% of the dose is immediately available in the system, and the rest is slowly released throughout the day.[3]

Use Adult Child (6 years +)
  • 5 mg twice daily

Adderall® XR

  • 20 mg once daily
  • 5 mg once or twice daily

Adderall® XR

  • 10 mg once daily
  • 10 mg per day
  • (rare) 5 mg once daily

What Are The Effects Of Adderall®?

As a CNS stimulant, Adderall® increases dopamine and norepinephrine release in the brain. These effects help to improve focus, memory, concentration, and executive function and fortify impulse regulation for people with ADHD.[4]In addition to increasing dopamine release, Adderall® also inhibits dopamine reuptake, keeping more dopamine in the brain for longer. This effect makes it beneficial for treating narcolepsy.[5]

What Are The Side Effects Of Adderall® Use?

Adderall® is an amphetamine-based stimulant medication that affects the central nervous system. As such, there are several concerning side effects of Adderall® use to take note of. Many of the below side effects will vary depending on the dosage amount and frequency of use.

Side effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Reduced libido
  • Emotional Dysregulation
  • Digestive issues (nausea, vomiting, constipation)
  • Depression
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Panic Attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Psychosis

In extreme cases, particularly in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, Adderall® use can increase the risk of serious cardiovascular events, including cardiac arrest. As a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall® has a high potential for abuse, which may lead to psychological and physical dependence.

What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Adderall® Use?

When taken as prescribed, Adderall® can effectively manage symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy. While long-term use of Adderall®, a central nervous system stimulant, can lead to dependency and cardiovascular issues such as hypertension and heart problems, other severe effects like nerve cell damage, seizure disorders, increased risk of stroke, and tachycardia are not typically seen with medically supervised use. Psychosis may occur, especially at high doses or when misused. It’s crucial to consult with a physician regularly when using Adderall® to manage potential side effects and risks effectively. While this can be troubling, always consult a physician before making medication changes.

Adderall® Food and Drug Interactions

Avoid taking or consuming any substance that could inhibit or accelerate how your body absorbs Adderall®. Any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), or other stimulants or CNS prescriptions should be avoided while taking Adderall®. You should also speak with your physician before taking medications for blood pressure, heartburn, blood thinners, seizure medications, cold medicines with a decongestant, or opioids. Due to their impact on the cardiovascular system, caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided while taking Adderall®. Foods and beverages with high amounts of citric acid, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, and preservatives should also be avoided with Adderall® as they can counteract the effects of the stimulant medication.

Can Adderall® Lead To Substance Abuse or Addiction?

At its core, Adderall® is an amphetamine stimulant prescription categorized as a Schedule II controlled substance. Like all other stimulants and Schedule II substances, each carries some physical and psychological dependence and a high potential for misuse.

Signs Of Adderall® Addiction

Consult a healthcare professional if you or a loved one experiences signs of Adderall abuse, which might include increasing the dose to achieve the same effects, difficulty reducing usage, dependence on Adderall® for daily functioning, or withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop. Symptoms such as severely reduced appetite, insomnia, and functional impairment without the drug are significant and warrant medical attention.

What Does Adderall® Recovery Treatment Look Like?

Medical Detox

A medical detox program offers medication-assisted interventions and 24-hour Medical Care alongside treatment. This is often the first step in recovery from prescription or illicit substances as your body expels harmful substances and begins to heal.

Residential Services

Inpatient or residential services offer housing alongside treatment as you focus solely on healing and recovery. While in attendance, participants would benefit from individual therapy, group therapy, detailed individual assessments, and peer support in a safe environment, removed from daily influences.

Extended Care Programs (Partial Hospitalization)

Personal hospitalization programs bridge the gap between residential services and Outpatient Treatment with a part-time program. Here, you will attend group and individual treatment sessions 5 days a week for several hours each day but are free to leave in the evenings to stay at home or in a sober living environment.

Intensive Outpatient

A mid-tier level of care, intensive outpatient programs offer dedicated support 3 days a week for several hours a day. This program gives you the same depth of care as a PHP program but with increased schedule flexibility as you reintegrate into daily routines. Treatment sessions can be reduced over time as you develop increased independence and personal autonomy. This is when you will begin your transition into independent sober living.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living home offers transitional housing in a drug and alcohol-free environment where you can always find a safe haven in your daily life. Here you will find a built-in support system that offers social support, accountability, and direction.

Lifelong Community Support

Once regular treatment ends, your recovery journey will continue. It’s important to remain connected to a trusted group of recovering peers and treatment program alums for encouragement, sober activities, support, and accountability.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adderall®

Can you take Adderall® when pregnant?

While there are some rare risks of congenital disabilities associated with pregnant women taking Adderall®, it’s important to always speak with your healthcare provider about managing ADHD symptoms before stopping or starting any medication. 

Who should not take Adderall®?

If you or a loved one suffers from one or more of the conditions below, consult a physician before taking Adderall®.

  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Glaucoma
  • Seizure disorder
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • History of substance abuse
What are the positive effects of Adderall®?

Adderall® is a central nervous system stimulant that can improve the following:

  • Alertness 
  • Concentration
  • Wakefulness
  • Focus
  • Memory
  • Self-regulation
  • Executive function
Can you take Adderall® for weight loss?

While Adderall® does have some appetite suppression effects, it is not approved as a weight loss medication.

Can I drink coffee while taking Adderall®?

It is advisable to limit or avoid caffeine while taking Adderall®. Both substances are stimulants and can synergistically increase side effects like heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. Consult with a healthcare provider to understand how you might safely consume caffeine, if at all, while on Adderall®.

Does Adderall® help with memory?

Yes, Adderall® is a brain-stimulating substance that can improve memory function and recall. 

Is it OK to take Adderall® forever?

A healthcare provider should closely monitor the long-term use of Adderall®. While some risks exist, such as cardiovascular issues, potential for dependency, and, less commonly, psychosis, each patient’s needs and response to the medication can vary. Adderall® may be used long-term under medical supervision if the benefits outweigh the risks for conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy. Always consult a physician before stopping a medication.

Adderall Addiction Education and Support

If you or a loved one are looking for additional support and information about Adderall addiction, side effects, and risks, click the button below to contact us:

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[1] ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Adderall®. | Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/Adderall on May 1, 2023

[2] Adderall® (CII) – Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf on May 1, 2023

[3]Kolar, D., Keller, A., Golfinopoulos, M., Cumyn, L., Syer, C., & Hechtman, L. (2008, February). Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment. Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515906 on May 1, 2023

[4]Weyandt, L. L., White, T. L., Gudmundsdottir, B. G., Nitenson, A. Z., Rathkey, E. S., De Leon, K. A., & Bjorn, S. A. (2018, June 27). Pharmacy (Basel, Switzerland) [Journal]. Neurocognitive, autonomic, and mood effects of Adderall®: A pilot study of healthy college students. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165228/ on May 1, 2023

[5]Abad, V. C., & Guilleminault, C. (2017, March 3). Nature and science of sleep. New developments in the management of narcolepsy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344488/ on May 1, 2023