What Does Adderall Do To Your Brain?

Adderall, a popular brand name prescription stimulant, has a number of effects on the body and brain, even when used as directed. When Adderall is misused or abused for recreational purposes, the effects on the brain can lead to addiction.

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Medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall or Ritalin, work by producing changes to a person’s brain chemistry in the central nervous system.

By raising levels of neurotransmitters that are responsible for pleasure, motivation, attention, and mood, Adderall is able to increase concentration, focus, energy, and alertness.

In addition, because of its ability to raise alertness and energy, Adderall is also often prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a disorder involving excessive sleepiness.

The benefits of Adderall as an ADHD treatment are proven, and many people with severe ADHD find themselves able to function better on a daily basis while using Adderall.

However, people who don’t have ADHD or other mental disorders can experience a number of Adderall-induced side effects, particularly if they abuse the medication.

What Does Adderall Do To Your Brain If You Don’t Have ADHD?

Adderall works extremely well for people who genuinely need it, as determined by their healthcare provider.

Research suggests, however, that Adderall and ADHD medications do not have much effect on people who don’t have ADHD, at least not in terms of increasing focus and concentration.

People who do not have ADHD have reported feeling euphoric when taking the drug, likely due to the increase in dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that it causes.

It is this euphoria that causes people to abuse Adderall for recreational purposes, oftentimes using Adderall in combination with other drugs or alcohol.

Why Adderall Is Considered A Study Drug

Adderall abuse is most prevalent in young adults, especially high school and college students. It is also somewhat common in adults with high-stress jobs.

While Adderall has shown to help improve a person’s academic performance, it is a common misconception that this is because Adderall increases cognitive function.

Instead, Adderall is considered a study drug because it increases attention span and focus, allowing people to stay awake for extended periods and concentrate fully on their task at hand.

How Adderall’s Effects On The Brain Lead To Addiction

When a person abuses Adderall in high doses for a long period of time, their brain will begin to produce less dopamine.

As this happens, higher doses of the drug will be required in order to achieve the same effects. Eventually, a person’s brain will develop a physical dependence on the drug.

Dependence then leads to addiction as a person continues to abuse Adderall and depend on it in order to feel a sense of normalcy in their everyday life.

Are The Side Effects Of Adderall On The Brain Permanent?

When Adderall is taken as directed, there should be no permanent effects on the brain.

There is evidence to suggest, however, that prolonged Adderall abuse can cause damage to nerves in the brain, which can be permanent in some cases.

In most cases, the effects of Adderall on the brain are reversible and a person’s levels of dopamine will return to normal with time and patience.

Dangers Of Prolonged Misuse Of Adderall

Misusing and abusing Adderall in the long-term can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

The longer and more heavily Adderall is abused, the more severe and long-lasting are the potential side effects.

Long-term effects of Adderall abuse can include:

  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss
  • dry mouth
  • impulsivity
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • suicidal thoughts
  • psychosis
  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk of heart attack
  • increased risk of stroke
  • addiction

Why Does Adderall Abuse Lead To Psychosis?

If a person misuses Adderall, they may experience symptoms of psychosis, such as anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations.

This is largely because the medication is not intended to be used except in people who have mental disorders such as ADHD — because their brains work differently.

Adderall psychosis may result with long-term use of Adderall or through high doses of Adderall in a single instance.

Learn more about Adderall psychosis.

Does Adderall Abuse Lead To Mental Withdrawal Symptoms?

Adderall withdrawal can be very unpleasant physically, but the biggest dangers lie in how withdrawing from Adderall can affect a person’s mental health.

Low levels of dopamine can make a person feel anxious, hopeless, depressed, irritable, full of shame or guilt, and even suicidal.

Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall abuse can include:

  • insomnia
  • increased appetite
  • paranoia
  • fatigue
  • cravings
  • panic attacks
  • irritability and aggression
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • slowed heart rate
  • muscle aches and pains
  • headaches
  • unpleasant and vivid dreams
  • problems concentrating or thinking clearly

Treatment Services For Adderall Addiction

Unlike with opioids or alcohol, Adderall withdrawal is not a life-threatening situation. It can, however, be very uncomfortable, especially after heavy or long-term abuse.

With this in mind, it may be a good idea to seek professional addiction treatment, especially if a person is having trouble overcoming their addiction to prescription drugs on their own.

Treatment options for Adderall addiction can include:

  • residential treatment
  • medically monitored detox
  • outpatient treatment
  • individual, group, and family counseling
  • behavioral therapy
  • holistic treatments
  • relapse prevention planning
  • aftercare

Find A Substance Abuse Treatment Center Today

Are you or one of your loved ones living with a substance use disorder? Please do not hesitate to give us a call at Bedrock Recovery Center.

It is never too early or too late to start on your recovery journey, and the help that you are seeking is truly just a phone call away.

  1. United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601234.html

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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