When you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD), it can feel like your brain is running through syrup and everyone else is just strolling along. You’re constantly trying to keep up, but you never quite feel like you measure up. School, work, friends, family – it can all be so overwhelming at times. So, when your doctor offers you a prescription medication that will help you focus easier, perform better, and feel normal, it’s hard to say no.
Adderall is a medication that is typically used to treat ADHD. It is a central nervous system stimulant that is thought to increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Dopamine and norepinephrine are chemicals that are responsible for attention. This can help to improve focus, concentration, and overall attentiveness. For many people with ADHD, Adderall can be a miracle. It can help them to focus at school, work, or home and feel more like they are able to keep up with their peers.
However, Adderall does not come without its risks. The most common side effects include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headache, stomachache, and dry mouth. These side effects are typically mild and go away after a few days of taking the medication. However, Adderall and other ADHD drugs such as Vyvanse and Dexedrine are amphetamines, and they have the potential to be abused.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the more serious side effects that can occur in teens who take Adderall. We’ll also provide some tips on how to tell if your teen is abusing Adderall and what you can do to help them if they are.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. People with ADHD often have trouble focusing and paying attention, they may be impulsive and hyperactive, and may have difficulty controlling their emotions. There are different types of ADHD, and the disorder can manifest in different ways depending on a number of different factors like age, personality, and gender.
While it is not fully understood what causes ADHD, it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, but it can also occur in adults.
Symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person and may include:
- Inattention – difficulty focusing or paying attention, feeling easily bored or distracted
- Hyperactivity – fidgeting, squirming, or feeling restless
- Impulsivity – acting without thinking, blurting out answers, interrupting others
Depending on which symptoms manifest most prominently, a doctor may diagnose a patient with either, ADHD-inattentive-type, ADHD-hyperactive-impulsive-type, or ADHD combined type. ADHD is still not entirely understood, and there is debate over what should be and what shouldn’t be considered a part of an ADHD diagnosis.
ADHD can be a very frustrating and debilitating condition. Students with ADHD can come off as lazy, wild, rude, or unintelligent. It can make succeeding in school or work extremely difficult and can often lead to co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. For many people with ADHD symptoms, receiving an accurate diagnosis is a confusing and tedious process. Even when you are diagnosed, it can be hard to convince others, or yourself, that you need extra help.
Many people with ADHD turn to medication to help them manage their symptoms. Central nervous system stimulants are usually effective in treating ADHD, but they are designated schedule II drugs and patients should be informed before starting to take prescription stimulants.
What Are The Most Common ADHD Treatments?
There are two main types of ADHD treatments: medication and therapy.
Medication is the most common treatment for ADHD. Stimulant medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and Concerta are typically used to treat ADHD. These ADHD medications work by increasing the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, which can help to improve focus and concentration.
Non-stimulant ADHD medication such as Strattera, Wellbutrin, Intuniv, and other drugs are also sometimes used. These medications work differently than stimulants and may be used if they are not effective or if they cause side effects. The medications work by adjusting the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, chemicals in the brain that are involved in focus, attention, and mood. They typically produce different side effects than stimulants and are less likely to result in drug abuse or substance use disorder.
Therapy can also be an effective treatment for ADHD and a person’s overall mental health. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help people with ADHD learn to manage their symptoms. CBT can help people with ADHD to recognize and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. It can also teach them how to better manage their time, set goals, and stay organized.
Common Side Effects of Adderall
As with any prescription drug, Adderall can cause side effects, but the most common side effects of Adderall and other prescription stimulants are typically mild and go away after a few days of taking the medication.
The most common side effects of Adderall in teens include but are not limited to:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Sleep problems
- Dry mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Nervousness or jitteriness
- Stomach upset or nausea
- Mild chest pain
In general, Adderall is considered to be a safe and effective medication for treating ADHD and can be prescribed to children as well as adults. However, Adderall is a mind-altering substance and Adderall use has the potential to become dangerous. In some cases, Adderall dependency and addiction can occur.
The most common side effect of Adderall is a decreased appetite. Similar to caffeine, amphetamines such as Adderall can cause teenagers to forget to eat because they don’t feel as hungry as they did when they weren’t taking the medication. This can lead to weight loss or sometimes weight gain, which can be a serious problem for teens who struggle with body image. Amphetamines like Adderall were sold as diet suppressants in the past, and some people with eating disorders use Adderall to support their desire to suppress hunger. If your teen is considering starting to take an amphetamine medication for their ADHD, it may be a good idea to monitor their diet for the first few weeks to ensure that the medication isn’t adversely affecting their health.
Another common side effect of Adderall is trouble sleeping. Because Adderall and other amphetamines are stimulant drugs, they will increase the heart rate and blood pressure of the person taking it. Stimulants may cause the person taking the medication to feel alert and wide awake. If your teenager takes their medication too late in the day, it can be near impossible for them to fall asleep. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep is crucial for physical and mental health, and a lack of sleep can cause all types of problems in school and at home. If your teen is starting to take an amphetamine medication for their ADHD, remind them to pay close attention to the amount and quality of their sleep for the first few weeks.
Nervousness or jitteriness are also common and can be especially troublesome for teens who are already anxious or struggle with social anxiety. These side effects are usually mild and go away after a few days of taking the medication. However, if they persist or become severe enough to be disruptive for both your teen and their family, it is important to contact a doctor.
In some cases, Adderall or other ADHD medications may cause more serious side effects. In the following section, we’ll go over some of the more serious side effects that can occur in teenagers who take Adderall to treat their ADHD. We’ll also provide some tips on how to tell if your teen is abusing Adderall or other prescription drugs and what you can do to help them if they are.
Serious Side Effects of Adderall
While the vast majority of people who take Adderall do not experience serious side effects, it is possible for some people to experience severe problems while taking stimulant medications for ADHD.
On rare occasions, people who take amphetamine medications experience psychotic or manic symptoms. Psychosis is a mental condition characterized by delusions or hallucinations. People with psychosis may believe things that are not true or see things that are not there. Mania is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood. People who are in a state of mania may act impulsively, make poor decisions, and have difficulty sleeping. These problems are more likely to occur in people with bipolar disorder or another previously existing mental illness or mood disorder. When discussing ADHD treatment options with your child’s doctor, it is important to discuss their mental health history, especially if they have been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Cardiovascular problems such as increased blood pressure and heart arrhythmia have also been reported in people who take Adderall and other prescription stimulants. These side effects and cardiac risks are more common in people with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions – especially those with high blood pressure problems or heart disease – but they can occur in anyone. These symptoms are also more likely to occur when someone is taking high doses of stimulant medication.
If you notice any of these side effects in your teen, it is important to seek medical help immediately. These side effects can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.
Adderall Addiction and Abuse
While prescribed Adderall can be a helpful medication for people with ADHD, it is also often abused by people without ADHD. Teens may abuse Adderall to lose weight, get high, or improve their grades.
Adderall is often referred to as a “study drug” because students abuse the medication to help them stay focused while studying. Regardless of whether or not they are prescribed the medication, when teens misuse Adderall or other study drugs, they put themselves at risk of becoming dependent. If they continue to misuse or abuse the drug over a long period of time, they may not be able to perform well without it. Just like any other drug, as a person develops a psychological or physical dependence on the drug, they can develop intense cravings, experience withdrawal symptoms, and become obsessed.
Other teenagers abuse Adderall and other amphetamines recreationally. Teens either take more Adderall than they are prescribed or crush the Adderall pills into a powder to snort. At high doses, amphetamines can produce feelings of euphoria and grandiose, not unlike the effects of methamphetamine. Even though Adderall is a prescription drug, recreational use can be extremely dangerous. Over long periods of time, amphetamine addicts can develop severe heart problems and dopamine levels in the brain can be permanently altered.
Adderall abuse can lead to serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms including psychosis, mania, cardiovascular problems, and addiction. Higher doses carry higher risks of adverse side effects, and Adderall overdose is possible. If you think your teen is abusing Adderall, it is important to talk to them about the risks of doing so. You should also seek professional help to get them the treatment they need.
Some signs you should look out for that signal potential Adderall abuse include:
- Significant changes in weight
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Irritability or mood swings
- Loss of interest in activities
- Secretive or suspicious behavior
- Problems at school or work
- Blue-colored nostrils or persistent sniffing
The Bottom Line
While Adderall is a safe and effective ADHD medication, it can cause side effects in some people. The most common side effects are mild and go away after a few days of taking the medication. However, more serious side effects are possible. Adderall and other amphetamines carry the potential for abuse, and Adderall addiction can ultimately be extremely dangerous or even deadly.
When it comes to choosing a treatment option for ADHD, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of each option. If you are concerned about the potential side effects or Adderall withdrawal symptoms, talk to a mental health professional at Clear Recovery Center’s Teen Program about treatment options.