What to Know About Taking Adderall

What to know about taking adderall

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is among the most common behavioral disorders found and diagnosed in children, affecting those diagnosed for their entire lives. In fact, between 2020 and 2022, 11.3 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 had an ADHD diagnosis, the CDC reported.

Though there are several treatments available for ADHD, one of the most common is prescribing Adderall. Understanding ADHD medication information is necessary before beginning treatment, especially because it has the potential to be dangerous and addictive.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance with medicinal uses made by combining dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Typically, it’s prescribed as an immediate-release tablet or extended-release oral capsule and taken under the supervision of a medical professional.

Uses and Benefits of Adderall

Typically, Adderall is prescribed for ADHD or narcolepsy. It may be prescribed for either children or adults and is effective in improving attention and focus, as well as in keeping you awake. It works by increasing the norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels in the brain.

Risks and Side Effects of Taking Adderall

Perhaps the biggest risk to taking Adderall is its potential to become addictive. This drug’s Schedule II classification comes from its potential for misuse and dependence. If it’s been prescribed to you, your doctor has weighed the benefits you may gain from this medication with the potential risks and side effects and you should follow their instructions for use.

Other potential risks include:

  • Physical dependence and withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking Adderall.
  • Heart attack or stroke in people with a history of heart problems.
  • Psychosis or aggressive behavior for people with certain co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Restricted growth in children. Studies show that stimulants like Adderall can slow both height and weight growth in children. Children prescribed this medication require regular growth checks to ensure it’s not stunting them.
  • Seizures. People with a history of seizures may experience them more frequently while taking Adderall.
  • Problems with blood circulation. More specifically, Raynaud’s phenomenon, which occurs when there’s temporary blood flow restriction to the fingers or toes, causing skin to pale and feel cold or painful.
  • Serotonin syndrome. This rare, but serious, condition occurs when there’s too much serotonin in the brain. Taking Adderall in conjunction with other medications that can raise serotonin levels, such as antidepressants, migraine medications, or monoaminase oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), can cause this condition to occur. It’s characterized by a rapid heart rate, sweating, muscle spasms or stiffness, fever, and altered mental status and is considered a medical emergency.

While taking Adderall, you may experience some side effects, including:

  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Mood changes
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Vision changes
  • Rash
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in libido

Some serious Adderall side effects may occur. If you experience these side effects, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Symptoms of serotonin syndrome
  • Altered mental health, such as manic episodes, hallucinations, or significant changes in thoughts or behavior
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems, such as a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, or symptoms of a heart attack
  • Allergic reactions, such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling, especially in the face or throat

Precautions and Considerations When Taking Adderall

Be completely honest with your prescribing doctor about all other medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that you take. Adderall can interact with certain medications. For example, sodium bicarbonate, commonly used in medication like Alka-Seltzer for stomach upset, can affect how your body absorbs Adderall. Other medications that are known to interact with Adderall include:

  • Heartburn medication
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
  • Many medications used to treat mental health disorders, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication
  • Blood thinners
  • Cold medication including decongestants
  • Narcotics
  • Seizure medication

Other medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements may also interact negatively with Adderall.

Non-prescription drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana, may also impact you differently while taking Adderall. Generally, it’s a good idea to abstain from these completely while taking this prescription.

Beyond that, when you first start taking Adderall, it’s a good idea to hold off on driving or operating heavy machinery until you understand how it affects your thinking and reaction time.

Taking Adderall at the same time as you drink fruit juice or take vitamin C may also interfere with your body processing the medication. Try to avoid doing so for best results.

Be sure to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant in the near future, as Adderall can pose a risk to the developing fetus. People taking Adderall are more prone to premature birth or having a baby with a low birth weight. Depending on use, a baby born to someone taking Adderall may be born dependent on the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. Likewise, this medication is not compatible with breastfeeding, as it passes through breast milk to the nursing infant.

Adderall Dosage and Administration

Adderall usage guidelines depend on several factors, and it can take some trial and error to find the right therapeutic dose for each person. Age and the purpose of using Adderall both can influence how a doctor may prescribe it. Whether you’ve been prescribed extended-release or instant-release medication also influences the frequency of dosage.

Generally speaking, for ADHD, people take between 5 and 60 mg per day in one or several doses throughout the day. Your doctor knows your health best, so follow their lead as they try to find the right dosage.

Typically, children between the ages of 6 and 12 are prescribed 10 mg once per day in the mornings at first, adjusting and increasing as needed to achieve therapeutic results. Doses rarely exceed 30 mg per day.

Children ages 13 to 17 also usually start with 10 mg once per day, increasing the medication as needed, up to 40 mg per day.

For adults, the typical starting dose is 20 mg once per day, adjusting up to a maximum of 40 mg.

People with narcolepsy may take between 5 and 60 mg daily divided into one to three doses.

Typically, this medication should be taken first thing in the morning. If you require multiple doses throughout the day, they’re typically spaced out by 4 to 6 hours. It can be taken with or without food.

Treatment Duration and Withdrawal From Adderall

Adderall is commonly used to treat ADHD, which is a lifelong condition. While there are other ways to manage it, some people may require Adderall to function normally. Because of this, there’s no exact treatment duration for this drug. Some people may take it for most or all of their lives once they start.

However, if you decide that Adderall is no longer helping you manage your ADHD symptoms, or if you’re concerned about health effects, you may face a period of withdrawal. Your body becomes physically dependent on this drug after consistent long-term use, so once you stop using it, your body needs time to readjust to working without it.

Withdrawal symptoms typically last about a week, though some people, especially if they used Adderall at high doses or for years, experience them for several weeks or months. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Cravings for Adderall
  • Depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Low or no motivation
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Between 6 and 36 hours after your last dose, you can expect to feel fatigued and down, possibly even depressed. Symptoms exacerbate between days 3 and 5 of withdrawal, typically leading to irritability and depression, as well as headaches and nightmares. Between days 5 and 7, the symptoms usually start to fade, but you’re likely to feel moody, depressed, and a lack of motivation.

The Decision to Take Adderall is Between You and Your Doctor

Ultimately, the decision to take Adderall is one to discuss with your doctor. If they recommend you try Adderall for ADHD or narcolepsy, it will be because they believe any side effects are worth the benefits you’ll see. You’ll likely start noticing the medication’s effects the first day you take it, but you should give it an opportunity to work before deciding whether or not it’s right for you.

If Adderall alone isn’t enough to help manage your symptoms, you may benefit from working with licensed clinicians in group and individual therapies to develop more healthy coping skills. Contact us today to learn how we can help.