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Recognizing the Signs of Adderall Abuse and When to Get Help


Adderall is commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is also a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and dependency. It is important to watch out for the signs of Adderall abuse. 

Not everyone who takes Adderall abuses it, but those who do typically misuse the drug by either taking more than the recommended dose or by taking it without a prescription. Due to Adderall’s ability to improve alertness and attention, it is most often abused as a study drug by high school and college students looking to improve sports or academic performance, concentration in class, or to maximize test scores.

When taken as prescribed, Adderall can be an effective way to help those who struggle with the symptoms of ADHD, such as lowered attention span, hyperactivity, impatient and impulsive behavior. It is a nervous system stimulant consisting of a mixture containing dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, which work to increase the amount of reward chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) in the brain.

When abused, however, Adderall’s risks quickly begin to outweigh its benefits. As far as prescription drugs go, the dangers of Adderall as an addictive substance are typically underestimated, but there are definitely risks of developing a dependency and even a substance use disorder. If you recognize the signs of Adderall abuse in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to ensure a safe and lasting recovery.

What Are the Common Signs of Adderall Abuse?

Adderall abuse can cause a number of adverse effects, including:

  • Confusion
  • Hallucinating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety, paranoia, panic, or aggressive behavior
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Shaking, muscle tremors, or seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Irregular heartbeat or chest pain
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Loss of Appetite (and subsequently excessive weight loss)
  • Profuse sweating and flushed skin
  • High fever
  • Breathing problems
  • Altered sleep cycles

Cardiovascular problems are also associated with Adderall abuse. Using the drug incorrectly can cause distress to the heart, causing it to exhibit a wide range of dangerous side effects, including abnormal heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat rate, and dangerously high spikes in blood pressure, and even cardiac arrest —all of which can be life-threatening. The cardiovascular effects of snorting Adderall, in particular, may occur so quickly and be so intense that sudden death from stroke or heart attack is possible.

Note: Those who abuse Adderall often do so by taking it with other drugs that provide similar effects. However, Adderall can become incredibly dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other illicit drugs, especially stimulants, and can lead to fatal results.

Side Effects of Snorting Adderall

While some individuals simply abuse Adderall by increasing their dosage, Adderall addiction can take many forms—and snorting it is one of the most dangerous. Using this method, the drug hits the brain faster and more intensely than taking the drug orally, thus increasing the risk of overdose. The more times the drug is snorted, however, the more negative side effects a user will experience.

Snorting Adderall XR (the extended time-release version of the drug) is the most dangerous of all. When the medication is crushed, it tampers with the time-release mechanism that normally provides a safe, controlled release of the drug throughout the day. This rapid onset of the drug’s effects can quickly lead to drug abuse and addiction.

Snorting Adderall introduces additional side effects and potential risks to the list above, including: 

  • Recurring nosebleeds
  • Impaired sense of smell
  • Congestion and runny nose
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sinusitis and/or sinus infections
  • Nasal septum damage

If these symptoms sound all too familiar, or if you’ve noticed certain other telltale signs of addiction in a loved one—such as significant behavioral changes or mood swings, physical signs, lying or secretive behavior attempting to cover up use, or taking Adderall in any form other than its original pill form—it’s time to begin evaluating your treatment options.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Note that the journey to recovery won’t be easy, as there will be withdrawal symptoms and potential long term effects that will need to be dealt with. There is currently no medication for withdrawal from amphetamines like Adderall.

The symptoms can be quite intense, and include:

  • Severe Depression (Sometimes with Thoughts of Suicide)
  • High Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Cravings
  • Sleep Problems
  • Increase in Appetite

These symptoms of withdrawal can last for quite a period of time depending on factors such as how long Adderall was in use, and what the dosage was. The withdrawal period varies from person to person but can be anywhere from 3 days to several weeks before you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

To help with some of the severe withdrawal symptoms, notably depression, there is treatment available in the form of therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been touted for being especially helpful with the mental health effects of the withdrawal process.

Beginning Your Adderall Abuse Recovery Journey

Like any drug addiction, Adderall abuse requires careful, comprehensive treatment to ensure a safe detox and lasting recovery. With the help of trained addiction specialists, you or your loved one can address both your addiction as well as other factors that may be contributing to your Adderall abuse—or exacerbated by it. Comprehensive addiction treatment programs allow your mind, as well as your body, to heal from drug abuse. The right treatment path will also help you build resilience and learn vital coping mechanisms that will keep you from relapsing back into the downward spiral of addiction. The dedicated staff at New Choices Treatment Centers would be happy to help you manage all these aspects of your recovery.

New Choices Treatment Centers offers compassionate, innovative addiction treatment for Adderall abuse as well as other substance disorders. If you or your loved one are showing signs of Adderall abuse, call us at (726) 888-7003 or reach out here to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff members.