Adderall is a brand name for a medication that contains a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is a stimulant drug often prescribed to those with ADHD. Adderall can help with focus and controlling impulsivity, but does it come at a cost?
How Does Adderall Affect the Brain?
Those who have ADHD tend to have lower levels of dopamine in the brain, which leads them to constantly seek stimulation. Adderall works by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain, which brings the brain from a state of overstimulation to a normal level of stimulation.
The drawback of this is that over time, this could decrease dopamine’s effectiveness as a motivator and pleasure producer, and the brain can become dependent on Adderall to supply that extra dopamine.
In people who do not have ADHD, Adderall produces a dopamine overload, which can cause them to feel very energized and can invoke feelings of euphoria. It’s also possible that they will experience negative side effects, such as insomnia, loss of appetite, or jitters.
How Long Do the Effects of Adderall Last?
Adderall comes in two forms: an immediate-release oral tablet (regular Adderall) and an extended-release oral tablet (Adderall XR).
Immediate-release Adderall (Adderall IR): Comes in the form of a tablet, and may need to be taken multiple times per day, as the effects only last for about 5-8 hours. Immediate-release Adderall usually kicks in within 30 minutes of taking it. Research suggests that Adderall IR has a higher risk of being misused.
Extended-release Adderall (Adderall XR): Is taken in the form of a capsule, and can be taken once daily with effects that last all day, up to 10-12 hours, however it takes longer to kick in (an hour or longer). This means that the active ingredients are released slower than Adderall IR.
Both types contain dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, and will have essentially the same side effects.
How Long Does Adderall Last in the Body?
The overall half-life of Adderall ranges from 9 to 14 hours. This means that within this time frame, about half of the drug has left your system. However, it can take approximately five of these half-life cycles for the drug to be considered completely cleared from your system.
Urine: Up to 72 hours
Bloodstream: Up to 46 hours
Saliva: Up to 50 hours
Risks of Taking Adderall
There are a number of risks associated with taking Adderall, some of which are more serious than others, and therefore, Adderall should only be used when prescribed and with guidance from a qualified healthcare provider.
For those who do not have ADHD, taking Adderall can have serious side effects. Many students will start taking Adderall under the belief that it will help them study. However, studies have shown that Adderall does not improve academic performance in those who do not have ADHD.
When taken at high doses for a long period of time, your body builds up a tolerance, so higher and higher doses are needed to feel the desired effects.
Side effects of Adderall include:
- Decreased appetite
- Digestive problems
- Mood swings
What Are the Long-term Effects of Taking Adderall?
Although the short-term effects of Adderall (when taken as advised) are relatively positive, if used for a long time, Adderall may lead to some serious side effects. These include:
- Heart problems
- Mental health problems
Is Adderall Addictive?
Adderall has high potential to be misused or abused. When taken at high doses for a long period of time, your body builds up a tolerance to Adderall, so that higher and higher doses are needed in order to feel the desired effects.
Adderall is sometimes abused by college students who are under immense pressure of performing well in school, and believe that Adderall will help them study better. For those who do not have ADHD, taking Adderall can have serious consequences, and it is much easier to become addicted.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
As Adderall leaves the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These symptoms might include:
- Mood changes
- Greater appetite than usual
- More drowsy than usual
- Slowed movements
How Long Does Adderall Withdrawal Last?
Withdrawal symptoms can start to appear a day or two after you stop taking Adderall. The length of the withdrawal period can depend on a variety of factors, including how high your dosage was and how frequently you were taking it. In general, withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
The safest way to withdraw from Adderall is to taper off of it slowly by gradually reducing the dosage. If you try to stop cold-turkey, your withdrawal symptoms will be much more severe.
Alternatives to Adderall
Although Adderall can be effective for treating ADHD, it can also come with many unwanted side effects. Here are some more natural ways that you can treat ADHD.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that boosts the production of dopamine in the brain, which is helpful for improving focus in those with ADHD.
Magnesium supplements: Low magnesium levels can lead to problems such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, and poor concentration, which are all symptoms of ADHD.
Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo Biloba is a herbal supplement that’s commonly used to help improve memory and blood flow in older adults. It can also help improve memory retention & learning.
L-Theanine: is a non-essential amino acid that naturally relieves stress and anxiety by increasing levels of GABA and glycine. GABA and glycine are inhibitory neurotransmitters that work to reduce activity in the brain, which in turn creates feelings of relaxation and calmness.
L-Tyrosine: is an amino acid used in the production of dopamine and noradrenaline. L-Tyrosine can help stabilize the mood of those who have ADHD.
Engaging in activities such as exercise and meditation can also be helpful. Exercise helps improve energy and relieve stress, while meditation has a calming effect that can reduce anxiety and improve focus.
Mixing Adderall With Other Drugs
Mixing Adderall with other drugs can have very dangerous side effects, since the way the two drugs interact with each other can be unpredictable. Taking two drugs simultaneously can also result in addiction at a fast rate. Some substances often taken with Adderall include Xanax and alcohol.
Xanax and Adderall: This is a relatively common combination, however, since Xanax is a sedative and Adderall is a stimulant, combining these two drugs can have disastrous effects. It also diminishes the desired effect of each drug.
For example, if you have anxiety, taking Adderall can make you feel more anxious. If you are taking Adderall to improve energy, taking Xanax at the same time will make you tired.
Overall, both drugs have addictive properties, and taking them together makes it more likely that you will become addicted to one or both drugs.
Alcohol and Adderall: Since alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant, mixing these two can elevate the negative effects of each substance. Adderall can delay the sedating effects of larger doses of alcohol, leading a person to consume more alcohol than they would normally.
Adderall and alcohol can both cause high blood pressure or fast or irregular heartbeat. Because of this, it’s recommended to wait 4-6 hours after taking your last immediate-release Adderall before taking a drink of alcohol, and at least 8 hours for extended-release Adderall.
Detox From Adderall Safely
When detoxing from Adderall, it’s best to do it in a medically supervised environment, where professionals can ensure your safety.
At Paramount Recovery Center, we provide medical detox for those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol. Once we determine that the patient is stable with no more drugs in their system, we offer a sober living program which provides the patient with all the skills and tools necessary for maintaining sobriety once they depart from our facility.
If you are looking for drug or alcohol treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact our addiction specialists to determine the next best steps to take.