Understanding Adderall Addiction Treatment, Signs, Symptoms, and Recovery

Updated On: June 15, 2024
7 min read
Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Adderall is a stimulant prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.[1] While this medication serves an important therapeutic purpose, it also poses risks of misuse, dependence, and addiction when not used as directed.

Adderall can induce feelings of euphoria and increase focus and energy levels, making it attractive for non-medical use among individuals seeking to improve cognitive performance or productivity. However, the misuse of Adderall can lead to serious health consequences, including cardiovascular complications and psychiatric disorders.

Adderall Addiction

Key Points

  • Adderall is a stimulant medication prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but its misuse can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
  • It works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, enhancing focus, attention, and motivation.
  • Among college students, past-year misuse rates of Adderall are higher, especially among men, but non-college women also exhibit significant rates of misuse.
  • A shortage of immediate-release Adderall formulations was reported by the FDA in late 2022, potentially exacerbating misuse challenges.
  • Misusing Adderall can result in tolerance, dependence, and addiction, with the risk of overdose when taken in high doses or combined with other substances, such as alcohol or other stimulants.
  • Treatment for Adderall addiction varies but may include medical detox, residential or outpatient rehabilitation, therapy, counseling, and support groups aimed at addressing addiction’s psychological aspects and supporting long-term recovery.
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    What is Adderall?

    Adderall belongs to the category of prescription drugs known as stimulants, which are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD. As with other prescription drugs, Adderall’s therapeutic benefits come with potential risks of misuse, dependence, and addiction.

    Adderall works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, enhancing focus, attention, and impulse control.[2] This mechanism makes it effective in treating ADHD symptoms and desirable for non-medical purposes, such as enhancing cognitive performance or staying awake. While many individuals use Adderall responsibly under medical supervision, misuse is not uncommon. Some people take higher doses than prescribed, use it without a prescription, or combine it with other substances to amplify its effects.

    The misuse of Adderall can lead to various adverse effects, including cardiovascular issues, psychiatric disorders, and addiction.[3] Therefore, it’s crucial to use Adderall only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and to be aware of the potential risks associated with its use.

    Like other prescription drugs with abuse potential, Adderall is classified as a controlled substance by the DEA (Schedule II), emphasizing the need for careful prescribing and monitoring to prevent misuse and promote safe and effective treatment outcomes.[4]

    Adderall Addiction and Abuse

    Adderall is considered highly addictive due to its stimulant properties.  It increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels, enhancing attention, focus, and motivation: [5]

    • Stimulant effects: Adderall boosts dopamine and norepinephrine levels, inducing euphoria, energy, and focus.
    • Energy and alertness: It’s sought after for staying awake and alert, especially among students and professionals.
    • Weight loss: Some misuse it for appetite suppression and weight control.
    • Recreational use: Its euphoric effects make it popular for recreational use.
    • Performance enhancement: Misuse is common for perceived cognitive performance enhancement.

    Adderall Quick Reference Chart

    Drug Category Stimulant
    Commercial & Street Names Addys, Pep Pills, Speed, Zing, Study Buddies, Smart Pills
    DEA Schedule Schedule II
    Administration Ingested, snorted


    Statistics on Adderall Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Understanding the landscape of Adderall misuse involves examining both its prevalence and the context of its prescription. According to a national survey of parents conducted in 2022, approximately 7 million children aged 3–17 years were diagnosed with ADHD, accounting for over 11% of children in this age group.[6]

    However, the misuse of Adderall among college students remains a concern. Past-year misuse rates were 14.6% among men and 8.8% among women.[7] While college men exhibit higher misuse rates, non-college women surpass non-college men in misuse rates, with 10.1% and 5.3%, respectively. These figures underscore the prevalence of Adderall misuse within educational settings and highlight potential gender disparities in its misuse outside of college environments.

    Adding complexity to the issue is the occurrence of a drug shortage. In the fall of 2022, the FDA announced a shortage of Adderall.[8] This shortage may exacerbate the challenges associated with Adderall misuse, potentially leading individuals to seek alternative sources or resort to other substances to manage ADHD symptoms or enhance cognitive performance.

    Adderall Addiction and Abuse

    The misuse of Adderall can have serious consequences for both physical and mental well-being:[9]

    Physical Health Effects

    • Disrupted Sleep: Adderall misuse can lead to disturbances in sleep patterns, including insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.
    • Changes in Appetite: Many individuals may experience changes in appetite, which can lead to alterations in eating habits and potential weight fluctuations.
    • Gastrointestinal Issues: Misuse of Adderall can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, or abdominal discomfort.
    • Cardiovascular Complications: Stimulants like Adderall can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular issues like heart palpitations, hypertension, or even heart attack in severe cases.

    Psychological Risks

    • Mood Swings: Misuse of Adderall can lead to mood fluctuations, including periods of irritability, agitation, or even euphoria followed by crashes.
    • Anxiety and Depression: Some individuals may experience heightened anxiety or worsening symptoms of depression as a result of Adderall misuse.
    • Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged misuse of Adderall can impair cognitive function, including difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making.

    Risk of Dependence and Overdose

    Misusing Adderall poses significant risks for developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction over time. Tolerance may occur as individuals require higher doses to achieve the same effects initially experienced, leading to a cycle of escalating use. Dependence can manifest as a compulsive need to use Adderall despite adverse consequences, making it challenging for individuals to control their use.

    Moreover, Adderall misuse can escalate into addiction, a chronic condition characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior and harmful consequences. Addiction to Adderall can have severe implications for individuals’ overall well-being, impacting various aspects of their lives, including relationships, work, and health.

    Adderall Addiction and Mental Health

    The misuse of Adderall often intersects with underlying mental health conditions, presenting a complex challenge for treatment. Individuals who misuse Adderall may also experience co-occurring mental health disorders or substance use disorders, further complicating their clinical presentation.[10]

    For example, individuals with anxiety disorders may misuse Adderall as a means to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. However, prolonged use of Adderall can paradoxically exacerbate anxiety symptoms and contribute to the development of dependence. Untangling this interplay between Adderall use and underlying anxiety disorders is essential for developing effective treatment strategies that address both conditions simultaneously.

    Similarly, individuals struggling with mood disorders such as depression may turn to Adderall to alleviate symptoms of low mood and fatigue. However, prolonged use of Adderall can potentially worsen depressive symptoms and disrupt mood regulation. This cycle of deteriorating mental health can perpetuate dependence on Adderall and complicate treatment efforts.

    Addressing the complex relationship between Adderall misuse and mental health requires a comprehensive approach that integrates both substance use disorder treatment and mental health care. This may involve a combination of therapy, counseling, medication management, and holistic interventions aimed at addressing underlying mental health issues while supporting individuals in overcoming Adderall dependence. Seeking help from qualified healthcare professionals is crucial for individuals navigating these challenges and seeking recovery.

    Adderall Addiction Treatment

    Adderall addiction treatment varies in cost, duration, and process depending on individual needs. Costs can vary widely, with inpatient programs typically more expensive than outpatient options, often influenced by insurance coverage. Treatment duration ranges from short-term detox programs to longer-term rehabilitation based on addiction severity and treatment goals.

    Adderall abuse treatment typically starts with an assessment to create a personalized care plan. For severe addiction, medical detox may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Following detox, individuals may enter residential or outpatient rehabilitation, engaging in therapy, counseling, and support groups to address addiction’s psychological aspects. Medication-assisted therapy may also aid recovery.

    A team of professionals, including doctors, therapists, and counselors, provide support throughout treatment. After completing initial treatment, individuals may transition to aftercare programs like ongoing therapy or support groups to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

    Adderall Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

    Everyone’s treatment journey is unique—and that’s why reputable addiction treatment centers typically offer several different levels of care that can best align with your specific needs:

    • Medical Detoxification (Detox): Detox refers to the deliberate removal of toxic substances, such as drugs or alcohol, from the body. It typically occurs under careful supervision in a controlled setting like a medical facility or specialized detox center. The main goal of detox is to safely and comfortably address the physical symptoms of withdrawal while readying individuals for further treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Medically Managed Care: Medically managed care involves integrating medical expertise with therapeutic interventions to optimize patient outcomes and promote recovery. This approach entails close monitoring of patients’ progress by medical professionals, who adjust treatment plans as necessary and coordinate care with other treatment team members to provide comprehensive and individualized support. By combining medical supervision with therapeutic interventions, medically managed care aims to address a patient’s physical and psychological condition, fostering holistic healing and long-term well-being.
    • Inpatient Residential Treatment: Inpatient residential treatment refers to a type of rehabilitation program where individuals reside full-time at a specialized facility for their treatment. This structured setting provides a highly immersive and supportive environment for recovery, offering round-the-clock care and supervision by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Inpatient programs typically include a combination of individual therapy, group counseling, educational sessions, and recreational activities, all designed to address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction. By removing individuals from their usual environment and distractions, inpatient residential treatment allows for focused attention on recovery, intensive therapy, and the development of coping skills necessary for sustained sobriety.

    Therapies Used in Adderall Addiction Treatment

    Alpas offers our clients several evidence-based approaches to treat addiction and co-occurring mental health issues:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with various mental health issues, including addiction. In CBT sessions, individuals work with a therapist to challenge and reframe distorted thinking, develop coping strategies, and acquire skills to manage cravings and triggers effectively. This goal-oriented therapy emphasizes collaboration between the therapist and client, aiming to empower individuals to change unhelpful behaviors and improve their emotional well-being.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a cognitive-behavioral therapy that integrates principles of mindfulness, acceptance, and behavior change strategies. Originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has been adapted to address various mental health conditions, including addiction. DBT aims to help individuals regulate their emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and develop skills to tolerate distress effectively. Therapists use a combination of individual therapy, group skills training, phone coaching, and homework assignments to teach coping mechanisms and promote emotional stability.
    • Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a person-centered counseling approach designed to elicit and strengthen motivation for behavior change. MI focuses on exploring ambivalence about change, enhancing intrinsic motivation, and resolving ambivalence to facilitate decision-making and commitment to change. Therapists using MI engage in collaborative conversations, emphasizing empathy, reflective listening, and guiding individuals toward identifying and resolving discrepancies between their current behavior and their goals or values. MI empowers individuals to make positive changes by enhancing their readiness and commitment to change.
    • Contingency Management: Contingency management is a behavioral therapy approach that utilizes positive reinforcement to promote desired behaviors, such as abstaining from substance use. In this approach, individuals are rewarded or incentivized to achieve specific treatment objectives, such as attending therapy sessions, submitting drug-free urine samples, or reaching milestones in their recovery journey. The rewards may include tangible incentives such as vouchers, prizes, or privileges and social reinforcements like praise or recognition. Contingency management aims to strengthen positive behaviors by providing immediate and tangible rewards, increasing motivation, and compliance with treatment goals.
    • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is a therapeutic approach to enhance individuals’ intrinsic motivation and commitment to change. It involves structured discussions and personalized feedback to explore and resolve ambivalence surrounding behavior modification. MET helps individuals identify their core values, aspirations, and goals through empathetic dialogue and collaborative conversations, fostering self-efficacy and confidence in their ability to change. Unlike traditional therapies, MET focuses less on exploring the origins of addiction and more on empowering individuals to cultivate internal motivation for positive transformation.
    • Experiential Therapy: Experiential therapy is a form of psychotherapy that utilizes hands-on activities and immersive experiences to facilitate emotional processing and individual growth. Instead of relying solely on verbal communication, experiential therapy engages individuals in various activities such as role-playing, art therapy, and outdoor excursions. These activities allow individuals to explore and express their emotions, confront obstacles, and develop new coping strategies within a supportive and accepting environment. Experiential therapy emphasizes the importance of engaging the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—in the therapeutic process, allowing for deeper insights and meaningful personal transformation.
    • Relapse Prevention: Relapse prevention is a therapeutic approach aimed at identifying and managing triggers, developing coping strategies, and establishing a structured plan to prevent relapse in individuals recovering from addiction. Participants in relapse prevention programs learn to recognize early warning signs of relapse, such as stress or negative emotions, and acquire skills to manage these challenges effectively. Through enhancing self-awareness and providing practical tools, relapse prevention therapy empowers individuals to navigate difficult circumstances and sustain long-term sobriety by addressing the underlying issues that contribute to addictive behaviors.
    • Twelve-Step Facilitation: Twelve-step facilitation is a therapeutic approach designed to support individuals in their recovery from addiction by actively engaging them in programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). This approach involves participating in group meetings, working through the Twelve Steps, and receiving encouragement from peers with similar experiences. By fostering a sense of community and accountability, twelve-step facilitation aims to help individuals establish and maintain sobriety while providing them with the tools and support necessary for long-term recovery from addiction.
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    Frequently Asked Questions About Adderall and Adderall Addiction Treatment


    How long does Adderall stay in your system?


    Adderall typically stays in your system for about 1 to 3 days. However, this can vary depending on dosage, frequency of use, individual metabolism, and hydration levels.


    Can Adderall interact with other medications?


    Yes, Adderall can interact with other medications, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, blood pressure medications, and certain over-the-counter drugs. To avoid potentially harmful interactions, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider about all medications you’re taking.


    What are the withdrawal symptoms of stopping Adderall?


    Withdrawal symptoms of stopping Adderall can include fatigue, depression, irritability, increased appetite, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms can vary in intensity depending on the duration and dosage of Adderall use. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on tapering off Adderall to minimize withdrawal effects.


    [1] Dextroamphetamine And Amphetamine (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names – Mayo Clinic. (2020). Mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/dextroamphetamine-and-amphetamine-oral-route/description/drg-20071758 on April 4, 2024

    [2] Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2023). Medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601234.html on April 4, 2024

    [3] Adderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults | Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2016, February 16). Publichealth.jhu.edu. https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2016/adderall-misuse-rising-among-young-adults on April 4, 2024

    [4] Drug Enforcement Administration. (2018, July 10). Drug Scheduling. Www.dea.gov; United States Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling on April 4, 2024

    [5] Weyandt, L., White, T., Gudmundsdottir, B., Nitenson, A., Rathkey, E., De Leon, K., & Bjorn, S. (2018). Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students. Pharmacy, 6(3), 58. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmacy6030058 on April 4, 2024

    [6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, August 9). Data and statistics about ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/adhd/data/ on April 4, 2024

    [7] Kennedy, S. (2018). Raising Awareness About Prescription and Stimulant Abuse in College Students Through On-Campus Community Involvement Projects. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 17(1), A50–A53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312145/ on April 4, 2024

    [8] FDA. (2022). FDA Announces Shortage of Adderall. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-announces-shortage-adderall on April 4, 2024

    [9] Adderall: Mild to serious side effects and how to manage them. (2023, March 23). Www.medicalnewstoday.com. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/drugs-adderall-side-effects on April 4, 2024

    [10] MedlinePlus. (2019). Dual Diagnosis. Medlineplus.gov; National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html on April 4, 2024

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