What to Know About Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction vs dependency

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

Adderall is a type of stimulant medication typically prescribed for treating symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy. The medication works by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. You might recognize dopamine as the “feel-good” chemical. It’s the chemical your brain releases when you are happy or doing something you enjoy.

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This is because it has a very high potential to be abused.

Adderall has to be prescribed by a doctor or medical professional. However, because of its high potential for abuse, it’s often obtained illegally without prescriptions. Some research shows that Adderall is one of the most widely abused drugs in the United States. For example, many students abuse it if they believe it can help them study better.

You are even more likely to develop an addiction to Adderall if you take it without a prescription. This is because addiction to Adderall takes time to develop. It typically begins with taking small prescriptions to get through certain tasks or activities. 

This article discusses the signs of Adderall addiction, risk factors, its effect, and treatment. It also explains how you can help someone who is dealing with an addiction to Adderall.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Signs of Adderall Addiction 

Some of the most common signs of an addiction to Adderall include: 

  • Sluggishness whenever you are not on the drug 
  • Being unable to function without Adderall 
  • Spending a lot of time and money acquiring the drug, typically through illegal means 
  • Taking larger and larger doses because you no longer feel the effect of the drug when taking small doses 
  • Continuing to take Adderall even after you begin to notice its adverse effects on your mind and body 

Risk Factors 

Students, athletes, young professionals with demanding jobs, and people with eating disorders are the most common groups to develop an Adderall addiction.

Research shows that Adderall abuse is particularly prevalent on college campuses. Students abuse the medication hoping that it can improve their concentration and help them get better grades.

Taking Adderall without a prescription or using it not as directed by a doctor can lead to an addiction.

Adderall Addiction vs. Adderall Dependency 

People often conflate Adderall addiction with Adderall dependency. However, most people with an Adderall addiction might develop it from illegally obtaining the drug. On the other hand, Adderall dependency most often occurs in those who have been prescribed the medication.

A dependency on Adderall can be expected when the medication is prescribed long-term to a person. A person with an Adderall dependency doesn’t abuse the medication or take unnatural quantities to stimulate a “high.”

A person with a dependency might be weaned off the medication, while a person with an addiction to Adderall needs addiction treatment. Additionally, a person with an addiction will typically go through extreme measures to get this medication. 

Effects of Adderall Addiction 

The effects of Adderall addiction can be very damaging, especially long-term, without treatment. In addition, a person abusing this medication could potentially develop serious health problems and, in some cases, might even suffer from an overdose.

People who have been addicted to Adderall for a long time might experience some of the following effects: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Insomnia 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Tremors 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sluggishness 
  • Aggressive behavior 
  • Severe weight loss 
  • Migraines 
  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases, Adderall abuse could cause symptoms like delusions and damage to the heart. Trying to quit an Adderall addiction on your own could also trigger withdrawal symptoms which often mirror the effects of abusing the drug.

This is why it’s advisable to seek immediate treatment if you suspect you or someone has an addiction to Adderall.


If you or someone you love is experiencing Adderall addiction, it’s important to seek help. It’s challenging for a person with an addiction to this medication to quit on their own. However, there are treatment centers that specialize in treating addiction. Treatment options include enrolling in an outpatient program or an inpatient rehab center. 

An outpatient program allows the person seeking treatment to be at home with their friends and family. 

At an inpatient rehab center, you’ll be required to stay within the premises of the facility until you are declared fit enough to go home. Several people prefer this option as it is sometimes more effective in eliminating factors that could lead to a relapse. 

A type of behavioral therapy known as the Matrix Model has been found to be very effective for treating Adderall addiction. The Matrix Model makes use of family and individual therapy sessions, frequent drug testing, and drug education to help a person with a stimulant addiction kick the condition.

How to Help Someone With an Adderall Addiction 

If you’ve noticed a friend, relative, or close loved one exhibiting signs of an addiction to Adderall or to any other type of stimulant medication, they need your help.

The first step to helping them overcome their addiction is seeking professional treatment for their condition. It’s most important for you to continue to support them throughout the treatment and recovery process.

You can join them in attending support group meetings for people addicted to Adderall or help them work through their treatment plans.

An Adderall addiction can be particularly challenging on the loved ones of the person with the addiction. So, seeking help from a therapist to navigate the difficult emotions that could arise is advisable.

In case of a relapse, it’s important to remember not to give up hope and guide your friend or loved one through the treatment process again. 

A Word From Verywell

Adderall addiction happens when a person takes the medication in a manner that wasn’t prescribed by their doctor. People with an Adderall addiction typically take the stimulant in large doses frequently.

If you or someone you know is displaying signs of an addiction to Adderall it’s important to seek help immediately. Trying to treat addiction on your own can be difficult and the withdrawal symptoms often mirror signs of the addiction itself. 

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Adderall. March 2007.

  2. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Scheduling

  3. Sussman S, Pentz MA, Spruijt-Metz D, Miller T. Misuse of “study drugs:” prevalence, consequences, and implications for policy. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. 2006;1(1):15. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186%2F1747-597X-1-15

  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The matrix model(Stimulants). January 2018.

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.