Is It Possible to Overdose on Adderall?

It's a popular study drug that is often abused.

Taking too much Adderall could lead to overdose.

Jonathan Bielaski / Light Imaging/First Light / Getty Images Plus

 

Adderall (amphetamine dextroamphetamine) is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It’s considered a schedule II controlled substance with high potential for abuse.

It is possible to overdose on Adderall. In some cases, an Adderall overdose can be lethal.

Standard Dose

Adderall increases alertness, attention, and energy by increasing the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

The standard daily dose of Adderall is 2.5 to 60 mg daily. It is available in 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg strengths.

It’s also available in an extended release (XR) 15 mg tablet.

Like with most medications, Adderall can cause side effects even when it’s taken as prescribed and in a low dose. Common side effects of Adderall may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Headache

These side effects usually aren’t serious. However, if you experience side effects, it’s important to communicate the issues with your doctor. Your physician may offer advice on how to reduce side effects, change the dose or switch you to a different medication.

You should never take more than your prescribed dose and you should never take anyone else’s prescription medication. If you think your current dose isn’t effective, talk to your doctor. Don’t attempt to resolve the issue by taking a larger dose.

Misuse and Abuse

Adderall is a commonly abused prescription drug. It has been linked to enhanced cognitive function and academic performance, making it a popular drug among high school and college students.

Non-medical use of Adderall has a high potential for abuse and dependency as well as potential adverse effects.

Misuse of a prescription drug involves:

  • Taking medicine in a way or dose other than what is prescribed (such as crushing pills, snorting the powder, or dissolving the powder from a capsule into water and injecting the liquid into a vein, etc)
  • Taking someone else’s prescription
  • Taking medicine to get high, rather than to reduce symptoms

Misuse of Adderall increases the likelihood of an overdose. It also increases the risk of a substance use disorder.

A 2016 study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that nonmedical use of Adderall by adults had gone up by 67 percent and emergency department visits involving Adderall went up by 156 percent between 2006 and 2011.

The prevalence of Adderall abuse may be underreported, however. A 2017 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, however, found that Adderall abuse may be underreported in surveys.

In a study of almost 25,000 high school students, 28 percent of students who used Adderall denied that they used the drug, suggesting that amphetamine abuse may be greatly underreported in surveys.

In a 2008 study published in The Journal of American College Health, 34 percent of students reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants. Most students reported using them during times of high academic stress and they said the pills helped reduce fatigue and increase reading comprehension, cognition, and memory.

Many of the students had little information about the risks associated with stimulant abuse. They said the drugs were easy to access and felt that abusing them was stigma-free.

Some people report abusing Adderall in an effort to offset the effects of alcohol. Individuals who take Adderall may report not getting as drunk as they normally would. This can cause them to drink more alcohol, which can lead to serious impairments or even death from alcohol poisoning.

Chronic abuse may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Severe rash
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes

Overdose

Ingesting too much Adderall can have serious effects and in some cases, an overdose can lead to death.

The amount that could lead to an overdose varies from person to person. Some people are more sensitive to stimulants than others. Death from amphetamine has been recorded with as low a dose as 1.5 mg/kg of weight. It can also be lethal to animals.

An Adderall overdose involves excessive stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system—which is responsible for activating the fight or flight response when there’s a sign of danger.

Symptoms of Adderall Overdose

Mild

  • Confusion

  • Headaches

  • Hyperactivity

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Stomach pain

Severe

  • Hallucinations

  • Rhabdomyolysis (Breakdown of muscles)

  • Tremors

  • Heart attack

  • Fever

  • Aggressiveness

  • Panic

  • Death

An overdose may be intentional or it could be accidental.

Drug Interactions

It’s possible to overdose on less than the average lethal dose if you’re taking other medications that interact with Adderall.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), for example, can increase the effects of Adderall and increase the risk of overdose. Common MAOIs include:

  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • Selegiline (Atapryl)

Taking CYP2D6 inhibitors, while taking Adderall, can increase the risk of serious side effects. Common CYP2D6 inhibitors include:

  • Cinacalcet (Sensipar)
  • Buproprion (Wellbutrin)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Quinidine (Quinidex)
  • Ritonavir (Norvir)

It’s important to talk to your doctor about any medications that you’re taking. This includes vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and nutritional supplements

What to Do if You Suspect an Overdose

If you suspect that you or someone else has overdosed on Adderall, seek emergency treatment immediately.

If you are in the United States, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or contact your local emergency services.

Treatment for an overdose may in involve administering activated charcoal to help absorb the medication You may also need to get your stomach pumped.

In the case of serotonin syndrome, you may be given a medication to block serotonin.

A Word From Verywell

Adderall provides many benefits when it’s taken as prescribed. If you have concerns that you or your loved one might develop side effects or be tempted to abuse a prescription, talk to your doctor. It’s important to work closely with a doctor to ensure that treatment is safe and effective.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources