Can You Overdose on Adderall?

Taking too much Adderall could lead to overdose.

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Adderall (amphetamine dextroamphetamine) is a prescription drug that acts as a stimulant for your central nervous system. What this means is that it increases the activity of the central nervous system and improves its function.

Because of these abilities, Adderall is commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy. Adderall is considered a schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse.

It's also possible to overdose on Adderall—even accidentally—which in some cases can be lethal.

Can You Overdose on Adderall?

Yes, ingesting too much Adderall can have serious side effects, including an overdose that can lead to death. What's more, some people are more sensitive to stimulants than others, so the amount that could lead to an overdose varies from person to person.

Even a small amount of amphetamine could be fatal. Deaths have been recorded with as low a dose as 1.5 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of weight.

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.

Depending on the person and their motives, an overdose may be intentional or it could be accidental. It's also important to note that Adderall can be lethal to animals if ingested.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Adderall overdose can range from mild to severe and include the following:

Mild
  • Confusion

  • Headaches

  • Hyperactivity

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Stomach pain

Severe
  • Hallucinations

  • Rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscles)

  • Tremors

  • Heart attack

  • Fever

  • Aggressiveness

  • Panic

  • Death

What You Should Do

If you suspect that you or someone you know 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 call 911 right away if you or a loved one are in immediate danger.

Be prepared to provide the following information to the emergency responders and/or doctor:

  • The person's age
  • How much Adderall was ingested
  • Other substances (alcohol or drugs) that may have also been taken
  • Any known allergies
  • Any history of substance misuse

Adderall Dosage

Adderall increases alertness, attention, and energy by increasing the activity of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. The standard daily dose of Adderall is 2.5 mg 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) form in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg strengths.

Side Effects

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

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

These side effects usually aren’t serious. However, if you experience side effects, it’s important to let your doctor know. Your physician may tell you how to reduce side effects, change your dose, or switch you to a different medication.

Drug Interactions

Adderall may interact with some medications, so it's important to talk to your doctor about any medications you're taking prior to taking Adderall. This includes vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and nutritional supplements as well as any prescriptions.

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

Common MAOIs include:

  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)
  • EmSam (selegiline)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)

Meanwhile, taking medications that inhibit CYP2D6 (an enzyme involved in drug metabolism) while taking Adderall can increase the risk of serious side effects.

Common CYP2D6 inhibitors include:

Misuse

Adderall is a commonly abused prescription drug. Because it has been linked to enhanced cognitive function and academic performance, it's popular among high school and college students who are hoping to benefit from the drug's effects.

But non-medical use of Adderall has a high potential for abuse and dependency as well as numerous 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).
  • Taking someone else’s prescription.
  • Taking medicine to get high, rather than to reduce symptoms.

Misuse of Adderall also increases the likelihood of an overdose as well as increases the risk of abuse. In fact, the misuse of Adderall is a growing problem.

A 2016 study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that non-medical use of Adderall by adults rose by 67% and emergency department visits involving Adderall went up by 156% between 2006 and 2011.

Underreported Problem

Researchers warn that the prevalence of Adderall misuse may be denied and underreported. For instance, a 2017 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that Adderall abuse was often underreported in surveys.

Meanwhile, a 2017 study published in Postgraduate Medicine found that 5% to 10% of high school students and 5% to 35% of college students misuse ADHD stimulants.

The problem is that many individuals don’t realize the short- and long-term side effects of the drug and how stimulants work. Adderall dependence and withdrawal can be dangerous and even cause suicidal thoughts.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

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


Chronic Abuse

Chronic abuse of Adderall may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Severe rash
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes

Some people even 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 practice can cause them to drink more alcohol, though, which can lead to serious impairments or even death from alcohol poisoning.

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.

Treatment

Treatment for an overdose may involve administering activated charcoal to help absorb the medication. You also may need to get your stomach pumped. In the case of serotonin syndrome, you may be given a medication to block serotonin.

Don't let fear about these treatments keep you from seeking help right away, though. The more quickly you get medical attention, the better the chances that medical personnel can effectively treat the overdose.

Prevention

There are steps you can take to prevent yourself or someone you love from overdosing on Adderall, including:

  • Never take more than your prescribed dose.
  • Never let someone else take your medication.
  • Never take anyone else’s prescription medication.
  • Do not take a larger dose without consulting with your doctor.
  • Never take a second dose if you think you missed your first dose.
  • Take your medication at the same time each day.

A Word From Verywell

When taken as prescribed, Adderall can be a safe and effective treatment for ADHD. If you have concerns that you or someone you love is misusing this prescription or is at risk for doing so, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Be sure to discuss what other medication you are taking to avoid potentially dangerous interactions.

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Article Sources
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