Is It Possible to Overdose on Adderall?

Adderall Is a Popular "Study Drug" That Is Often Abused

Taking too much Adderall could lead to overdose.

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In This Article

Adderall (amphetamine dextroamphetamine) is a prescription drug that acts as a stimulant for your central nervous system. What this means is that it improves the function of your central nervous system and changes the way your brain processes things. Because of these abilities, Adderall is commonly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as 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.

Standard Dose

Adderall increases alertness, attention, and energy by increasing the activity of dopamine, seratonin, 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) 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg strengths.

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:

  • 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 let your doctor know. Your physician may tell you how to reduce side effects, change your dose, or switch you to a different medication.

You should never take more than your prescribed dose; and you should never let someone else take your medication. You also should never take anyone else’s prescription medication. Even if you think your current dose isn’t effective, don’t attempt to resolve the issue by taking a larger dose. Talk to your doctor about your concerns instead.

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.

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 (EmSam)

Meanwhile, 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)

Misuse and Abuse

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 the 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 had gone up by 67% and emergency department visits involving Adderall went up by 156% between 2006 and 2011.

However, researchers warn that the prevalence of Adderall abuse 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. In fact, in a study of almost 25,000 high school students, more than 28% of students who used Adderall denied that they used the drug.

Meanwhile, a 2008 study published in the Journal of American College Health, found that 34% of students reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants. Most students used them during times of high academic stress. They said the pills helped reduce fatigue and increase reading comprehension, cognition, and memory.

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

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.

Overdose

Ingesting too much Adderall can have serious side effects and in some cases, an overdose 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. In fact, just a small amount could lead to death—with death from amphetamine being recorded as low a dose as 1.5 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 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

How to Handle a Suspected Overdose

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.

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 quicker you get medical attention, the better the chances that medical personnel can effectively treat the overdose.

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 this prescription, talk to your doctor. It’s important to work closely with a doctor to ensure that treatment is safe and effective.

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Article Sources
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