Turning to Adderall for Weight Loss

Risks of taking adderall for weight loss

 Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee 

Back in the 1950s and 60s, doctors would prescribe amphetamines for weight loss. That practice was ended by law when the addictive nature of these drugs was proven. Today, Adderall prescribed for ADHD is sometimes used non-medically for its weight loss support properties.

Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) contains amphetamine and has the typical amphetamine effect of suppressing appetite. Some people turn to this "Adderall diet" or "speed diet" to lose weight, although today no doctors would prescribe the drug for that purpose.

With many people prescribed Adderall appropriately for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is also not a surprise that people who use it for nonmedical purposes often get it from friends and family members or can easily buy it on the street.

Adderall Effects on the Body

Adderall, when used properly and as prescribed, can be beneficial for treating ADHD. Unfortunately, stimulants like Adderall are commonly misused. Adderall abuse and the misuse of similar stimulants are seen in about 3.4% of those age 12 and older, according to a study published in 2013.

Adderall has the effect of increasing dopamine signaling in the brain. This can give a feeling of euphoria and being energized as well as the following physical effects:

  • Constricts blood vessels
  • Increases blood glucose
  • Opens breathing passages
  • Raises heart rate and blood pressure

It can also have the effect of suppressing appetite, which can result in eating less. People taking Adderall for ADHD may experience weight loss due to the appetite suppression side effect even if they weren't trying to lose weight.

Consequences of Nonmedical Adderall Use

Adderall is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADD/ADHD. According to a study published in 2013, most people who take Adderall non-medically report taking it to improve their productivity, with fewer saying they use it for weight loss.

Using the drug for another purpose is not only unwise, but it is also dangerous. When taken at higher than the prescribed dosage, Adderall can be psychologically and physically addictive.

In addition, after long-term use, some develop a tolerance, meaning that they need to take increasingly larger doses in order to get the same appetite suppression effects. As doses increase, some may also turn to other drugs to counteract other side effects, such as taking sleeping pills to offset Adderall's stimulant effect.

It is a better choice to avoid stimulants for the purpose of appetite suppression and rely on non-drug tactics for weight loss.

If Adderall pills are taken as prescribed, they slowly and steadily give a therapeutic effect to the brain. When used at higher doses and when people misuse them by taking them through different routes, the effects are larger and more immediate, which is believed to increase the risk of addiction.

Misuse can lead to malnutrition, feelings of hostility, paranoia, heart complications, and stroke. When stimulants are chronically misused, you can have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them.

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.

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