Adderall's Effects on the Brain: Short-Term and Long-Term Symptoms (2022)

Adderall is a stimulant medication primarily used in the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It comes in two forms:

  • Adderall oral tablet
  • Adderall XR extended-release oral capsule

According to research, Adderall helps decrease impulsivity in people living with ADHD. It also promotes increased attention and improves the ability to focus.

Doctors may also prescribe Adderall to treat narcolepsy, since it may help people living with this condition stay awake during the day.

Since Adderall and other stimulants can help increase attention, focus, and wakefulness, they’re sometimes misused, especially by students. People trying to lose weight might also misuse these drugs, since they’re known to cause a loss of appetite.

Using Adderall for anything other than its intended purpose, especially at higher doses than prescribed by a doctor, can lead to dependency and addiction.

If you take too much Adderall, you can develop a dependency and eventually need more to experience the same effect. This can be dangerous to your health.

Adderall can not only cause changes in your brain chemistry and function, it may also lead to heart damage, digestive problems, and other unwanted side effects.

Read on to learn more about possible side effects of Adderall, how to reverse these effects, and the best way to stop taking Adderall.

Students and other people who want to get a lot of work done in a short period of time might turn to Adderall for a quick boost to their concentration and memory.

But 2018 research suggests Adderall doesn’t always have much of an effect for people who don’t have ADHD. In fact, it might even lead to memory impairment — the exact opposite of the desired effect.

(Video) Ten facts about Adderall

Adderall can cause other unwanted side effects. When a doctor monitors your Adderall use, they can help keep track of these effects and adjust your dose to reduce or eliminate them.

Some common short-term side effects of Adderall include:

  • appetite loss
  • digestive problems, including nausea and constipation
  • restlessness
  • heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat
  • dry mouth
  • mood changes, including anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • head pain
  • sleep issues

These side effects can differ from person to person. They might also vary by age. Side effects often go away after a week or two of using the drug. Some people taking Adderall at a dose prescribed by a doctor may not experience noticeable side effects.

Rarely, Adderall can cause serious side effects like delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms of psychosis.

Some side effects, such as heart problems, mood changes, or psychotic symptoms, can be dangerous. While these symptoms may go away before long, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that affect your daily life, seem unusual, or make you feel concerned in any way.

Adderall can help you feel more energized, focused, motivated, and productive. You might also feel euphoric. But over time, this experience can change.

Instead, you might notice:

  • weight loss
  • stomach problems
  • head pain
  • decreased energy or fatigue
  • anxiety, panic, low or irritable mood, and other emotional changes

Heart problems and increased risk for stroke

Long-term misuse of Adderall may lead to heart problems and increase your risk for stroke or heart attack.

Dependency and addiction

Another significant long-term effect of heavy Adderall use is dependence on the drug.

If you take high doses of Adderall for a long time, your brain may become dependent on the drug and eventually produce less dopamine. You might experience:

(Video) Study finds link between ADHD medicine and risk of psychosis

  • mood changes, including low moods
  • irritability
  • lethargy

You may have trouble enjoying things you usually enjoy. You’ll eventually need more Adderall to get the same effect. Over time, addiction can result.

Adderall best practices

Adderall dosage can vary, so determining what amount is considered heavy use isn’t always easy. In general, you should not:

  • take more Adderall than your doctor prescribes
  • take Adderall if you don’t have a prescription
  • take Adderall more frequently than instructed by your doctor

Changes in mood and libido

Over the long term, Adderall can sometimes cause changes in mood and behavior, especially when used in high doses. These changes may affect interpersonal and romantic relationships.

Some men who use Adderall feel less interested in sex or experience erectile dysfunction, especially if they take high doses for a long period of time. These side effects can also affect romantic relationships. They might also lead to frustration or other emotional distress.

Talking to a therapist about changes in mood can help, especially if Adderall otherwise helps improve ADHD or other symptoms you experience.

Long-term use of Adderall at high doses can cause significant side effects, including changes in how your brain produces neurotransmitters. But many of these side effects may be reversible once you stop taking Adderall.

(Video) Short- and Long-Term Effects of Adderall on the Brain | Tita TV

Experts are still studying the potential long-term effects of Adderall, especially when it’s taken at high doses.

Some physical side effects associated with Adderall use, such as heart damage, may not improve over time.

Taking Adderall under a doctor’s supervision, at a dose prescribed by a doctor, is usually not associated with permanent brain changes.

If you experience unwanted side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. If you’ve been taking Adderall without a prescription, it’s even more important to get medical support, especially if you’re becoming dependent on the drug.

Adderall is known to be helpful for people with ADHD. It can help reduce impulsiveness and promote increased focus, concentration, and memory. But along with these beneficial effects, you could also experience unwanted side effects.

If you stop taking Adderall, these side effects usually begin clearing up within a few days, but it may take several days for the drug to completely leave your system.

If you’ve taken high doses of Adderall for a long time, you might experience withdrawal when you stop. Medical support can help you manage withdrawal symptoms as you slowly decrease usage until you’re no longer using the drug.

Stopping use suddenly isn’t recommended. Talk to your healthcare provider about tapering off Adderall. They can help determine a safe decrease in dosage and monitor and treat side effects.

Talking to a therapist can help if you’re struggling with mood changes or other mental health symptoms. Therapy can also help you work through cravings and other side effects of addiction.

Adderall is generally safe for most people to use. But it can cause side effects, some of which can be serious.

Talk to your doctor right away if you experience:

  • heart palpitations
  • paranoia
  • delusions or hallucinations
  • changes in mood, including irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • thoughts of suicide

If any of your symptoms seem serious or make you feel concerned, talk to your healthcare provider. You should always let your doctor know about any side effects you experience while taking medication.

If you become pregnant or want to become pregnant, let your healthcare provider know right away. Adderall isn’t considered safe for use during pregnancy.

Let your doctor know about any existing health conditions before you start taking Adderall. You shouldn’t take Adderall with some medications or if you have certain health issues.

(Video) Long Term Effects of ADHD Medication

Although Adderall can cause a number of different side effects, many of these — especially those associated with long-term use — are rare when you take Adderall at a dose prescribed by your doctor.

You’re more likely to experience side effects when you take Adderall at higher doses, or if you aren’t taking Adderall to treat a specific condition.

Medical experts consider Adderall a drug that’s generally safe for many people. But it’s important to tell your doctor about any side effects you experience.

(Video) Effects of ADDERALL 2020 [Long Term Effects] (The Study Drug)- Doctor Rempel

If Adderall causes unwanted side effects that affect your day-to-day functioning or quality of life, your doctor may lower your dose or suggest a different drug.

Stopping Adderall suddenly can cause other unwanted side effects. If you’re having trouble with Adderall, talk to a healthcare provider who can help you get off the drug safely.

You may worry how a healthcare provider will react if you’ve been taking Adderall, or any other drug, without a prescription. But side effects of Adderall can be serious, sometimes even life-threatening, so it’s best to get help sooner rather than later.


How Adderall affects the brain long-term? ›

People who abuse a great deal of Adderall over a long period of time may experience side effects ranging from sleep difficulties, depression, and irritability to mood swings, paranoia, and panic attacks. A list of side effects of long-term Adderall abuse are below: Sleep difficulties. Inability to concentrate.

What are the short term effects of Adderall? ›

Adderall Short-Term Effects

Adderall also increases heart rate, decreases blood flow, and opens up breathing passages. As a result of this, the use of the drug can cause feelings of energy and invigoration, similar to the high experienced by cocaine users.

How does Ritalin affect the brain long-term? ›

The study suggests that long-term use of Ritalin may affect cognitive problems with flexibility, emotional control, abstract thinking, and higher-level reasoning in individuals who began taking the drug while their brain was still developing.

Does ADHD medication have long-term effects? ›

Long-term effects.

Decades of research has found no major negative health effects from taking them for a long time. Some studies have suggested that children who keep taking stimulants into adulthood may grow up slightly shorter.

Does Adderall affect memory? ›

Loss of Memory: Memory slips and loss of memory may occur when you use this type of drug for long periods of time or in high doses. Verbal Learning Issues: Using Adderall over time may cause difficulties with verbal learning, and this can be particularly difficult for children.

Does Adderall change your brain? ›

This lack of dopamine causes people with ADHD to constantly seek stimulation. Adderall works by increasing levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, thus bringing the brain from a state of overstimulation to a normal state of stimulation.

Can Ritalin cause memory loss? ›

Methylphenidate can even reduce the brain power of high performers, by weakening their short-term memory, for example.

How does methylphenidate affect the brain? ›

Methylphenidate increases extracellular dopamine (DA) levels in the brain by blocking the DA transporters in the synapse. Its short-term safety has been documented in many studies, and its efficacy is among the highest of all psychiatric medications.

Does Ritalin affect brain development? ›

NEW YORK (July 17, 2007) — Use of the attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Ritalin by young children may cause long-term changes in the developing brain, suggests a new study in an animal model by a research team at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

What are the hidden dangers of ADHD medications? ›

Side effects and risks associated with the long-term use of ADHD medication include:
  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Seizure.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Abuse and addiction.
  • Skin discolorations.
8 Mar 2021

Do ADHD meds cause memory loss? ›

Nonmedicated adults with ADHD showed considerable impairments in memory functions related to executive control. Adults with ADHD treated with MPH showed improved memory functions when compared to nonmedicated patients, but were still impaired when compared to healthy controls.

How long should you be on ADHD medication? ›

Abstract. ADHD is a common neuropsychiatric disorder with a strong persistence over time. Medication is frequently used in the clinical management of ADHD. After response, medication is typically prescribed for months to years.

Does Adderall cause long term damage? ›

Short-term side effects of Adderall include changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and mood. Long-term use of Adderall could lead to addiction, heart problems, slowed growth in children, or mental health issues.

Can Adderall cause brain fog? ›

Can ADHD medications cause brain fog? Some of the drugs used to treat ADHD symptoms can cause side effects that feel like brain fog. These side effects can include: exhaustion or fatigue.

Does Adderall make you age? ›

Research Shows that Amphetamines Accelerate the Aging Process. Amphetamines are a class of stimulants which include illicit substances like methamphetamines and cocaine as well as prescription drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse.

Does your brain go back to normal after stopping Adderall? ›

While Adderall increases concentration, euphoria, and energy, the crash that follows after someone stops taking the drug results in a reversal of these effects. People who have a higher tolerance for Adderall have a more severe withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms include: Depression.

Can you take Adderall forever? ›

There is no standard timeframe for how long a person should take Adderall. However, if you feel that it's no longer benefiting you or is causing you harm, bring these concerns up with your doctor.

What happens to your brain when you stop taking Adderall? ›

Symptoms of Withdrawal

If you've taken Adderall for a long time or have misused it, you might have one or more of these after you stop: Depression, irritability, or other changes in mood. A hard time sleeping. Unusual tiredness (fatigue)

Can Ritalin cause dementia? ›

Can ADHD medication cause dementia? Proper use of ADHD medications, like Adderal and Ritalin, is not associated with a greater risk of dementia.

How long can you stay on Ritalin? ›

There have been no clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of Ritalin for more than 4 weeks of treatment, however. Doctors who prescribe Ritalin for longer than 4 weeks will assess the long-term effectiveness and safety of this medication for each person.

Does Ritalin deplete dopamine? ›

Medications like Ritalin work by blocking the transportation of dopamine that would normally leave the brain, thus increasing its density, but few studies have been done on how long-term treatment affects dopamine transmission when a patient stops taking stimulant medication.

Is methylphenidate long term? ›

Methylphenidate (MPH), the most common medication for children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in many countries, is often prescribed for long periods of time.

What does ADHD medication do to the brain? ›

ADHD medicines improve attention by helping normal brain chemicals work better. The medicines target two brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals affect a person's attention and concentration.

Do stimulants deplete dopamine? ›

Our main observations are that amphetamine can cause depletion of dopamine levels and significant increases in the number of TUNEL-positive cells in the mouse olfactory bulb.

Does Ritalin affect IQ? ›

Conclusions: Methylphenidate can enhance cognitive performance in ADHD patients thus evaluating their IQ scores, although the effect size seems to be relatively small. The result should not be indicated as an increase in intelligence.

Is Ritalin a neurotoxic? ›

Short summary: Adderall/Dexedrine can be neurotoxic in the long run (by damaging dopamine neurons) while Ritalin does not have as much neurotoxicity potential.

Can Ritalin cause serotonin syndrome? ›

Serotonergic drugs

Taking these drugs with methylphenidate may increase your risk of serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. If you take any of these drugs, your doctor will start you on a lowered dosage of methylphenidate and monitor you for signs of serotonin syndrome.

What happens if your ADHD medication is too high? ›

When the dosage is too high, stimulants can cause children or even adults to seem “spacey” or “zombie-like,” or to be uncharacteristically tearful or irritable (a condition known as emotional lability).

Can you fix ADHD without medication? ›

People with ADHD can be effectively treated without drugs, improving brain dysregulation and help optimize brain function, leading to a reduction and/or resolution of symptoms and improved quality of life.

Is ADHD a neurological disorder? ›

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to control their behavior and pay attention to tasks.

Are ADHD Medications habit forming? ›

Does ADHD medication cause addiction problems? Stimulant medications are not considered habit-forming in the doses used to treat ADHD, and there is no evidence that their use leads to substance abuse.

Can you get addicted to ADHD meds? ›

Addiction to ADHD Medication

The medications that treat ADHD, if abused, can lead to addiction. The two most commonly prescribed ADHD medications are Adderall (an amphetamine/stimulant), Vyvanse (also an amphetamine) and Ritalin (also a central nervous system stimulant).

What are the long term effects of taking Concerta? ›

Cardiovascular problems: Long-term abuse of Concerta can potentially result in issues with increased blood pressure, heartbeat abnormalities, and an increased potential to develop stroke or heart attack. Other organ damage: Long-term use of Concerta may result in issues with the stomach, liver, and/or kidneys.


1. Inside the adult ADHD brain
(McGovern Institute)
2. ADDERALL: Doctors Guide to Side Effects
(Erik Richardson D.O.)
3. Adderall Side Effects | Doctor explains ADD Medication & Long Term Effects
(Doctor Jay)
4. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Amphetamine
(Neuroscientifically Challenged)
5. Harold Koplewicz: Your Brain on Ritalin | Big Think
(Big Think)
6. What If You Take ADHD Drugs But You Don’t Have ADHD?
(Above The Noise)

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