Prevalence rates of ADHD neurodevelopmental disorder among children in the US is relatively high, accounting for as much 9.4 percent of the population. Among adults, ADHD is estimated to affect lesser than 1 percent of the population. Belonging to the category of combination medications, Adderall is a prescription drug with amphetamine and dextroamphetamine for treating ADHD. Due to the mechanism of action of the drug, certain side effects are observed among patients on the medication. By virtue of being an important treatment option, it is necessary for patients and caretakers to be aware of the side effects of Adderall.

Commonly reported side effects of Adderall

While the side effects of Adderall may depend on multiple conditions, and have an impact on the intensity and nature of side effects, there are commonly reported side effects. For instance, weight loss, sudden loss of appetite, feelings of anxiety, and aggression are typically observed among patients. Similarly, abnormal feelings, depression and nausea are also reported among patients on the medication. Fatigue and headache are relatively common side effects of Adderall. Before we take an indepth look at the side effects, here is a little background about the drug and its mechanism of action.

How does Adderall work?

Adderall, as mentioned earlier is a combination medication of two stimulants that are responsible for controlling the hyperactivity and impulses of the body. Available in extended release form, Adderall, is an FDA approved drug for treating ADHD and narcolepsy, apart from being used for treating depression, bipolar depression and for achieving weight loss. By virtue of the mechanism of action, Adderall can be addictive and is therefore classified as a controlled substance. It is therefore necessary to know all about the side effects of Adderall as the combination of an addictive substance and side effects can turn out to be undesirable.

The active ingredients in the drug – amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are responsible for regulating the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine and adrenaline are two neurotransmitters in the brain that are linked to actions in the brain and their levels have an impact on behavior of the individual. The altered behavior is responsible for the disorder and the administration of the drug is intended to restore the levels and help the individual manage the condition. The intended effects of the medication typically last for around 6 hours, and Adderall is used along with other therapeutical interventions to bring down the levels of hyperactivity that is attributed to excessive stimulation by the neurotransmitters. The known results of Adderall include the ability to reduce aggression levels, abnormal behavior, impulsive actions, and the desire to seek attention.

In the case of individuals with narcolepsy, the levels of neurotransmitters are less and resultantly, individuals with the condition are unable to stay awake or focus on studies. Adderall is used in such cases for the purpose of helping the individuals stay awake and focus better on activities. This is achieved by stimulating the brain through replication of the effects of the neurotransmitters.

Why is Adderall used by a significant percentage of individuals for ‘off label’ reasons?

Due to the effects of the medication, a large number of individuals take Adderall for ‘off label’ reasons. For instance, one of the side effects of Adderall is weight loss. Consequently, individuals who are looking for a quick way to lose weight, take the prescribed medication. Similarly, many individuals who wish to control appetite, take the drug to restrict their diet. There are various other ‘off label’ uses of the drug which makes it popular among individuals, though for the wrong reasons. Despite the fact that distributing the controlled substance without a prescription is illegal, a significant percentage of individuals use it without a prescription.

Common reasons for off label use include the desire to hit a high when consuming alcohol or other intoxicants. When combined with alcohol, it is known to give a high, and youngsters craving for a quick fix, resort to taking the drug with alcohol. Other uses include the need to increase focus during studies. The medication is known to help improve focus and consequently, youngsters in academic institutions end up taking he prescription drug to help improve focus and secure better grades. It is important to understand that all off label uses are not advisable and may result in side effects of Adderall that will require other treatment to manage.

Effect of Adderall on respiratory system

Among the side effects of Adderall, strong effects on the blood vessels and the respiratory system are noteworthy. Stimulants bring about an increase in blood pressure and also impact the heart rate. Individuals on stimulants are likely to experience these effects as a result of the impact on the circulation of the blood. Easily identifiable symptoms include discoloration of the limb extremities that may or may not be accompanied by pain and a numb feeling. There are other side effects experienced by individuals on medications with Adderall, including strong/adverse effects. For instance, there is the possibility of heart attack or stroke among a small section of patients on the drug. Common symptoms that could indicate the possibility of future complications include pain in the chest, and difficulty in breathing. The risks are considerably higher among patients with a history of heart ailments.

Effect of Adderall on the Central nervous system

The effects of Adderall on the central nervous system are precisely why the prescription drug is used. However, there are other side effects of Adderall of the drug, which are not desired but are the outcomes of the mechanism of action of the medication. This includes staying awake and more alert during the day, in addition to increased focus and a calm disposition. Other effects commonly reported include restlessness, impact on vision, and an inability to speak normally. Nervousness and headaches, apart from a dry mouth are some of the other side effects that Adderall on the central nervous system. While these are relatively mild side effects, there are other serious side effects that merit attention. For instance, when children are administered the medication, there is a possibility of it having an impact on the growth of the child. It is therefore necessary to diligently followed the recommendations on dosage.

In adults, the serious side effects include an adverse impact on libido and actual sexual abilities. Additionally, some of the other side effects of Adderall include fever, and a numb feeling in the limbs. There is the possibility of individuals experiencing allergic reaction as a result of taking Adderall, and this could include inflammation/swelling of the throat and tongue. There are two types of side effects – simple, moderate side effects and intense, serious side effects. The first type of side effects are temporary in nature, and not considered as dangerous or a medical emergency. The second type of side effects are regarded as medical conditions and require medical intervention. For instance, any kind of swelling, or vigors, or seizures are serious in nature and require attention. Similarly, if the patient’s condition for which the medication was administered deteriorates, it is necessary to seek medical attention. As the drug is known to have withdrawal symptoms, it is necessary to wait for the symptoms to subside naturally, which could last for a few weeks.


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