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Can Adderall Cause Depression?

Millions of people in the United States take prescription stimulants like Adderall to manage symptoms of a condition called attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving concentration and focus. Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Kidneys

However, as helpful as this medication is for ADHD, many users have also wondered, “does Adderall cause depression?” We did the research, so you don’t have to.

What Is Depression?

Depression isn’t simply an intense sense of sadness but a severe medical illness that negatively impacts how you feel, think, and behave. Like other mental illnesses, major depressive disorder can make completing common day-to-day tasks nearly impossible.

It can affect your relationship with your loved ones and how you interact with your coworkers. Your job, school work, and social life may all be heavily impacted.

Depression can have physical side effects, as well, such as unexplainable body aches and pains. People who have depression are also at an increased risk of self-harm and suicide.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling extremely sad
  • Feeling guilty or hopeless
  • Extreme changes in appetite – may lead to weight loss or weight gain
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making sound decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Decreased performance at school or work
  • Declined sociability

Symptoms must last for two weeks and represent a significant change in the person’s level of functioning. Depression can be caused by various things, from the sudden loss of a loved one to a chemical imbalance caused by drug use.

What Is Adderall and How Does It Work?

Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It’s made up of a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is part of the stimulant drug class.

Like other central nervous system stimulants, Adderall works by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. These are chemicals used by nerve cells to communicate with each other.

Norepinephrine and dopamine are both related to mood, focus, cognition, and alertness. When a person with ADHD takes Adderall, symptoms like difficulty concentrating, impulsive behavior, and fidgeting are alleviated.

However, sometimes people who don’t have ADHD take Adderall or similar medications like Ritalin to improve their performance at school or work. However, due to these drugs’ effects on the brain, this form of drug use increases the risk of developing an addiction significantly.

What are the Potential Side Effects of Adderall Abuse in Women? 

When women abuse Adderall, they may experience various side effects such as increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, changes in bowel movements, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and decreased libido. Additionally, abusing Adderall for weight loss purposes can lead to rapid shedding of pounds, which, although desired by some individuals, can be dangerous. This rapid weight loss may result in anorexia, leading to potential cardiovascular damage, liver damage, and a significant slowing of metabolism. Taking excessive amounts of Adderall, whether for weight loss or other reasons, can also cause side effects such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and mood swings. Furthermore, it is important to note that pregnant women should not take Adderall due to potential risks to the fetus. Studies in pregnant animals have indicated potential side effects, and other illicit amphetamines like crystal meth have been shown to harm fetuses and infants, resulting in low birth weight, premature birth, and withdrawal symptoms after birth, all of which can contribute to higher infant mortality rates. On a different note, while hormone replacements are typically prescribed to alleviate negative symptoms associated with menopause, some women do not benefit from these treatments due to various health conditions. In such cases, small studies have suggested that Adderall could potentially be effective in treating memory, attention problems, and concentration issues linked to hormonal changes during menopause. This treatment may also contribute to an improved sense of self-esteem by addressing these cognitive issues. However, it's important to mention that Adderall has not been officially approved for this off-label use.

Why Does Adderall Effect Women Differently than Men? 

Adderall affects women differently than men due to the influence of estrogen, a hormone primarily present in women. Studies have shown that a woman's menstrual cycle, which is regulated by estrogen, can impact how Adderall is processed in her body. During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, which occurs in the first 14 days, Adderall tends to have a more potent effect on women, leading to increased side effects and a higher risk of physical dependency. The presence of estrogen during this phase can enhance the effects of amphetamines like Adderall by triggering the release of dopamine in the brain.

This differential processing of Adderall in women compared to men can result in more serious side effects when the substance is abused. Women may experience increased anxiety, sleep disturbances, changes in bowel movements, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, and decreased libido. Additionally, women who misuse Adderall may seek out the side effect of weight loss, as the drug boosts energy levels while suppressing appetite. This can lead to rapid weight loss, but the dangers of such behavior include anorexia, which can result in serious health issues like cardiovascular and liver damage, as well as a significant slowdown in metabolism.

Why Is Adderall Considered a Highly Addictive Drug?

Adderall is considered a highly addictive drug due to its impact on neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. By altering the levels of these chemical messengers responsible for energy regulation, brain stimulation, and pleasure sensation, Adderall disrupts the brain's natural balance. When consistently exposed to Adderall, the brain may reduce its own production of dopamine as it becomes reliant on the drug for maintaining dopamine levels. As a result, when Adderall is no longer in the system, dopamine levels drop, causing feelings of anxiety, depression, and panic. This cycle of chemical dependency and withdrawal symptoms resulting from prolonged use of Adderall contributes to its classification as a highly addictive drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Does Adderall Make You Depressed?

Yes, Adderall can cause depression and worsen symptoms.

Depression is a genuine concern for people who take Adderall. In fact, even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has spoken of the dangers of Adderall causing depression. They’ve said that depression can occur if someone overuses or abuses Adderall and then suddenly stops taking the medication. In cases like this, the individual is most likely dependent on the medication.1

Dependence means that they’ve become mentally and physically tolerant of Adderall, and taking less than usual or suddenly stopping their use can lead to uncomfortable side effects like depression. It’s also common for people who have become accustomed to taking Adderall or have overused it to experience depression as a comedown symptom.

When abused, Adderall can produce a rush of euphoria, energy, and alertness. When its side effects wear off, however, the person may experience a sudden crash. Also known as a comedown period, this crash may include irritability, fatigue, and depression.

The more frequently this occurs, the higher the person’s risk of developing depression. Some common signs of Adderall-induced depression to look out for include:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in normally fun activities
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Difficulty speaking
  • nability to concentrate or focus

There are also physical signs of depression that may occur as a result of Adderall abuse, including:

  • Low pain threshold or increased sensitivity to pain
  • Achy muscles and joints
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

So, Adderall and depression are more tightly linked than you might have thought. If you’re taking this medication, be sure to speak to your doctor about this and other possible side effects. If you’re hesitant, ask about other treatment options that don’t involve this medication.

How does Adderall impact brain structures and emotions?

Adderall impacts brain structures and emotions by increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain while altering the way these neurotransmitters are reabsorbed. This leads to a build-up of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are essential for boosting energy levels, stimulating the brain, and inducing feelings of pleasure. These neurotransmitters play a vital role in communication with brain regions responsible for regulating emotions, internal motivation, and reward. With regular use of Adderall, the brain may become reliant on the drug's interference in neurotransmitter production, causing natural dopamine production to decrease. When Adderall is no longer present in the bloodstream, dopamine levels drop, leading to a withdrawal of the pleasurable feelings induced by the drug. This can result in the onset of anxiety, depression, and panic as the brain attempts to readjust its chemical balance.

What are some symptoms of Adderall withdrawal?

Adderall withdrawal symptoms can manifest as anxiety, depression, and panic due to alterations in the brain caused by prolonged use of the drug. As the brain becomes reliant on Adderall to sustain dopamine levels, a decrease in the brain's natural production of this neurotransmitter can occur. When Adderall is no longer present in the system, dopamine levels drop, leading to a cessation of the positive effects induced by the drug. This abrupt change in chemical balance may result in psychological distress characteristic of Adderall withdrawal.

What are some cardiovascular issues and gastrointestinal problems associated with Adderall use?

Adderall use can lead to various cardiovascular issues and gastrointestinal problems. Stimulants like Adderall can elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, which can disrupt the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. Chronic use or abuse of Adderall may cause alterations in brain structures and impact the regulation of emotions. Additionally, Adderall can put a strain on the heart muscles, lungs, vascular system, and other internal organs, leading to potential cardiovascular complications. Gastrointestinal problems can also arise due to Adderall use, such as appetite suppression, which can affect the digestive system.

Stimulant Addiction Treatment

Not only does Adderall cause depression, but long-term abuse can also lead to addiction, physical ailments like kidney and liver disease, and increase your risk of overdose. Prescription stimulant abuse also often escalates to illicit drug use, such as the use of cocaine and methamphetamine, which are even more dangerous and impactful.

If you notice that your Adderall use has gotten out of hand, or you’re frequently experiencing withdrawal symptoms like depression, it’s time to get help. Our Christian recovery center for addiction offers prescription drug addiction treatment for people addicted to their medications.

Our rehab programs offer a multidimensional form of care, from medically monitored detox to therapy to aftercare services for long-term recovery. If you need help overcoming drug or alcohol addiction, we’re here to help.

Call Faith in Recovery today at 888-280-4763 to find out how you or a loved one can get started in our faith-based recovery programs.

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  1. FDA - Adderall® (CII)