Adderall is a stimulant that’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It consists of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine which affect certain neural pathways associated with impulse control and hyperactivity.
College students often use Adderall to enhance their ability to study, but they’re also highly likely to abuse this stimulant. Adderall abuse can result in several side effects, like hypertension, lack of appetite, insomnia, heart attack, and depression.
Here, we’ll explain the link between Adderall and depression and discover how this stimulant can help or worsen your mental health depending on several factors.
Adderall And Depression
Adderall has been used off-label to help reduce depression symptoms in people with ADHD and in those who don’t respond well to traditional pharmacological treatments for depression. Stimulants, like Adderall, can improve someone’s mood by boosting energy levels and alertness which is significant for those with depression.
However, using Adderall without medical supervision is not a good idea. One study found that college students taking this stimulant to improve their academic performance experienced depression more frequently and that the occurrence of depression symptoms was two times higher in students taking Adderall who were not prescribed it than in those who were not using it at all or who didn’t use it on a regular monthly basis.
Sudden cessation of using this stimulant lead to mood swings, hallucinations, psychosis, panic attacks, tremor, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies. In addition, the FDA reports an occurrence of extreme fatigue and depression.
Why Does Adderall Make Me Depressed?
We’ve seen that Adderall can cause depression, but why does it happen?
Adderall stimulates the production of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers have many roles in our central nervous systems, including brain stimulation, energy level regulation, and creating feelings of pleasure. The primary neurotransmitters affected by Adderall are norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
These messengers send information to parts of the brain responsible for internal motivation, reward, and emotion regulation. With regular Adderall use, your brain becomes too reliant on external stimulants and stops producing as many neurotransmitters. So, the dopamine levels remain steady, but the brain becomes used to making less of it.
The problem occurs when people suddenly stop using Adderall. Dopamine levels experience an abrupt drop and positive feelings disappear. This leads to classic stimulant withdrawal symptoms, like panic, anxiety, and depression.
Adderall-induced depression can also occur when you take a too high dose or mix it with other medications, thus disrupting brain chemistry.
However, keep in mind that depression is a complex disease and many factors affect its onset. Genetics, personality, stressful events, early life trauma, seasonal changes, medical problems, and lack of sleep are just some of the things that play a significant role in the development of depression.
How to Prevent Depression from Adderall
The best way to prevent depression from Adderall is by only taking it under medical supervision. Visit a doctor, follow their prescription carefully, and make sure to read the label and report any side effects immediately. This will help your doctor adjust the dosage and minimize the chances of depression symptoms.
Your doctor will most likely prescribe lower doses of Adderall at first and then increase the dosage if needed. They will also make sure to take you off Adderall slowly so that you don’t experience depression and other symptoms resulting from withdrawal.
In addition, a medical professional will review other medications you are taking and identify potential interactions. Those who have taken monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or other antidepressants should not take Adderall. Adderall should also not be mixed with medication for blood pressure, seizures, allergies, blood acid regulation, or blood thinners.
So, to minimize the chances of depression symptoms while taking Adderall, you need to follow a medical professional’s advice and report any adverse effects so that they can correct the dosage or adjust the treatment approach.
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Studies You Can Read About
- The Adderall Epidemic: A Proposed Cyclic Relationship between ADHD Medication Use, Academic Performance, and Mental Distress (Impulse: The Premier Undergraduate Neuroscience Journal 2021)
- The Adderall Epidemic: Linking Illicit Adderall Use to Mental Distress on College Campuses (Alpenglow: Binghamton University Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 2020)
- A Review of Psychostimulants for Adults With Depression (Federal Practitioner, 2015)
- Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and depressed mood among college students: Frequency and routes of administration (Journal of substance abuse treatment, 2010)
- Adderall: On the Razor’s Edge of ADHD Treatment, Enhanced Academic and Physical Performance, Addiction, Psychosis, and Death (EC Psychology and Psychiatry, 2020)
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