Adderall® is a powerful prescription drug that, when used properly, can help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But when that power is abused by people who use the drug recreationally or not as prescribed, it can cause serious problems, especially if they have mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, cyclothymic disorder, or seasonal affective disorder, among others. Adderall® abuse and mood disorders are a dangerous combination, one which may cause serious health complications.

Adderall® Abuse Symptoms

Adderall® use has become extremely popular in recent years. Statistics say that about 16 million prescriptions have been written for the drug in the United States. But Adderall® is also ripe for abuse. Roughly 1.4 million people in the United States misuse Adderall®, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Because it an amphetamine-based stimulant, it is often misused or abused for the intense rush it provides, flooding the brain with dopamine. Because the brain can get hooked on this dopamine rush, users can start to crave it, which can lead to Adderall® abuse.

When Adderall® hits the bloodstream, it can trigger an elevation in blood pressure, breathing and heart rates, body temperature, and blood sugar levels. There is an increase in focus, and a decrease in appetite. (The latter makes Adderall® susceptible for misuse as a weight-loss drug.) These effects can all take a toll on the body’s brain, lungs, and other organs. With Adderall® abuse, those symptoms can intensify and may lead to hypertension, insomnia, weight loss, muscle weakness, constipation, organ dysfunction, head and stomach pain, lung damage leading to pulmonary distress, and increased risk for cardiac arrest or stroke, among other problems. But one of the biggest areas of impact is with the brain and its resulting effect on mood.

Adderall® Abuse and Mood Disorders

As prolonged abuse of Adderall® continues to flood the brain with dopamine, it eventually changes brain chemistry. The brain will stop producing dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, because Adderall® has taken over that function. But when the body doesn’t have any Adderall® in its system, the resulting loss of dopamine can end up causing a kind of emotional crash. That can trigger irritability, anger, depression, paranoia, psychosis, or thoughts of suicide. 

These symptoms are especially problematic for people who have mood disorders. Adderall® abuse can lead to mood swings, which can be precarious for people who are grappling with something like bipolar disorder. There are generally two stages involved in bipolar disorder: mania and depression. Because Adderall® is a stimulant, it can trigger a facsimile of a manic episode, with the same heightened emotions. There is a danger that people who are in the depression phase of bipolar disorder will be tempted to use Adderall® to get out of that depressive state. However, the drug won’t necessarily eliminate the anxiety and sadness that can come with the depression. Mood swings can become more extreme, and switching between the manic and depressive episodes, called cycling, may occur more quickly. In the most serious cases, people may think about suicide or experience panic attacks or hallucinations. 

It’s important to note that Adderall® can affect people in different ways, according to their age, gender, and other factors. Women, especially, can be more susceptible to the intense symptoms of Adderall® abuse because they process the drug in a different way than men, especially during the menstrual cycle when Adderall® produces a stronger effect. Women with mood disorders may run the risk of increased anxiety and moodiness, in addition to the other symptoms associated with Adderall® misuse. 

What to Do If You Experience Adderall® Abuse and Mood Disorders

Because of the serious risks inherent in Adderall® abuse, people with mood disorders should seek out immediate professional treatment. It is a powerful drug, and needs to be managed accordingly. It’s also key to have experienced addiction rehabilitation treatment because Adderall® can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, including sleep disorders, headaches, mental fuzziness, nightmares, and depression or anxiety. With proper treatment and abstinence from Adderall® use, the brain chemistry may be able to return to normal so mood swings won’t be exacerbated and physical and mental symptoms can be reduced. If you or someone you love is abusing Adderall® and there is a mood disorder involved, get help as soon as possible to improve your health and your quality of life.