How Should Adderall Make You Feel If You Have ADHD?

Updated on March 13, 2024
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
The effect of ADHD medication on neural connections, depicted through abstract art.

What does Adderall really feel like with ADHD? 

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, there is also a growing trend of individuals without ADHD using Adderall for non-medical purposes. This has raised questions about how Adderall affects individuals without ADHD and the potential risks associated with its misuse.

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that contains amphetamine salts and dextroamphetamine. It works by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain. In individuals with ADHD, Adderall helps improve focus, attention, and impulse control.

However, when taken by individuals with ADHD, simulants like Adderall have different effects. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about how Adderall should feel like if you have ADHD.

Understanding ADHD and the Role of Adderall

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in maintaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It affects both children and adults, making it challenging to perform daily tasks and engage in activities.

Adderall is a stimulant medication that is commonly prescribed for the effective treatment of ADHD and ADD. These medications target the underlying chemical imbalances in the brain. Taking Adderall helps people with ADHD to focus, control their impulses, and improve their overall executive functioning.

How Adderall Works for ADHD

Adderall contains stimulant drugs that affect certain neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play essential roles in regulating attention, impulse control, and behavior to treat ADHD.

Here’s how Adderall works to alleviate ADHD symptoms:

  1. Increasing Dopamine and Norepinephrine Levels: Adderall stimulates the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters help regulate attention and improve focus, which are key areas of difficulty for individuals with ADHD.
  2. Enhancing Cognitive Function: By increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels, Adderall can improve executive functions, such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and organization. This can lead to better planning, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities for individuals with ADHD.
  3. Regulating Brain Chemistry: People with ADHD often have imbalances in their brain chemistry, which can contribute to their symptoms. Adderall helps restore this balance by affecting certain regions of the brain that are involved in attention and impulse control.

It’s important to note that the effects of Adderall may vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience significant improvements in their symptoms, while others may have more subtle changes. Additionally, the dosage and duration of treatment may also influence the effects of Adderall.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has ADHD, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Proper medical supervision and regular follow-ups are essential to ensure the safe and effective use of medications like Adderall.

Expected Effects of Adderall on ADHD Patients

Adderall is a psychostimulant that works to reduce ADHD symptoms by 80% by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, ultimately improving focus, attention, and impulse control. When taken as prescribed, patients with ADHD experience several intended effects, including:

  • Enhanced Cognitive Abilities: Adderall improves cognitive functions, such as memory, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities in individuals with ADHD. It assists in organizing thoughts and enhancing executive functions so individuals feel more focused.(1)
  • Improved Focus and Concentration: One of the primary benefits of Adderall for individuals with ADHD is increased focus and concentration. It helps to reduce distractibility and allows them to stay on task for longer periods.(2)
  • Better Impulse Control: Adderall helps individuals with ADHD have better control over their impulsive behaviors. It reduces impulsivity, making it easier to resist acting on immediate desires or urges.
  • Reduced Hyperactivity: ADHD often manifests with hyperactive behavior. Adderall can help individuals with ADHD feel calmer and less restless, reducing hyperactivity symptoms.(3)

Side Effects and Risks of Adderall Use

While Adderall can be beneficial for individuals with ADHD, it is essential to understand the potential physical and emotional side effects and risks associated with its use. Some of the common side effects of taking Adderall include:

  1. Loss of Appetite: Adderall can suppress appetite, resulting in weight loss. It is important to monitor one’s eating habits and ensure proper nutrition while taking the medication.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: Adderall is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep patterns due to its ability to promote wakefulness, leading to difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. It is recommended to take the medication earlier in the day to minimize sleep disturbances.
  3. Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Adderall can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, especially with high doses. Individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions should use caution when taking Adderall and consult with their healthcare provider.
  4. Dependency and Tolerance: Prolonged use of Adderall can lead to dependency and tolerance, meaning higher doses may be required to achieve the same effects.(4)
  5. Potential for Abuse: Adderall is a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse, as the increased amount of dopamine is known to produce feelings of euphoria. It is important to use the medication as prescribed and not share it with others.

It is essential to weigh the potential benefits and risks when considering Adderall for ADHD treatment.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Dependence

When taking Adderall for ADHD, it’s important to be aware of potential withdrawal symptoms and the risk of dependence. While Adderall can be a helpful medication for managing ADHD symptoms, sudden discontinuation or misuse can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Understanding these symptoms and taking appropriate steps can help ensure a safe and effective treatment experience.

Withdrawal symptoms may occur when someone stops taking Adderall after using it for an extended period of time. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating

Adderall, like other stimulant medications, has the potential for addiction. Dependence occurs when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug, and stopping or reducing the dosage leads to extreme withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to take Adderall as prescribed and under the guidance of a healthcare physician to minimize the risk of dependence.

If you’re experiencing symptoms that suggest Adderall may not be working as intended, it’s essential to consult with your doctor. They will assess your symptoms, make necessary dosage adjustments, or explore alternative treatment options.

The next steps include:

  • Consultation with your doctor: Communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms to your doctor. They will provide guidance or adjust your medication accordingly.
  • Dosage adjustment: Your doctor may consider increasing or decreasing your Adderall dosage to better manage your symptoms.
  • Review of alternative treatments: In some cases, alternatives to Adderall for the treatment of ADHD, such as behavioral therapy or non-stimulant medications, may be explored.

Remember, every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.

How Adderall Makes You Feel Without ADHD

So, how does Adderall affect neurotypicals? When people who do not have ADHD take Adderall, it can produce a range of effects. 

Adderall stimulates the brain’s reward system, leading to an intense feeling of euphoria and increased energy levels. This is due to the excessive release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Additionally, Adderall can enhance cognitive abilities, such as focus and concentration, even in individuals without ADHD. It can make it easier to stay on task and complete tasks efficiently.

Adderall can also help individuals stay awake and alert, making it appealing to those who need to study or work for long hours. However, one common side effect of Adderall is a decrease in appetite. This can result in weight loss, which may be desirable for some individuals but can be concerning for others.

It’s important to note that while these effects may initially seem beneficial, there are potential dangers associated with the non-medical use of Adderall.

Conclusion: What Does Adderall Feel Like With ADHD?

Understanding the potential withdrawal symptoms and risks of dependence with Adderall is essential for anyone taking the medication to manage ADHD symptoms. By being aware of these aspects, individuals can take proper precautions and seek guidance from their healthcare professionals to ensure a safe and effective treatment experience. 

Remember, it’s important to always follow the guidance of your doctor and communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms promptly. With the right support and treatment, individuals with ADHD can find the relief they need to thrive.

Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Meyers, C A et al. “Methylphenidate therapy improves cognition, mood, and function of brain tumor patients.” Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology vol. 16,7 (1998): 2522-7. doi:10.1200/JCO.1998.16.7.2522 ↩
  2. Lakhan, Shaheen E, and Annette Kirchgessner. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.” Brain and behavior vol. 2,5 (2012): 661-77. doi:10.1002/brb3.78 ↩
  3. Faraone, S V, and J Biederman. “Efficacy of Adderall for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: a meta-analysis.” Journal of attention disorders vol. 6,2 (2002): 69-75. doi:10.1177/108705470200600203 ↩
  4. Handelman, Kenneth, and Fernando Sumiya. “Tolerance to Stimulant Medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Literature Review and Case Report.” Brain sciences vol. 12,8 959. 22 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3390/brainsci12080959 ↩