Adderall Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on June 18, 2024
9 min read

Adderall is the brand name for a combination of two drugs: dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It's given to people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy (sudden attacks of sleep, especially in the daytime). It works by changing some of the naturally occurring chemicals in your brain. Specifically, it increases the amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. Dopamine plays a role in feeling pleasure and motivation. Norepinephrine helps you stay awake, think clearly, and pay attention.

People with ADHD have trouble with paying attention, impulsiveness, and sitting still. Adderall can improve focus, decrease restlessness, and help control impulsive behavior (including the hard-to-stop habit of interrupting people). But like other medications, it comes with possible side effects.

Some Adderall side effects, such as dry mouth, don’t need medical treatment. But if you get other symptoms, such as pain when you pee, you should tell your doctor right away.

If you take a generic version of Adderall, the two drug names (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) will be on your medicine bottle. The generic type costs less, but that’s about the only difference you’ll notice. Generic dextroamphetamine/amphetamine has the same benefits and the same risk of side effects as brand-name Adderall.

Many common side effects will get better or go away as your body gets used to the medicine. They might include:

If you have any of these side effects, ask your doctor how long they are likely to last, as well as what to do if they don’t get better. 

Can Adderall cause headaches?

Yes, headaches can be a common side effect of Adderall, according to the manufacturer. One 2022 review of available studies and clinical trials found that children with ADHD were more likely to have headaches than those without ADHD, and that headaches were a frequent side effect of drug treatments for ADHD. 

Rarely, Adderall causes more serious side effects. Tell your doctor at once if you have any of these:

  • A major increase in your blood pressure
  • Intense muscle pain or weakness
  • An erection that hurts or lasts too long
  • Changes of feeling or color in your fingertips or toes
  • Slow speech
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Verbal or physical tics
  • Teeth grinding
  • Rash or hives
  • Skin that starts peeling or blistering
  • Swelling of face, tongue, eyes, or throat

Mental health side effects from taking Adderall are rare but could include:

As a stimulant, Adderall can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, and cause you to breathe harder. If you take too much of it, you could put your heart and your health at risk.

To be on the safe side, doctors usually don’t prescribe Adderall to people with:

Most large studies have found no significant link between ADHD medications (including stimulants such as Adderall) and a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke in children and adults. But there could be a small increased risk of cardiac arrest or abnormal heart rhythms in female patients, patients with preexisting heart disease, and those on the drug for a long time.

A 2023 study found a link between long-term use of ADHD medicines (including Adderall) and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, though the risk was quite small. Further study is needed. The FDA warns that patients who have serious heart problems should avoid Adderall.

Even without a perfect heart, you may still be able to take Adderall for ADHD. Expect to see a heart doctor (cardiologist) first. You'll need to get your heart rate and blood pressure checked at follow-up doctor visits.

Exposure to the amount of amphetamine in Adderall can be higher for women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). This is because women and people AFAB tend to weigh less than men and those assigned male at birth (AMAB). When doses were not based on body mass, the amount of one amphetamine type in Adderall that a woman processed was 20%-30% more than a man processed. When the dose was adjusted for body mass, the amount of amphetamine processed for men and women was the same. For the other amphetamine in Adderall, there was no difference by sex.

Some studies show that Adderall can have greater side effects during the first 14 days of a woman's menstrual cycle. Women might have a stronger craving for Adderall and feel more euphoric (happy and excited) than usual during this time. Experts think that the increased presence of estrogen during these 14 days might be enhancing the effects. Estrogen can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain too.

One study noted that women were more likely than men to experience the following side effects:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth

Adderall side effects in men were similar to those for women, though men were more likely to report a loss of sex drive and sweating as side effects.

The most common side effects in children taking Adderall are: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia/problems sleeping
  • Nervousness
  • Fever
  • Jitteriness
  • Withdrawing from friends and family (social withdrawal)

Long-term side effects can include: 

Addiction. Adderall can be habit-forming because it makes you feel euphoric, thanks to the increase in dopamine. You'll notice this feeling more if you're taking the drug and you don't have ADHD or narcolepsy. You'll need larger and larger quantities of Adderall to keep that euphoric feeling going.

Heart problems. Adderall can raise your blood pressure or heart rate. This is a particular problem if you have high blood pressure or an abnormal heart rhythm such as atrial fibrillation. If you don't have any heart problems, Adderall is unlikely to give you one.

Mental problems. While the risk of developing mental health issues while on Adderall is low, one study showed that among adolescents and young adults with ADHD who were receiving prescription stimulants, about 1 in 660 patients experienced psychosis (hallucinations and delusions) for the first time. The risk was twice as high for patients on Adderall as it was for patients on Ritalin, another stimulant.

Stunted growth. Although Adderall appears to slow growth in children, studies show the change is small and kids usually catch up to their peers over time.

Adderall XR is the long-acting version of Adderall. The XR stands for "extended release." Adderall XR lasts 12 hours, so you need to take it only once a day. Regular Adderall (also known as Adderall IR -- short for "immediate release") has to be taken every 4-6 hours, which could mean taking the pill two or three times a day. 

For children who may not remember to take their medicines, XR might be a better option. XR is in capsule form and is made up of half IR beads and half XR beads. Adderall IR comes as a tablet/pill.

The side effects are the same for both versions of the drug.

When you first stop using Adderall, you may experience:

  • Sleeping for longer than usual
  • Irritability
  • Overeating
  • Mild cravings for the drug

This "crash phase" will last for a day or two. After that, for 2-4 weeks you could experience:

  • Depression, mood swings, and an inability to experience pleasure
  • Stronger cravings for the drug
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Lethargy

This is called the withdrawal phase. Psychotic episodes are possible during this period. 

If you were misusing Adderall, the withdrawal effects will be similar to those above, though they could be more pronounced if you weren't taking the drug for a medical reason. Fortunately, the withdrawal symptoms are mild and not life-threatening, though they could be worse if you were on a high dosage of Adderall over a long period. 

There aren't any medications to treat Adderall withdrawal, though you may be given an antidepressant if your depression is long-lasting.

You can take steps to reduce some side effects of Adderall. Ask your doctor what might work for you. Some things you can try:

Have good sleep habits. Many people with ADHD have insomnia, or trouble sleeping. Stimulant medicines such as Adderall can add to the problem. To get better sleep, limit caffeine and screen time (phone, TV, or video games) close to bedtime.

Don’t take Adderall after 5 p.m. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember -- up to a point. The later you take this drug, the more likely it is to keep you awake at night. Try not to take any Adderall after 5 p.m. If you use an XR version, try not to take it after 2 p.m.

Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol affects the way your body processes Adderall. That could result in unusual side effects, including sleepiness.

Ask your doctor if you should switch antidepressants. A few antidepressants can increase Adderall’s side effects. These drugs include:

Reduce dry mouth. You can’t stop Adderall from causing dry mouth, but you can take steps to put moisture back in.

  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candies, which get saliva flowing.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol.
  • Sip water throughout the day.
  • Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes. (Your pharmacist can point you in the right direction.)
  • Try a "dry mouth" mouthwash.
  • Avoid antihistamines, which can contribute to dry mouth.
  • Put a humidifier in your bedroom.

Adderall is a stimulant used for treating ADHD. Its main ingredients are a mix of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. While the drug can help you remain more focused and alert as well as control impulsive behavior, it does have some side effects. These can be mild, such as dry mouth, or more serious, such as rapid heartbeat or a psychotic episode where you start hallucinating. The serious side effects are rare, but Adderall may cause you to become dependent on it. This is more likely if you take it for nonmedical reasons.

What happens if you take Adderall without ADHD?

College students and other people who need to stay awake and focus on work or study often take Adderall without having ADHD. The problem is that Adderall overstimulates a brain that already has normal levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. You might feel jittery, lose your appetite, and experience greater insomnia. And you may not get the benefit you're expecting. Research found that using stimulants such as Adderall made the study participants take longer to complete a mental task than those who got the placebo (dummy drug) -- and their results were slightly less accurate too.

Is it bad to take Adderall every day?

You'll need to check with your or your child's doctor. Many children and teens with ADHD just take Adderall on school days and take a break on the weekend to lessen some of the side effects such as insomnia. If you're an adult with ADHD, it may be safe to take it every day but that depends on several factors. 

Is 10 milligrams of Adderall a lot?

Ten milligrams of Adderall XR is a typical dose for children between the ages of 6 and 17, according to the drug's manufacturer. This is only given once per day. For an adult, a typical dose of Adderall XR is 20 milligrams, given once per day.