It may shock some of you, but Adderall is currently one of the most commonly abused drugs in North America. Although it is a pharmaceutical drug designed for the treatment of ADHD (under medical supervision), Adderall is widely used by diverse groups, from students and researchers to traders and programmers. Basically, if a job requires you to concentrate for hours on end and to regularly do all-nighters, then the people that do that job are no strangers to stimulants like Adderall.
This is a serious problem. Adderall is not a drug that you can abuse without consequences. What some people don’t realize about Adderall is that it is a collection of amphetamine salts – in other words, it is just amphetamine under a brand name, in a particular form.
This is why so many people have turned to natural Adderall alternatives, as these offer most of the benefits of the study drug with none of the risks.
One of the main concerns about Adderall abuse is that it may cause acute anxiety while users are under the influence, as well as generalized anxiety in long-term, frequent users.
Does Adderall cause anxiety?
If so, how exactly does Adderall cause anxiety?
Is there a way for you to combat the anxiety-inducing effects of Adderall?
In this article we’ll try to answer these three questions in as much detail as possible. Let’s kick things off with a look at what Adderall does to the brain.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. It has a very simple but extremely powerful effect on the brain which rapidly reduces fatigue, heightens focus, promotes alertness, and drastically increases information processing speed.
Adderall works primarily by stimulating the production of norepinephrine in the brain. This is your body’s “fight or flight” neurotransmitter – it is released when you need to deal with intense situations. Norepinephrine sharpens focus and speeds up information processing, allowing you to concentrate on the most important aspects of a situation and rapidly come to the right decision about how to act (the body’s “figure this out fast” response to danger). Norepinephrine also produces feelings of excitability and confidence; the “adrenaline rush” you’ve no doubt experienced at some point.
At the same time, Adderall also triggers the release of large amounts of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine can be thought of as your reward for completing tasks. Dopamine is released when you reach a goal or when you satisfy a need; think winning a bet or scratching an itch. Interestingly, dopamine is also released in anticipation of achieving a goal, which is the basis for your motivation to keep going.
By stimulating the release of these two neurotransmitters, Adderall can dramatically boost motivation, focus, confidence, determination, information processing, and mental energy.
But it has its downsides.
Dangers of Adderall use
Adderall is not a drug that people should be using without medical supervision. While it may seem like something that “everybody is doing”, the prevalence of use does not indicate safety.
Adderall is not safe – far from it!
As a collection of amphetamine salts designed to prolong and hasten the drugs effects, Adderall produces a wide variety of side effects which range from the uncomfortable to life threatening.
Common side effects of Adderall use include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Distorted time perception
The long-term consequences of Adderall use include higher risks of:
- Heart disease
As you might have noticed, anxiety came up twice on our list of Adderall’s side effects. That’s because Adderall can cause both acute and long-term, generalized anxiety depending on user susceptibility to anxiety, length of use, doses used, and other factors.
Adderall and anxiety
Can Adderall cause anxiety?
Yes! Of course it can! As an extremely powerful CNS stimulant, Adderall raises your norepinephrine levels to way beyond normal bounds. Norepinephrine release to this degree is necessary when faced with an extremely dangerous situation, like a mountain lion or a car crash. But when you’re just trying to get a project done by deadline or to pay attention in class, having this kind of norepinephrine release is extremely damaging to your mental and physical health, not least because of the acute anxiety spike it causes.
Adderall use causes acute anxiety. While users are under the influence of Adderall, their anxiety levels go through the roof. Generally speaking, they will find themselves to be highly irritable, on edge, and jittery. This is just what norepinephrine does; it makes you anxious because anxiety is a correct response to threats (but not to a lecture or board meeting).
Even those people who do not become temporarily more anxious while using Adderall will usually find that the crash of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin that follows Adderall use -the Adderall ‘comedown’ – almost always induces anxiety.
More worryingly than this though are the long-term effects that Adderall can have on your mental health, not least of which is its tendency to cause generalized anxiety.
Repeated Adderall use places great stress on your brain’s ability to produce and respond to both norepinephrine and dopamine. These two neurotransmitters are intimately involved in your ability to cope with stress. In cases of prolonged Adderall use (or any amphetamine use), receptors for dopamine can become severely depleted. This is because the brain needs to compensate for perpetually elevated dopamine levels, and because of damage to receptors from over-stimulation. This means that your brain will register lower dopamine levels at all times, which leads to chronic anxiety. The same goes for norepinephrine, and to some degree serotonin too.
This is the mechanism by which Adderall use can cause chronic, lasting anxiety issues in adults.
It is for this reason that we strongly advise against the use of Adderall for the purposes of merely enhancing cognitive function. There are plenty of top nootropics out there capable of improve focus, memory, mental energy, and motivation without causing acute or chronic anxiety.