Can You Overdose on Adderall?Anna Ciulla
Adderall’s use is widespread in today’s world. It is is a prescription medication for the treatment of narcolepsy or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults. But, in recent years, people are turning to Adderall to improve test scores, pull all-nighters, and lose weight.
Because of this widespread recreational use, it is essential to ask, what happens if you take far more than the prescribed dosage of Adderall? Can you overdose on Adderall? If the answer is yes, how much is too much? What are the signs and symptoms of overdose? What should you do if you think you or someone you are with is overdosing? This article will answer these questions so you can keep both yourself and your loved ones safe from the dangers of Adderall overdose. We will also educate you about drug detox options if you or your loved one is addicted.
What is Adderall?
Adderall combines two drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is considered a stimulant. Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that works by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine within your central nervous system.
With these increased levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, Adderall is known to trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response characterized by pupil dilation, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and increased sweating. Finally, as an amphetamine, Adderall has the potential to raise blood glucose levels and cause breathing passages to open.
Who is Using Adderall?
As stated, Adderall is meant to be used by those who suffer from ADHD, or narcolepsy. However, more recently, there has been a sharp rise in non-medical users of Adderall.
Often called a “study drug,” Adderall can be found on college campus’ across the country as well as in many high schools. Although there is no scientific evidence supporting the idea that Adderall can increase performance on tests, many students honestly believe they will be a more successful student if they take Adderall. Others use Adderall to feel energized and awake, despite lack of sleep, which helps them stay up and study around the clock to improve their grades.
In a society where young people believe you can never be “too rich or too thin,” many young adults use Adderall to take advantage of one of its most common side effects; weight loss. Still, others take Adderall for a feeling of euphoria, or to experience a sense of invincibility—in other words, to experience a high.
Young People and Adderall
Considering Adderall’s non-medical “benefits,” many young people think the perception of Adderall is a relatively harmless go-to drug for high achievement and self-improvement. The impression that Adderall is a risk-free wonder drug for non-medical users, however, is a dangerous misconception.
Statistics show that between 2006 and 2011, emergency room visits involving Adderall increased by 156 percent. Adderall abuse rose 67 percent with young adults ranging from 18-25. 60 percent of those young adults were non-medical users.
In 2014, young adults 18-25 were the most at-risk age group for prescription stimulant addiction. Beyond that, 11.7 million Americans reported that at some point in their lives they had misused Adderall. In 2017, Adderall topped the list for drugs used by high school seniors with 5.5 percent, followed by tranquilizers (4.7 percent) and prescription opiates (4.2 percent).
What are the Effects of Adderall?
As noted, if properly prescribed, Adderall is helpful in managing narcolepsy and attention problems associated with ADHD. In this case, the drug works to bring the person who has ADHD to a “normal” level of functioning. Because Adderall works to increase dopamine in the brain’s reward center, the effect for someone who has ADHD is that they become more attentive, and experience a “calming effect” from the drug.
While many non-medical users insist they too experience better focus as well, research shows it may be nothing more than a placebo effect. Often, the non-medical user thinks they will be more focused than they actually are. A review of 40 studies by UCLA Addiction Medicine Service found that more than half of non-medical Adderall users didn’t see any cognitive improvements.
Additionally, even small doses of Adderall can produce many side effects. Some of the side effects of using and abusing Adderall are as follows:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Organ damage
It is important to note that these side effects don’t necessarily indicate an Adderall overdose.
Can You Overdose on Adderall?
The short answer is: yes, you can overdose on Adderall. The standard prescription of Adderall ranges from 5 to 60 milligrams (mg). Many users split up these dosages throughout the day.
Additionally, typical adolescents may start with a dosage of 10 mg per day and increase that dosage under a doctor’s supervision depending on their reaction to the drug and their age. Adults are commonly prescribed a dosage of 20 mg per day, with their dosage being adjusted by the doctor as well.
The exact dosage that would be considered lethal or even potentially lethal is different for each person. However, as a general rule, a lethal dosage of Adderall would be 20 to 25 mg per kilogram of your body weight.
For example, if you weigh 154 pounds, a lethal dose of Adderall would be 1,400 mg, which is twenty-five times higher than the usual dosage. However, there have been reports of fatal overdose occurring with as low as 1.5 mg/kg of body weight.
Because overdose can vary widely from person to person, it is essential to consider the following:
- Do you have a history of heart disease?
- How sensitive are you to drugs in general and stimulants in particular?
- When was your last use of Adderall and the dosage?
- The level of dosage?
- Your age?
- Your weight?
Negative Side Effects and Other Medications
There is also a greater possibility of overdosing if you take other drugs or medications while also taking Adderall. Even if you take an average dosage of Adderall, if you combine it with certain medications you run the risk of overdose.
Adderall and MAOIs
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These MAOIs can increase the risk of adverse side effects and potential overdose. Common MAOIs are:
- Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Phenelzine (Nardil)
- Selegiline (Atapryl)
Adderall CYPSD6 Inhibitors
Even low doses of CYP2D6 inhibitors while also taking Adderall can increase the user’s chance of adverse side effects. Common CYP2D6 inhibitors include:
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Cinacalcet (Sensipar)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Quinidine (Quinidex)
- Ritonavir (Norvir)
Adderall and Caffeine
People who use Adderall for medical or non-medical purposes wonder if they can drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks such as tea or colas. Although ingesting a small amount of caffeine with Adderall is unlikely to have a detrimental effect, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies caffeine as a drug as well as a food additive, and the user may experience unwanted adverse effects from the combination.
Side effects when combining caffeine and Adderall Include:
- Mild to serious insomnia
- Uneven heart rhythm
The combination of Adderall and caffeine is also especially dangerous if you have a history of heart problems, high blood pressure, or an anxiety disorder.
Adderall and Xanax
Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug prescribed for people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder (often both). The effect of Xanax is to make the user feel calmer, more relaxed, and better able to cope with their specific anxieties.
However, when Xanax and Adderall are taken together it can be very dangerous. Generally speaking, you should never mix these two drugs. The reasons go as follows:
- Decreased effectiveness of both drugs. For example, if you suffer from anxiety, Adderall can increase that anxiety which counteracts the positive effects of the Xanax. Likewise, if you need to focus, Xanax can make you drowsy, and you may have difficulty concentrating.
- Increased risk of Adderall addiction. Using two controlled substances together is known to increase the risk of dependence or addiction for either drug.
What are the Symptoms of Overdose?
When considering overdosing on Adderall, you need to remember that symptoms can be mild to severe. In some cases, death may result because of an Adderall overdose. Many factors figure into the severity of your symptoms. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has possibly overdosed on Adderall, you should consider the following:
- How much Adderall did the user take?
- How sensitive the user’s system is to Adderall and other drugs?
- Was Adderall taken with other drugs?
Mild symptoms would be as follows:
- Blurry vision
- Muscle aches and weakness.
- Rhabdomyolysis, or muscle tissue breakdown.
- Upset stomach
Severe symptoms would be as follows:
- Abdominal pain
- Break down of muscles, or rhabdomyolysis
- Dark red or brown urine (secondary to rhabdomyolysis)
- Fever of 106.7°F (41.5°C) or higher
- Heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Uncontrollable shaking
What Should I Do If I Suspect Adderall Overdose?
If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose of Adderall, the most important thing to keep in mind is to seek professional emergency medical care immediately. It is essential that you remain calm, yet it is equally important not to wait, hoping the Adderall user will “sleep it off,” or that the Adderall overdose symptoms will decrease with time.
In the U.S. you can call 911 or the National Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If you are with someone whom you suspect has overdosed, you will be asked to remain on the line until medical help arrives. Be prepared to give emergency services the following information:
- The physical condition and symptoms of the person overdosing
- The person’s age
- Any medical conditions the user may have
- When the person who is overdosing took the Adderall
- How much Adderall the person took
Until emergency services arrive, be sure to keep the individual in a safe environment and away from sharp objects in the event of a seizure. If the person begins to vomit, be sure to have them lie on their side to ensure that their airway remains open.
What Can I Expect After Emergency Services Are Called?
After emergency services are called, you or the person you know will be taken to a hospital or emergency room. Once there, or even en route, you or your friend may be treated with activated charcoal to help neutralize the effect of the Adderall overdose.
At the hospital or ER, the person suffering from the Adderall overdose may have their stomach pumped to expel any unabsorbed drugs. If the person suffering from Adderall overdose is still experiencing hyperactivity or agitation from the effects of the drug, doctors may sedate the patient with benzodiazepines.
The person experiencing Adderall overdose may display symptoms of serotonin syndrome. The following are symptoms of this syndrome:
- Dilated pupils
- Elevated body temperature
- Increased reflexes
In this case, the doctor may give the person experiencing the overdose medication to block the serotonin.
Finally, the person who has overdosed will potentially be given intravenous fluids to replace essential nutrients and prevent dehydration. Once stabilized, the patient may be asked to stay in the hospital for observation purposes. When the medication has fully left the patient’s system, the chances are good that they can make a full recovery.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Adderall
If you or someone you know has developed an Adderall addiction, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug. Unfortunately, some of the more severe Adderall withdrawal symptoms may cause the person to seek out more of the drug, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Some of the following symptoms characterize Adderall withdrawal:
- Aching muscles
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps or pain
Other more severe withdrawal symptoms may be:
- Kidney and liver damage
- Partial loss of vision
For more detailed information, read our guide on Adderall withdrawal.
Adderall is considered, especially by young adults, to be a wonder drug that can help them lose weight, get better grades, and provide them with feelings of euphoria. However, like any other amphetamine, Adderall can be both addictive and potentially dangerous. The risk of adverse side effects increases when the Adderall user combines the drug with other drugs and overdose is a genuine possibility. Don’t let yourself or those you love be lulled into thinking Adderall is a harmless drug. As with all prescription medication, the potential for harm is as great or greater than its benefits.
If you or a loved one is seeking drug detox from Adderall, please call our Florida rehab recovery center today. Our inpatient drug rehab services can help you detox and recover in a safe environment with professional staff. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call Beach House Recovery for more information on drug rehab and addiction treatment.
Johns Hopkins HUB. Feb. 2016
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Aug, 2017
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. July, 2012