Drug and Alcohol - Dual Diagnosis

I Take Adderall. So Why Am I Depressed?

The Links Between Adderall and Depression

Adderall, an ADHD drug, is often used by some to treat depression. Learn about the links between this ADHD medication and depression in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Dual Diagnosis

April 4, 2023

It is natural for individuals who experience depression to seek ways to manage the negative emotions that trigger them. However, various approaches can benefit the process of overcoming depression, along with many that can be detrimental. For example, harmful coping mechanisms, such as self-medication with drugs, alcohol, binge eating, or self-harm, often worsen depression. 

Substance abuse is frequently used to cope with depression, despite its harmful effects on health. Instead of resorting to harmful techniques to defeat distress, as many people do, engaging in activities that promote happiness and relaxation is better. To develop healthy coping mechanisms, consider talking to a medical professional who can help you. If you tend to rely on harmful strategies, try replacing them with positive ones one by one.

Depression affects numerous Americans annually, and the search for effective treatment can be challenging, especially when managing a mental health problem such as depression. Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is essential when exploring treatment options. For example, while Adderall is primarily prescribed to treat ADHD, it has been associated with depression as an off-label option for treatment. However, it has also been reported to be a potential cause of depression.

By the Numbers:

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, over 50% of Americans have increased their alcohol intake during the Covid-19 lockdown, while the World Health Organization reports a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide due to the pandemic.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a medication commonly prescribed to individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The medication is classified as a central nervous system stimulant and contains two active ingredients: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.  

These chemicals work in the brain by increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, which can enhance attention, focus, and impulse control in individuals with ADHD. Due to its high potential for abuse and addiction, Adderall is considered a controlled substance. It should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional who is familiar with the individual's case, and the prescribed dosage should be strictly followed.

Adderall is purchasable under brand names such as –

  • Adderall - immediate release

  • Adderall XR - extended release

  • Mydayis - extended release

Immediate-release Adderall is commonly administered as an oral tablet, while extended-release Adderall is usually in capsule form for oral consumption. 

What Are the Side Effects of Adderall?

Even if someone is taking Adderall as prescribed because they need it, they can experience unwanted effects and issues. However, if they abuse Adderall by taking too much of it to get high, the harmful effects can be even worse. Using Adderall in this way can cause serious problems and side effects, including psychosis, high BP, high blood sugar, muscle pains, tremors, anxiety, depression, and more.

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Why Is Dealing with Depression Difficult?

Depression encompasses various mood disorders with related symptoms and clinical presentations. It is a severe mental health condition that can significantly negatively impact an individual's overall quality of life.

While individuals who experience depression may know how to make themselves feel better and improve their mental health, implementing these strategies can be challenging. Dealing with depression can prove difficult for several reasons. When someone is in a depressive state, they may experience a lack of energy, hope, happiness, and other positive aspects of life. Depression can be draining and can create a mental fog of negativity, making it challenging to engage in activities that may be helpful. Although the most beneficial actions may seem arduous, they are not impossible to achieve.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression? 

Sometimes it is difficult to understand whether you are feeling depressed or not. If you have been taking Adderall and have been down in the dumps for some time, there are chances that you may be in depression. In order to identify this, look out for depression symptoms, which may include:

  • Suicidal thoughts 

  • You might be finding it challenging to concentrate, think clearly, or make mindful decisions

  • You may not be interested in doing things and engaging in activities that you used to enjoy

  • You may be low on physical energy

  • You may feel unfortunate most of the time 

  • A low mood may be something that doesn't change often

  • Appetite may change drastically and either lead to excessive weight gain or weight loss 

  • You may be struggling with proper sleep patterns

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The Connection Between Depression and Adderall 

There is not just one connection between the prescription drug Adderall and depression. There are many ways the two are linked and how they can depend on each other; or be caused by one another. While some people take Adderall to treat depression, others may fall into depression due to taking the medication. 

Adderall is a stimulant, and when stimulant drugs have been used for a long time it's possible to experience an intense "crash" once the effects of the drug have worn off. This comedown can trigger depression and/or make depression worse.

Doctors may suggest that patients stop or decrease their Adderall intake regularly to check if their symptoms have improved. This can help prevent the overuse of medication, which could also prevent addiction. This will also help to check if patients are developing dependence on the drug. However, not everyone should do this. Only a professionally qualified doctor can determine whether or not this is a good idea for you.

How Does Adderall Treat Depression? 

For individuals with depression and ADHD concurrently, Adderall has been used as an effective but off-label solution – specifically for depression. Unlike conventional depression medications, Adderall is not an antidepressant; rather, it is a stimulant. Much like other stimulants, Adderall can enhance alertness, focus, concentration, attention, and energy levels. This is why the drug may feel like a mood enhancer to someone with depression – acting as an antidepressant by boosting their feel-good hormones. 

Adderall is not commonly administered for depression, but if and when it is, the dosage is typically minimal and is usually in combination with other drugs and medicines. 

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How Does Adderall Cause Depression? 

Adderall also has the potential to induce depression, particularly if someone is taking it in high doses and then abruptly stops taking it. Some individuals also misuse Adderall solely for its euphoric and calming effects. These people often seek out others from whom they can obtain the medication or engage in illicit activities to obtain it. Their motivation for misuse can range from improving academic or work performance, enhancing focus, or simply seeking tranquility.

However, many individuals do not understand how a stimulant such as Adderall works, its potential side effects, and the drug's short-term and long-term impacts on the body. The risks of Adderall dependence and withdrawal can be hazardous, with potential symptoms such as depression, fatigue, sleep disturbances, suicidal thoughts, and more. The potential problems and side-effects of Adderall abuse include:

  • Showing signs of psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions

  • Fluctuations in blood pressure and blood sugar levels

  • Increased heart rate and risk of cardiac issues

  • Experiencing unexplained muscle pains

  • Tremors

  • Respiratory problems or rapid breathing

  • Displaying extreme anger

  • Feeling tired and weak

  • Feeling restless and anxious

Depression and Adderall Abuse

Having a mental illness and abusing drugs are closely linked, especially regarding depression and Adderall abuse. The combination of a mental disorder and an addiction disorder is called a dual diagnosis. People with depression often tend to misuse drugs, including Adderall, as these drugs can improve mood by changing brain chemicals. People with ADHD may also be at risk for depression, so doctors need to consider their need for Adderall. 

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Adderall Crash and Withdrawal

If someone stops taking a drug suddenly, such as Adderall, or tries to use less of it, it can cause physical and mental distress – known as withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true if they're addicted to the drug. For example, withdrawal symptoms from Adderall can include feeling sick to your stomach, sad or worried, throwing up, sweating a lot, aches and pains in your muscles and bones, bad cramps, a high fever, and other things. One of the significant withdrawal symptoms is depression. 

  • Some other adverse symptoms of an Adderall comedown include:

  • Cravings for more and more of the drug

  • Restlessness/panic attacks

  • Depression or sadness 

  • Intense hunger pangs

  • Sleeping too much, too less, or not at all

  • Anxiety/Irritability

  • Suicidal thoughts

After using Adderall too much just once, withdrawal symptoms might not be too bad, but they can still be uncomfortable. Even after a few short-term uses, the body can start feeling used to the substance. In such cases, it is common for people to end up using more Adderall to make themselves feel better. This usually turns into a binge. 

Binging is when someone uses too much of a drug at once. Binging can lead to using the drug a lot over a long period, making the person physically dependent on it. This way, the body develops tolerance to the drug, leading to compulsive behavior and addiction. In addition, when the drug is used for too long and stopped suddenly, withdrawal shocks the body and mind, making it extremely common for the user to go into depression. 

ADHD and Depression

Someone with ADHD may also have depression; if they don't, they are highly vulnerable to it. This is because how they live them feel like fitting into the neurotypical world is challenging. Before they are diagnosed with the problem, it is even worse as they do not understand why everyone around them has trouble accepting them the way they are.

Small things that happen over a long period of time due to their condition can build up to a depressive state. In such cases, when the diagnosis is finally in place, and Adderall is prescribed, it can be the tipping point for the patient. 

How to Avoid Depression While Taking Adderall

It is not typical for someone to suddenly start feeling depressed while taking or by taking Adderall. However, if you do feel depressed, make sure you talk to your doctor. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Depression?

You can judge if you are feeling depressed and need to consult a doctor if you start feeling sad, lonely, and empty inside all of a sudden. In addition, angry outbursts, lack of appetite, slowed down thinking, suicidal thoughts, etc., are also signs that you may be slipping into depression. 

If you are experiencing these symptoms while taking Adderall, it is important to remember that the drug is not an antidepressant itself, and the problem needs to be addressed. Your doctor will be able to help you manage this. If they feel you are developing an addiction, they will help you contact a good rehabilitation facility. Rehab will offer tailored plans to induce recovery and help you out of your depressive phase. 

Why Shouldn't I Self-Medicate with Adderall? 

First and foremost, the highlight of this article: Adderall is not an antidepressant. Trying to medicate yourself with Adderall if you are experiencing depression would be no help. If anything, it will make things worse and eventually become an addiction. Adderall will be able to provide a euphoric high, making you feel like your mood is uplifted, but that does not mean your depression is being treated.

Therefore, the drug cannot help you in the long run. 

Adderall Addiction & Depression Are Both Treatable at The Edge Treatment Center

The Edge Treatment Center is the leading long-term outpatient drug rehab in the US. With a specialized dual diagnosis treatment track, our team uses evidence-based care to help our clients rebuild their lives.

Don't live with Adderall abuse or depression. At The Edge Treatment Center, you'll be treated for both, with a happy, drug-free life that's truly yours. Reach out today to learn more.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.