Can Adderall Cause Anxiety?

What is Adderall?

There is a complex relationship between Adderall and anxiety, a medication commonly used to treat ADHD. While Adderall can help manage ADHD symptoms, it is also a controlled substance with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Adderall abuse can worsen anxiety symptoms and even lead to the development of anxiety disorders.

The prescription medication Adderall contains two drugs, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Its common use is for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has been used to treat narcolepsy. Studies show that the use of Adderall improves attention and focus, reduces impulsive behaviors, and increases daytime wakefulness in individuals who have narcolepsy. 

It comes in two forms, immediate-release (IR) which is referred to as just Adderall, and extended-release (ER), referred to as Adderall XR. Extended-release gradually releases the drug into our body over time. (1)

Adderall is a schedule II-controlled substance. This drug containing amphetamines it has an extensive history of abuse. Tolerance, extreme psychological dependence, and severe social disability have occurred creating psychological and physical dependence. This drug is suggested to be prescribed and dispensed sparingly due to its potential for misuse/abuse. (2).

Adderall Side Effects

 Side effects can range from mild to serious and may go away as soon as a few days or a couple of weeks. If they persist, you should contact your doctor or pharmacist. The more common can include (1)

  • Lack of appetite 
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache 
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea 
  • Weight loss 
  • Anxiety 
  • Dizziness

When serious side effects occur, you need to contact your doctor right away or call 911 if symptoms feel life-threatening. They can include (1):

  • Heart problems, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, heart attack, stroke
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired or delusional thinking
  • Agitated or aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision 
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Muscle breakdown is referred to as rhabdomyolysis.

Long-Term Use and Effects 

Long-term use may cause changes in the brain and be more likely for people who misuse/abuse the drug. Such changes are decreases in the amount of the chemical messenger dopamine. Long-term use can also lead to a greater likelihood of physical and psychological dependence. This long-term use can cause some of the following serious effects (1): 

  • Severe insomnia
  • Fatigue 
  • Depression
  • Skin disorders
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Psychosis such as aggression and/or hallucinations
  • Heart damage
  • Anorexia and unwanted weight loss 

Adderall and Anxiety 

Adderall acts on the same neurotransmitter system and brain regions that become active when experiencing anxiety. Amphetamines can cause activity in the brain area called the amygdala, also referred to as the fear center. The amygdala sends signals to the rest of the body when it senses danger and notifies you in preparation. Adderall causes this same activity, tricking your brain to sense danger, in turn activating a fight-or-flight response, hence the experience of anxiety.  This anxiety can show up as nervousness, muscle tension, sweating, hyperventilating or rapid breathing, and difficulty concentrating. (3)

Managing Anxiety Caused by Adderall  

There are ways to manage your anxiety caused by Adderall, however, if symptoms ever become too overwhelming or too hard to cope with, speak to your doctor right away about your treatment options. Here are some anxiety management tactics: 

Talk to your doctor about your experience and symptoms and discuss if Adderall treatment is right for you. Anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed, or your doctor may refer you to therapeutic services for anxiety treatment. (3) 

Eating healthy has been shown to help. Studies show a connection between diet and brain function, proving diet can affect your mental health. Consider lowering or discontinuing sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed vegetable oils. These items feed the bad bacteria in our guts that affect how we feel. (3) 

Caffeine is anxiogenic that can cause anxiety. Lowering your caffeine intake if you are struggling with Adderall-induced anxiety can help alleviate symptoms. (3)

Sleep is important and healthy for brain health. Insomnia has been linked as a risk factor for anxiety and depression. Adderall can increase sleep irregularity. Maintain a healthy and regular sleep hygiene schedule to reduce risk. (3)

Other coping strategies to reduce or manage anxiety caused by Adderall (3):

 Exercise regularly 

  • Practice meditation or yoga 
  • Listen to music.
  • Muscle relaxation 
  • Spend time outdoors.
  • Use aromatherapy essential oils.
  • Breathing exercises – such as placing a hand on your stomach and the other on your chest while breathing slowly through your diaphragm, filling your diaphragm, expanding your stomach, and then your chest, going slowly, and repeating a few times.
  • Journal writing

Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall can include anxiety and depression, making it difficult for individuals to stop using the medication. Treating Adderall addiction often involves addressing any underlying anxiety disorders and developing coping mechanisms to manage anxiety symptoms without the use of the medication. It is crucial for individuals who are prescribed Adderall use it as directed and to seek help if they feel that they may be developing an addiction or experiencing anxiety as a result of Adderall use. 

Adderall Alternatives 

There are some non-stimulant medications to be aware of that may be an option (3):

  • Atomoxetine (Strattera) – is commonly used in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities. 
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR) – commonly used in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities for depression.
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Clonidine (Kapvay) – Also used to treat high blood pressure. 
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv) – is commonly used in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities.

Dietary supplements as alternatives include the use of (3):

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Melatonin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil
  • Theanine 
  • Zinc