Adderall is an amphetamine-based medication prescribed to people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that’s shown to be effective in treating ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and poor concentration and focus. However, because it’s an amphetamine-based drug, it has the potential for abuse and addiction. Many students take stimulants to perform better at school, but how does this impact the rest of their bodies? Keep reading to find out how Adderall can damage your heart.
Adderall Effects on the Heart
As a stimulant, Adderall works by increasing nerve activity in the central nervous system, particularly by interacting with neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. As a result, a person with ADHD who takes Adderall may experience benefits like increased energy, improved focus, and decreased tiredness and fidgeting.
However, with this interaction also comes other side effects. Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. It’s released into the bloodstream when the brain perceives a stressful or dangerous situation is taking place.
Because Adderall interacts with this chemical, it can induce a feeling of increased energy and trigger a fight-or-flight response, along with physical symptoms like rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. While these effects are usually minimal or non-occurring in people who take Adderall as prescribed, they’re likely to occur in people who abuse the drug or take it in higher doses than is safe.
At high doses, your heart rate and blood pressure on Adderall spike, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and even heart failure. Especially for people with underlying heart conditions, the use of stimulants increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and failure.
Although short-term, Adderall’s cardiovascular effects include:
- Chest pain
- Rapid breathing
- Anxiety or panic
- Irregular or rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Additionally, racing heart, panic, or other cardiovascular problems may indicate an Adderall overdose. Elevated body temperature caused by high doses of Adderall does damage your heart, as well as other internal organs. Increased blood pressure can also cause internal damage, making the heart work harder.
Typically, people who take Adderall for ADHD don’t develop heart problems. Even people who have taken Adderall or other stimulant medications since childhood are not at an increased risk of developing heart problems. However, the same cannot be said for people who take Adderall without a prescription.
Abusing Adderall and Cardiovascular Risk
People who use Adderall without a prescription are abusing the drug. Many people misuse stimulants like Adderall to increase their performance at school or work, to lose weight, or for an energetic and euphoric high. However, to achieve these desired outcomes, Adderall abusers take higher doses of the drug than normally prescribed, which increases their risk of adverse reactions like cardiovascular problems.
Not only can taking large doses of Adderall increase the risk of heart attack, disease, and failure, this drug is also addictive, and taking high doses for long periods can eventually result in dependence and addiction. The link between Adderall and heart disease applies mostly to cases in which someone without ADHD uses the medication for recreational purposes.
Other potential risks of Adderall-induced heart problems also stem from off-label uses of Adderall. So rather than treating ADHD, some people take Adderall for off-label conditions or reasons like:
- Weight management
- Fatigue from depression
- Symptoms of traumatic brain injury
- Hypersomnolence from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
While a doctor might prescribe stimulants in moderate doses to treat these conditions, rapid weight loss and OSA are both linked to cardiovascular disease. What’s more, taking stimulants with pre-existing problems in the cardiovascular and circulatory systems increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and heart failure.
As of right now, there is no ADHD medication for adults with heart problems available. Furthermore, while studies show a weak link between Adderall and heart problems, these studies did not take recreational use of Adderall into account. So, while there’s a minimal risk of heart problems for people who take ADHD with a prescription, the same cannot be said for recreational and off-label users.
Help for Stimulant Addiction
Not only can Adderall damage your heart, but recreational use of this drug can also lead to dependence and addiction. As stimulant abuse grows more prevalent in the U.S., especially among college students and young professionals, having the right kind of resources available is important now more than ever.
With this in mind, if you or someone you care about is addicted to Adderall or other drugs or alcohol, our Northeast addictions treatment center offers illicit and prescription drug addiction treatment that can help. We treat all kinds of substance use disorders at Clearbrook with evidence-based practices.
Starting with medically monitored detox, we help patients gradually recover physically and mentally from the toll drugs and alcohol have taken on their lives. In addition to personalized treatment for the client, we even offer family services to help family members and couples reconcile as part of the recovery process.
No matter how far into addiction you are, our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab can get you out. Call Clearbrook Treatment Center today at 570-536-9621 to learn more about our residential mental health care and substance abuse services.