What Is Adderall Used For? Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects

A stimulating prescription drug for ADHD is often used for cognitive enhancement.

What Is Adderall Used For? Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects

If you have put off studying until the night before a test, then you may have considered taking Adderall to stay awake and focus on the information.

While this stimulant is only approved for ADHD and narcolepsy, it may have off-label and non-approved benefits to cognition and mental health.

Even if you do not suffer from ADHD and narcolepsy, you may have wondered if you could benefit from talking to your doctor about prescription stimulants.

But, before we get to possible benefits, what is Adderall, and how does it actually work?


    What is Adderall?

    Adderall is a brand name for a prescription drug containing ingredients related to amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Specifically, the formula contains amphetamine aspartate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, and dextroamphetamine sulfate.

    The formula works as a stimulant and can wake a person up or cause them to concentrate harder.

    Adderall is a controlled substance that can cause psychological and physical dependence. It also has a high potential for misuse or abuse because it can cause euphoric sensations.

    The components of Adderall, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine are also available as generic prescription drugs that work in the same way as brand name Adderall.

    You can also get prescriptions as an instant release or extended-release formula, depending on the problems that the doctor aims to treat.

    How Does Adderall Work On The Body?

    Adderall, like other central nervous system stimulants, alters the effects of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. This can cause an extensive range of different feelings and sensations, both positive and negative.

    It makes the user feel more awake and focused while remaining calm. It can also provide a burst of energy and confidence in some people and even give feelings of euphoria.

    It can also affect the body and increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels. Adderall also increases the amount of released glucose into the system and substantially decreases appetite.

    These different effects of Adderall on the brain and the body are responsible for the benefits and the side effects.

    What Are The Uses of Adderall?

    There are a couple of FDA-approved uses of Adderall and a host of non-approved and off-label benefits. It can have a profound impact on mental health and cognition, as well as bodily functions.

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

    The primary FDA-approved use of Adderall is to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD. This is because stimulant medications can help with several of the symptoms associated with ADHD by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine (1).

    Adderall can help a person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by allowing them to focus for a prolonged period. This allows increasing their productivity, memory, and concentration, which can significantly affect their well-being.

    Adderall can also have beneficial results on impulse control which people who have ADHD sometimes have difficulty with.

    Because of that, this type of hyperactivity can negatively impact a person’s ability to function properly because it causes them to act primarily from initial emotions instead of on logic and reason.

    This can cause behavioral problems, especially in children and young adults. Adderall can help add a line of thought into a person’s behavior, so they do not act impulsively.

    In addition, Adderall can help with organization, task completion, and attention span. It may even help patients with ADHD to listen and follow directions.

    Many people with ADHD feel more normal when they take Adderall because it levels out their temperament and stops the mind from rapidly wandering to different topics.


    Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that can be dangerous and severely impact a person’s quality of life.

    The effect that Adderall has on the central nervous system and norepinephrine levels can help promote wakefulness in people who suffer from chronic daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy (2).

    Some people with narcolepsy find that their sleepiness can also impact their levels of motivation.

    When using Adderall to treat narcolepsy, many people find that stimulant medicine also boosts their confidence and motivation, which can help with regular daily functions and allow a patient to work and complete tasks with their condition.

    Adderall also has a powerful impact on energy levels and can give users a burst of energy. These stimulant effects can be helpful for narcoleptics because it not only wards off immediate tiredness and sleepiness, but it can get a patient to recover from a good night’s sleep and get up in the morning.

    Finally, Adderall may help people with narcolepsy to get onto a better sleep schedule. This is because they are not getting sleep during the day so that they sleep better at night.

    After a couple of days of being on the medication, they may find that they get more restful sleep at night and have more energy when they wake up.

    For some, the properties are so beneficial that they feel like they do not even have a narcoleptic condition when they take their medication.


    While it is not specifically approved for the treatment of depression, Adderall is often used to lift mood and reduce several symptoms that are commonly associated with depression.

    This is especially true when combined with other medications and therapy or simultaneous treatment of depression and ADHD (3).

    For some people, the effect that Adderall has on the dopamine receptors can give a sense of pleasure and boosting emotions. Not only can this help a patient ward off thoughts of sadness, but it can also ease other symptoms.

    People with depression often have trouble finding pleasure or being interested in activities that they used to enjoy. The euphoric properties of Adderall can provide the motivation and sense of joy in these activities that can inspire and promote adults to function and live their life.

    People with depression also commonly sleep too much, and stimulant medication can help promote daytime wakefulness, improving the quality of sleep at night.

    Getting into a routine and doing the things that most of us take for granted can make a person with depression feel better about themselves and their situation.

    Plus, many antidepressants and other medications take a while to work, so taking Adderall for depression can have an instant effect. These benefits can have beneficial effects on a person’s wellness and fight mental illness.


    Adderall is rarely used to treat anxiety, but some people who take Adderall for ADHD or narcolepsy find it alleviates some worry and fear. This is because the effects of Adderall can ease some of the most common symptoms associated with anxiety (4).

    People find that the racing thoughts and restlessness that they have when experiencing anxiety can make them unable to function and complete the work they are supposed to be doing.

    When they take Adderall, the cognitive result can support a person and give them the ability to power through those intrusive thoughts much easier and ignore the stress and anxiety.

    Adderall can also boost your attitude, which can ease some effects of anxiety. Anxiety can cause mood changes related to emotions of despair, worry, and fear. Adderall can get someone to power through those negative sensations and achieve a feeling of positive well-being.

    Also, anxiety can contribute to sleep problems, and lack of sleep can make it difficult to stay attentive. Adderall allows a person who suffers from anxiety to focus long-term even when they have lost sleep because of anxious thoughts.

    It is important to note that the research on the effects of Adderall related to anxiety has only been on people with ADHD. One of the side effects of Adderall is increased anxiety.

    Bipolar Disorder

    Stimulant drugs like Adderall may be prescribed for some symptoms of bipolar disorder. While the research is limited, the findings are promising for the possibility of taking Adderall for these conditions that cooccur with ADHD (5).

    Bipolar causes mood swings between a depressive and a manic state. Adderall may bridge the gap to make those mood swings in the mood less severe. This is because it boosts the emotional state associated with the depressive moods and helps with the focusing aspects of a manic mood.

    The energy that occurs when you take Adderall can also be beneficial during a depressive episode. People often have trouble finding a reason to get up or the energy to function and work. Adderall can boost their energy and frame of mind to give them the capacity to carry on with their daily lives.

    People who are bipolar can experience symptoms similar to ADHD when they are in a manic mood, like difficulty paying attention, restlessness, and trouble with impulsivity. Adderall can alleviate these issues just as it does with someone who has ADHD.

    Adderall can also ease some of the behavior problems associated with mania. This is because it helps someone rationalize their thoughts and act normally despite being depressed or manic. In conjunction with other medications, it may have a profound effect.

    Cognitive Performance

    Stimulants are commonly used to enhance cognition and improve performance. For example, college students often use Adderall and other nootropic stimulants to study for their exams and complete their work.

    In addition, studies show that many students turn to Adderall and other performance-enhancing drugs to study.

    Adderall can make it much easier to focus on a task for an extended period and improve alertness. This can be beneficial for completing work, studying, or making it through a tedious task.

    When you can concentrate harder on these tasks, your productivity is bound to increase, and you can get more done. Adderall can also boost energy when you hit those slumps while working or completing tasks.

    We often find that our productivity and cognition drop off during the afternoon or don’t even get off the ground in the morning. Adderall can boost this energy and offer nootropic effects, and get us to work faster and harder.

    These effects are not the same as those offered by other nootropics and do not directly impact memory and cognitive function. Instead, Adderall only affects our capacity to focus on and complete tasks and boosts performance.

    Many students and young professionals use Adderall as a part of a nootropic stack that includes other herbs and medicines that improve memory and directly affect brain function and cognition.

    Weight Loss

    Doctors sometimes prescribe Adderall with other medications to help someone lose weight.

    While the research is limited, some of the well-known side effects of Adderall may assist someone in losing weight, and it may even be safe if used with a good diet, exercise, and other necessary medicines (7).

    Adderall can decrease appetite, which can cause someone to lose a significant amount of weight. People who struggle with a weight problem often have trouble eating small portions.

    They may also have difficulty snacking too much throughout the day. Adderall can aid with both issues because it reduces cravings and decreasing overall appetite.

    Weight loss is a primary side effect of Adderall that some people decide may benefit their appearance and overall wellness.

    Since obesity is a leading cause of high blood pressure, heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and other severe health conditions, the treatment of Adderall may be beneficial for some.

    However, it is important to talk to your doctor because it can interact with other medications or cause other issues and side effects.

    Since Adderall is not approved for this use, it is vital to learn about the negative reactions.

    You should also remember to eat well because the appetite suppressant effects can lead to malnourishment in some individuals.

    How To Take Adderall?

    Adderall is usually prescribed to be taken one to three times each day. If it is only one dose per day, it is good to take it first thing in the morning to make Adderall more effective, as it can boost energy enough to cause insomnia if taken too late in the day.

    Adderall medication comes in instant release and Adderall XR extended-release capsule formulas. Both types can be taken with or without food, but taking Adderall with food may prevent nausea and upset stomach.

    When someone who does not have ADHD takes Adderall or takes too much, it can increase dopamine enough to cause euphoria and a high.

    After taking Adderall, you will know it is working when your concentration improves. You may also feel a burst of energy when it first begins to work, which depends on Adderall tolerance and strength of the medication formula.

    Adderall instant release will typically last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, while Adderall XR lasts 10 to 12 hours.


    Adderall dosage can vary depending on the reason for the prescription, the form of medication, and other conditions and drugs that you may be taking.

    For the treatment of ADHD and sleeping disorders, the adult starting dose of the instant release form is 5 mg to 10 mg, once or twice per day. Then the dosage will be increased by 5 mg to 10 mg increments each week until the desired response is achieved.

    For children ages 3 to 5, the starting dose is 2.5 mg, and the amount is increased by 2.5 mg increments per week until the desired dose is reached.

    With Adderall XR slow-release capsule formula, for adults, the dose is 20 mg once per day and increased until the optimal dosage is met. For children, the dose starts at 5 mg to 10 mg per day and is increased gradually until the desired effect is achieved.

    Does Adderall Have Side Effects?

    Adderall can cause several side effects ranging from mild to severe, and the risk of side effects will increase with dose.

    Severe interactions include signs of heart problems and chest pain, psychosis, blood circulation problems, seizures, and muscle cramps, or vision changes. For these issues, you should immediately consult a doctor for medical advice about side effects.

    More common side effects include stomach pain, weight loss, changes in mood, nervousness, fast heart rate, headache, dizziness, insomnia, tingling in fingers or toes, and dry mouth.

    Adderall can also be habit-forming and has a high risk of drug abuse and addiction. For this reason, it should be avoided by those who have had a history of drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction to Adderall can negatively impact personality, behavior, and health.

    Adderall drug dependence can cause withdrawal symptoms, also known as Adderall crash if you abruptly stop taking the medication. Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue and a depressed state of mind.

    Overdose symptoms and side effects include confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, stroke, seizures, and heart attack.

    There are also some drug interactions and warnings to be aware of. Adderall can interact with drug metabolism inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and acid-reducing drugs.

    It is often recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol too close to a dose of stimulants like Adderall.

    Serotonergic medication should also be avoided because it can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome. This includes some dietary supplements, prescription drugs, and black-market substances that impact serotonin. Serotonin syndrome can cause sudden death and other severe risks.

    People should not take Adderall with severe agitation or panic attacks, glaucoma, kidney disease, high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, heart disease, heart problems, or a heart defect.

    Adderall has been known to cause stroke, heart problems, and sudden death in individuals with unresolved heart illness.

    In addition, there are many supplements to take with Adderall that can reduce unfavorable side effects and improve its efficacy. However, be sure to tell your doctor about any medications that you take, your family history, and any medical problems you have had in the past to avoid complications.


    Adderall can be valuable for a wide range of purposes, including concentration, energy, and mood. It is commonly used to work more productively and to ward off mental and physical fatigue.

    While it can be highly beneficial, it can also cause several side effects and can lead to addiction.

    Before deciding whether it is right for you, it is best to seek the advice of a doctor. However, it can be an attractive prescription addition to a nootropic stack in some cases.