Even though Adderall is only FDA-approved for treating a handful of conditions, it enjoys several other off-label uses.
Often, college students use the smart drug as a psychostimulant treatment to boost academic and athletic performance, enhance mental energy, improve attention span, and even stay awake longer.
Others have even used it to suppress appetite to assist with weight loss. While it does seem to yield quick results for the above conditions, the direct use of Adderall for anxiety is less convincing.
Here is the research on whether you can take Adderall as a treatment measure for anxiety and whether it can help your condition or cause it to worsen.
Can You Take Adderall for Anxiety Symptoms?
Stimulant drugs like Adderall often bring on euphoria and good feelings.
The drug, which combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, symptoms and can help improve essential aspects of memory such as focus and concentration (1).
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADHD and anxiety present a close link in many cases.
Many sufferers of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also suffer from anxiety disorders. In addition, symptoms of ADHD can make people feel distracted and unfocused, and in constant worry.
Stimulants like Adderall have a reputation for calming people with more brain activity, so it is often used as a treatment to regulate adult ADHD symptoms.
As a treatment option, Adderall administration reduces impulsive behaviors and increases focus in those with this condition. It does so by altering the levels of important brain chemicals and regulating behavior, preventing symptoms from worsening.
When people with ADHD take Adderall as a prescription medication, the intent is to improve their attention span and ability to concentrate for prolonged periods and not necessarily to treating anxiety.
Others use the drug for treating narcolepsy and preventing daytime sleepiness.
Does Adderall Calm You Down?
Given that Adderall has focus-enhancing benefits for people with ADHD, others with anxiety disorders may well be tempted to use this drug to manage their own symptoms.
However, it does not calm anxiety symptoms but seems to have the opposite effect. Prolonged use of Adderall increases the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
In the short run, this dopamine surge boosts the individual, driving up motivation when under the effects of Adderall. But in the long run, this increased brain energy can easily make users feel more anxious.
People with an anxiety disorder will likely feel these effects more than others who do not suffer from anxiety. However, when they stop using the stimulant drug, everyone will feel its effects to some degree.
Does Adderall Cause Anxiety Or Make It Worse?
ADHD and anxiety often go hand in hand, but using Adderall as a treatment option when you have an anxiety disorder is somewhat of a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, taking Adderall can both trigger anxious feelings and increased anxiety, especially for people not suffering from attention deficit hyperactive disorder.
As such, for people who are not already predisposed to a comorbid anxiety disorder, there are some reasons why Adderall makes their anxiety symptoms worse.
First off, because it’s a stimulant, it causes heart rate and blood pressure to rise. These two physical effects have been linked to making anxiety worse.
Secondly, it can also cause insomnia in some people, and sleeping less is another factor that may cause anxiety.
In people with panic disorder, Adderall use can cause frequent panic attacks. In fact, this is one of the most severe withdrawal symptoms when the drug is used for long periods.
Once again, Adderall’s contribution to the onset of panic attacks is due to the changes in neurotransmitter levels. Stopping the use of Adderall can diminish these levels, letting negative feelings of depression, stress, and panic set in.
On the other hand, it seems to have a calming effect on people, including children who have ADHD or other related mental health disorders (2).
Co-Occurring Conditions With ADHD And Narcolepsy
The FDA has approved Adderall for treating ADHD as well as narcolepsy. In many cases, people who suffer from either condition have other co-occurring conditions, many of which can be mental health disorders.
For instance, narcolepsy patients often have depression and anxiety issues. And the condition may also be mistaken for schizophrenia, another mental illness, as both illnesses can cause hallucinations.
This condition also tends to occur with other sleep-related conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia.
These conditions can present symptoms such as trouble sleeping or staying asleep, among other things, which can make it challenging to diagnose and treat narcolepsy (3).
On the other hand, ADHD is often diagnosed along with other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, depression, substance use disorder, and personality disorders (4).
In adult ADHD, patients may also have a co-occurring mood disorder that can make their anxiety symptoms worse.
Managing Anxiety Caused By Adderall
Adderall is highly addictive because of its stimulant qualities, and when unsupervised long-term use can lead to habit formation or dependence.
Given its high popularity and result-oriented outcome, there is a significant possibility for substance abuse associated with perceived minimal risks. Adderall and anxiety management is possible by following a few different strategies.
For instance, your doctor may put you on anti-anxiety medication, which can help regulate the mental health disorder symptoms. Still, addiction is in danger with industry giants like Valium and Xanax.
Other medications for anxiety disorders that are less addictive typically follow a more extended protocol and can help manage anxiety caused by Adderall.
Also, there are many natural supplements for anxiety to consider that may be regarded for addiction treatment and preventing dependence.
Adderall And Anxiety Medications: What You Should Know
People with ADHD who also have anxiety are often required to use drugs for both conditions. But prescription drugs for the two diseases often have opposite effects.
Whereas anti-anxiety medication can trigger effects like sleepiness, fatigue, and slowing mental functioning, Adderall yields the opposite effect.
In addition, anti-anxiety medications may help level out panic attacks and reduce anxiety attacks to a manageable level. Still, Adderall may actually increase anxiety for some people when taken to treat the symptoms of ADHD.
Since prescription stimulants and other ADHD drugs alter brain chemistry, taking Adderall may result in mood disturbances and mood disorders, including anxiety.
Furthermore, Adderall may also interact with certain anti-anxiety medications with severe side effects and even life-threatening consequences.
As such, if you are using any type of central nervous system depressant to treat anxiety, it should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional.
Your doctor will only prescribe Adderall if they know your entire medical history and other medications you may use to treat anxiety. Also, the medical professional will be able to determine which of the two mental health disorders is more prevalent.
This can help them adjust the dosage of medications used to treat both ADHD and anxiety. Or, if applicable, they may opt for medical therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy to help you manage your anxiety.
It is also not advised to take Adderall when taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants to treat anxiety.
In addition, people with mental health issues such as psychosis and other health issues such as heart problems or thyroid or kidney problems should disclose these issues to their doctor before taking Adderall as a treatment for ADHD.
Likewise, any personal or family history of depression should also be discussed with your doctor when seeking mental health treatment.
Adderall is extremely easy to abuse and with a high chance of addiction. Although not everyone who uses it for anxiety will develop an Adderall addiction, people regularly taking it as a study drug at unprescribed doses are at an elevated risk of abusing Adderall.
During an Adderall addiction, the brain of the addicted person relies on Adderall to stimulate alertness and productivity. And without it, people feel tired and mentally foggy, facing difficulty with proper functioning.
But when someone gives up Adderall suddenly, an Adderall crash happens, commonly described as feeling the opposite of taking the drug.
Like other stimulant drugs, the side effects of Adderall can include increased anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness, as well as adverse reactions like high blood pressure, headaches, and a loss of appetite.
Other side effects can include a dry mouth, digestive distress, and fever for some people, whereas high doses can create a range of medical issues, from a stroke to a seizure to a heart attack.
Treatments for drug abuse correction involve a process called tapering, where your doctor slowly lowers the dosage under medical supervision instead of going cold turkey. This is usually paired with therapy, where a combination of the two will produce the best results.
The process can be challenging, but addiction treatment that involves a comprehensive substance use disorder treatment program can help prevent relapse and encourage long-term recovery.
So, does Adderall help with anxiety? Unfortunately, the simple answer is no. While it is a helpful and recommended treatment for ADHD, it does not affect anxiety levels positively or treats depression.
In addition, when used without medical supervision, it can cause a worsening of the symptoms of the mental health disorder instead.
If you don’t want to use stimulant drugs to treat ADHD and related anxiety, non-stimulant options are used to treat symptoms of ADHD.
Typically, these would include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and non-stimulant ADHD medication used explicitly for the condition.