Adderall is approved by FDA to treat a small number of mental health disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
However, the stimulatory effects of Adderall make it popular amongst college students as a study drug to boost academic performance, reduce stress, increase mental energy levels, and improve attention span.
Also, Adderall may be used occasionally to treat depression in patients who experience depression in combination with ADHD. However, the use of Adderall for depression alone is less convincing.
This article examines whether taking Adderall for depression symptoms can be helpful or hindering.
- Can You Take Adderall To Treat Depression Symptoms?
- Does Adderall Cause Depression Or Make It Worse?
- Adderall and Antidepressants: What You Should Know
Can You Take Adderall To Treat Depression Symptoms?
Primarily Adderall is not intended or approved as a treatment for depression.
However, many people who have ADHD are often affected by depression symptoms simultaneously, and the mood-boosting effects of Adderall make it an attractive off-label treatment for depression.
The main reason is that stimulants increase alertness and energy. Therefore, they can make feel like mood boosters for those experiencing depression.
Although the FDA has not approved Adderall as a depression treatment, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t positively impact feelings of depression.
Research has shown that taking a psychostimulant like Adderall alongside conventional antidepressants can improve some symptoms (1).
Also, people with treatment-resistant depression may find Adderall an effective treatment for their symptoms.
While Adderall may work immediately to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of depression, traditional antidepressants take several weeks to affect the mental health disorder.
Indeed, findings from a 2017 review found that stimulant drugs may effectively treat severe depression conditions, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), otherwise known as clinical depression (2).
Does Adderall Improve Mood?
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant (CNS), a combination of amphetamine aspartate and dextroamphetamine sulfate that affects brain chemistry.
Therefore, it effectively treats ADHD symptoms in most patients since it targets two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, which affect focus and concentration (3).
Dopamine is often described as the “reward” neurotransmitter and is a vital part of helping people feel good.
For example, the release of dopamine within the brain promotes feelings of euphoria, which significantly improves a depressed mood. In addition, many people feel much more productive when taking Adderall.
Does Adderall Cause Depression Or Make It Worse?
There are several links between Adderall and depression. While there is no conclusive evidence that Adderall can cause depression, some of the worst symptoms of depression are affected when taken long-term.
Some adults are at a greater risk of developing depression if exposed to risk factors. These can occur due to biological, genetic, social, or environmental factors, often outside the control of the individual concerned.
Therefore, Adderall can increase the chances of these causing depressed feelings.
It’s vital to follow your doctor’s prescription dosage when taking Adderall. By working closely with a professional, it’s possible to manage the medication and experience the beneficial effect of Adderall without the risk of depression.
Depression can become a concern for people that take Adderall to treat ADHD and problems with sleeping. These problems most commonly occur when patients abruptly stop taking the drug.
Since Adderall is a stimulant, drug dependency is possible, particularly when taken in high dosage or abused. Therefore, any abrupt pause in taking the drug can provoke withdrawal symptoms, often called an Adderall crash.
People who experience an Adderall crash may feel various severe depression symptoms, such as problems sleeping, fatigue, and suicidal thinking.
In some cases, people with pre-existing psychiatric conditions, such as psychotic disorder, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder, have reported worsened psychiatric symptoms, including increased manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder.
Even in people without pre-existing mental health conditions, symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations, delusions, mania, and increased hostility have been reported in adults and any child taking Adderall.
ADHD is often diagnosed simultaneously with other mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and substance use disorder.
Patients often find ADHD causes co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
For example, sleeping mental disorders and depression can result in misdiagnosis, with symptoms mistaken for schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis, thanks to the onset of delusions and hallucinations.
Furthermore, chronic fatigue is one of the common factors affecting depression, particularly when oversleeping, resulting in a challenge for medical professionals to identify and treat narcolepsy appropriately.
People with a co-occurring mood disorder that involves Adderall and depression should receive treatment for both conditions. Concentrating only on one disorder without addressing the other can adversely influence the patient’s chances of recovery.
Managing Depression Caused by Adderall
In instances where Adderall is the cause of depression, it can be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs if you don’t know where to turn.
Thankfully, several strategies are available to manage and reduce symptoms of depression through your doctor, who may choose to put you on antidepressants.
These are likely to be selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work to release serotonin to regulate brain activity. In most circumstances, antidepressants will work effectively in the treatment of depression.
Sometimes, the depression Adderall provokes doesn’t react to SSRIs and may be treatment-resistant. On these occasions, more powerful antidepressants may be prescribed, usually monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
However, this will typically be a last resort due to the possibility of digestive issues and kidney problems as a side effect.
Other treatment options to manage depression caused by Adderall may include psychotherapy and alternative therapies usually used in circumstances where depression has been generated through Adderall withdrawal.
These include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and talking treatments focused on challenging sadness and negative and unhelpful thought behaviors.
Adderall and Antidepressants: What You Should Know
It is possible to take Adderall with antidepressants to help with depression, ADHD, or sleep disorders concurrently.
However, some antidepressant pills, including MAOIs, can cause adverse interactions with Adderall. So speaking to a doctor before beginning to take Adderall is essential to minimize the severity of side effects.
A professional can assess your medical history and undertake a complete physical evaluation, including taking your blood pressure, evaluating your alcohol intake, and assessing other medications taken for health reasons, to work out the best treatment plan for you.
Anyone prescribed Adderall and antidepressants in tandem should remain under review with their doctor throughout the drug cycle to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and intervene in instances where the patient shows signs of becoming addicted or has adverse side effects that affect their health.
The possibility of Adderall addiction and substance abuse of other prescription stimulants is higher when taken in higher doses than prescribed.
Therefore, tolerance builds up, resulting in the body needing a more significant amount to experience the same effect as before.
In addition, taking Adderall increases the body’s dopamine production, releasing feelings of pleasure, and the brain may begin to crave the drug.
This can also lead to the patient becoming dependent and tipping into drug abuse without intervention.
As with all prescription medications, there is a risk of side effects from Adderall use, both in isolation and in combination with other drugs prescribed for depression.
Some of these effects may be mood-driven, such as restlessness or anxiety, while other side effects are physical.
They can include a racing heart rate, hypertension, increased blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, difficulty with psychomotor activity, difficulty sleeping, nausea, headaches, and vomiting.
Serious side effects of abusing Adderall can include heart problems and, in some cases, sudden death when too much of the drug has been taken.
Adderall and depression are inextricably linked, both as a form of treating depression and as a cause of depressive symptoms.
People struggling with treatment-resistant depression may find psychostimulants such as Adderall effective in treating symptoms in the short term by boosting confidence and significantly improving mood.
This can be useful to aid recovery as a stopgap while conventional antidepressants take time to work. However, Adderall is not intended as a treatment solely for depression.
Furthermore, concerns that long-term Adderall use can lead to an outcome where patients experience depression or other mental health conditions are entirely valid.
The good news is that the Adderall and depression treatment options can be used side-by-side to treat depression alongside hyperactivity disorders.
However, recovery from depression and the effects of substance misuse is achievable if you develop a regularly reviewed addiction treatment plan with a medical or mental health professional.