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Does Adderall Abuse Cause Depression?

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Adderall abuse and withdrawal may cause some people to feel depressed. People who struggle with addiction and depression may find healing and sobriety in a dual diagnosis treatment program.

Adderall-Cause-Depression

Some people report experiencing depression while taking Adderall. This may occur during prescribed use or while a person is abusing the drug. In this depressed state a person may experience a sense of sadness, irritability, a lack of energy, anxiety and a loss of pleasure in important or favorite activities, among other symptoms.

Adderall, combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is one of the most popular stimulant medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also one of the most frequently abused medications of this class.

While the goal of prescribed Adderall use is to increase a person’s quality of life by reducing symptoms of ADHD, a small percentage of people may experience depression and dysphoric feelings while taking this drug.

Further, individuals who abuse Adderall, whether it be for the purpose of self-medication or to elicit a high, may also experience this sense of despondency throughout periods of abuse or when they withdrawal from the drug.

Fortunately, treatment options exist for individuals who are struggling with Adderall abuse or addiction alongside of depression. Dual diagnosis treatment programs address both conditions simultaneously, granting a person a higher chance of recovery and stability from both disorders.

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Adderall Abuse And Depression

As a stimulant, Adderall is frequently abused in a binge-like pattern or “runs” similar to those that occur with other stimulant drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine. Once person comes off of a binge or run they may crash and experience depression, among other debilitating symptoms.

Some people abuse Adderall to increase their performance academically, athletically or at a job. These patterns can cause addiction, but in addition to this, during periods when a person isn’t using Adderall they may become overwhelmed and encounter depressed feelings when they try to handle these situations sober.

ADHD, Adderall And Depression

Depression frequently occurs with ADHD. Some research estimates that up to 70 percent of people struggling with ADHD will receive treatment for depression at some time throughout their life.

ADHD can be very demoralizing at times. It can also negatively impacting a person’s self-image and relationships. As a person struggles with untreated or undertreated ADHD, the frustration, discouragement, sadness and lack of control they experience may lead to a depressive state.

Adderall And Depression-70% of people with ADHD receive depression treatment

If the Adderall doesn’t sufficiently work, or if a person’s depression isn’t treated in other ways (if necessary), the depression may continue while a person’s taking Adderall. On the other hand, for some, even when the ADHD is treated, certain symptoms of depression may still be present. In either of situations a person may mistakenly believe their depression is caused by their medication.

In certain cases, symptoms of ADHD may also be mistaken or misdiagnosed for those of depression. Both disorders can cause poor focus, sleeping troubles, mood problems and forgetfulness. If a person is taking Adderall and skips a dose, they may believe that their returning ADHD symptoms are actually symptoms of depression.

Even more, depression can make it difficult for a person to maintain important habits of self-care, such as taking a medication on a consistent basis. If a person forgets to take their medication they may experience their ADHD symptoms more heavily, which could worsen their depression.

Adderall Use And Abuse May Mask Underlying Depression

In certain cases the depression associated with Adderall may not be a symptom of use or abuse but of underlying depression that is masked while a person is taking the drug.

While taking this medication a person may feel more upbeat, focused, energetic, productive and in turn better about themselves, however, when they don’t take it the existing symptoms of depression may rise up, causing a person to think their medication is causing the condition.

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The Dangers Of Self-Medicating Depression With Adderall

Adderall is not typically a treatment for depression, however, some people may use it to self-medicate mental health problems or to distract from distressing situations in their life. This could occur in several ways.

A person may begin misusing their personal prescription to self-treat their depression. Other people may seek out another person’s prescription or otherwise find Adderall so they can use it in this way. Either situation is considered drug abuse, and both are behaviors that could lead to addiction.

In both of these scenarios a person’s depression may worsen if it is not adequately treated. When drug abuse becomes chronic, finding and using the drug typically becomes more important to a person than most all else in their life. This could include their mental and physical health, their relationships and also their career or schooling.

As a person ignores responsibilities and self-care relating to these things, the quality of their life may begin to rapidly decline. Instead of using positive behaviors to address and change these situations, many people continue to use drugs as a means of coping. This can cause further damage, a more severe addiction and for some, mental health problems such as depression.

The Adderall Crash: How Withdrawal From Adderall Can Cause Depression

Adderall works by changing the way the brain produces dopamine. In addition to reducing symptoms of ADHD, this important neurotransmitter can cause feelings of happiness, pleasure and a sense of reward. When a person’s not taking this substance, and in the absence of these feel-good effects, they may feel somewhat depressed.

Stopping Adderall abruptly without tapering the dosage can cause a crash or withdrawal, symptoms of which may include depression. This could occur in both people who use the drug as prescribed and in those who abuse it.

At this time, a person may also experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Extreme hunger
  • Intense fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Panic attacks
  • Unhappiness
  • Suicidal thoughts

To avoid these feelings or to reduce them once they begin, some people will take another dose of Adderall. In situations of abuse this can increase the severity of the addiction and put a person in jeopardy of developing health problems from their Adderall abuse.

Treating Adderall Abuse, Addiction And Depression

It’s important to differentiate why a person is experiencing depression while taking Adderall. The cause should influence the line of treatment for the disorder.

If it’s a direct symptom of the medication it may be resolved when a person safely detoxes from the drug, however, if it’s a preexisting condition a person may require other treatments or therapies to address their symptoms.

People with a co-occurring disorder (when a mental health problem occurs with a substance use disorder) generally obtain better treatment outcomes when they enroll in a dual diagnosis treatment program.

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If only the addiction is treated, or vice versa, the symptoms of one disorder could continue to aggravate the other disorder. This could lead to a relapse of drug abuse or a person experiencing more severe symptoms of their mental health problem. Because of this, dual diagnosis treatment programs offer individualized treatment that could treat depression, ADHD and addiction all together.

Though a person could seek outpatient treatment of this form, inpatient drug rehab centers generally offer more intensive care and a better variety of therapies than do outpatient programs. By receiving this treatment, a person has the opportunity to learn positive coping and life skills that can help them better manage their addiction and mental health problems.

The effective treatment of each disorder often involves teaching a person ways to overcome negative emotions, mindsets and behaviors. A good therapist will guide a person towards healthier and positive emotions, thoughts and actions that nurture sobriety and better mental health.

Contact Addiction Campuses for more information on Adderall abuse, addiction and treatment options.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) - http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/About-ADHD/Coexisting-Conditions/Depression.aspx

HealthLine - https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adderall-crash

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC
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