Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the world and Adderall is one of the most popular prescription drugs available. Due to the prevalence of anxiety and how well-known Adderall’s attention-boosting effects are, it is understandable that some people might attempt to use the drug to treat the mental illness.

However, treating anxiety is not the primary use of Adderall. Many people ask, “What is Adderall used for?” The drug is most often prescribed to treat narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many people use Adderall for anxiety, which can have a range of effects, including increased stress.

Using Adderall for anxiety is uncommon. Adderall is not an anti-anxiety medication but rather a stimulant that boosts a person’s attention span, motivation and energy. The drug, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is frequently abused by students for long study sessions to remain attentive and fend off drowsiness.

Does Adderall help with anxiety, though? In many cases, the answer depends on which type of anxiety someone has. Adderall can increase a person’s self-confidence and excitement to participate in activities, which could alleviate the anxiety connected to low self-esteem.

While Adderall is not usually prescribed for anxiety, the drug might be prescribed for people who have anxiety when the disorder co-occurs with ADHD or narcolepsy. In some cases, ADHD or narcolepsy can have effects that lead to anxiety. Examples include when someone has poor performance at school or work due to not paying attention, or when regular daytime drowsiness interferes with completing daily tasks.

A 2010 study on the prevalence of mood disorders in people who have narcolepsy revealed a significant crossover. More than half of the patients with narcolepsy had panic attacks or symptoms of an anxiety disorder. There is also a correlation between ADHD and anxiety: Approximately 50 percent of adults who struggle with the former also have the latter disorder.

Depending on the type of anxiety someone has, Adderall could provide short-term relief from the effects of the mental health disorder. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists the five anxiety disorders as:

A common question is, “Can Adderall cause Anxiety?” The drug increases the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) can boost a person’s mood and cause people to feel high while under the effects of Adderall. The increased brain activity that occurs when someone uses stimulants such as Adderall can lead to anxiety.

For some people, Adderall causes anxiety more indirectly. Since the drug increases feel-good neurotransmitter levels in the brain, people can experience negative feelings as the drug’s effects wear off. The number of neurotransmitters reduces as the body readjusts its chemical balance. The boost in energy can be replaced with overwhelming drowsiness, and a person’s temporarily improved self-confidence can diminish in favor of increased anxiety due to lower-than-usual self-esteem.

Additionally, if someone takes Adderall consistently they could develop a chemical dependence on the drug. This reliance can form an Adderall addiction and cause people to feel anxious when they are not using the drug.

Like any drug, the effects of Adderall are not permanent. People must continue to use the drug if they want to continue experiencing the increased energy, attentiveness and self-confidence.

When someone develops consistent anxiousness due to using Adderall, they should contact their doctor to discuss how to manage their anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax and Valium, can help but are highly addictive. Any medication should be discussed with a medical professional before use begins.

If Adderall use led to a person’s anxiety, then stopping the use of the drug could end the anxious feelings. However, if a dependence formed, then the person could experience withdrawal symptoms, including even more anxiety due to the low amount of feel-good chemicals in the brain.

If someone becomes addicted to Adderall, they should consider contacting a treatment center and undergoing a detox from the substance. By slowly reducing the dosage and frequency of Adderall usage, the effects of withdrawal are eliminated and the patient can manage their anxiety caused by Adderall with the help of medical supervision.

People who struggle with anxiety should discuss medication options with their doctor before using any substances. There are many things to consider before taking Adderall for anxiety, including:

  • While Adderall can alleviate symptoms of certain types of anxiety, the medication could cause anxiety to increase due to its effects on the brain
  • Relying on the drug can result in worsening anxiety once the Adderall wears off
  • Adderall can become addictive if taken consistently or in large doses

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.