Adderall is a stimulant historically used to treat patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As with any stimulant, Adderall affects the cardiovascular system. Most individuals who are prescribed Adderall by a licensed medical professional will not experience disruptions in their cardiovascular system. Problems arise when people who are not prescribed Adderall buy it illegally. Alternatively, individuals that misuse their prescription may cause damage to their heart. In both cases, misusing Adderall can lead to heart problems. For example, Adderall use has been associated with an elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure.
How Does Adderall Affect the Heart?
Adderall has the propensity to affect the cardiovascular system in many ways, even if used correctly. Medical professionals recommend that both children and adults who are prescribed Adderall have their blood pressure and heart rate monitored throughout their treatment. Adults with ADHD are at a potentially higher risk of developing cardiovascular and substance use problems. One of the most common symptoms reported with Adderall use is a statistically significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate. However, these effects are generally clinically insignificant.
In a trial assessing Adderall’s safety and efficacy, it was found to be safe for adults with high blood pressure. Relative to other cardiovascular drugs which have an adverse event rate of 5%, adults using Adderall in this trial reported cardiovascular adverse events at 3%. Some of the adverse cardiovascular events reported with Adderall use include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
Some infrequent cardiovascular side effects reported with Adderall use in adults include:
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Before taking prescription Adderall, individuals will be assessed for their family history, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions as well as psychiatric conditions. Overall, adverse events when using Adderall are unlikely if the prescription is used properly.
How Does Adderall Abuse Affect the Heart?
Unfortunately, there are many individuals that misuse or abuse Adderall. These individuals are often not aware of the dangers to their heart. Prescription Adderall use has grown in recent years, with a corresponding increase in media coverage. A study conducted in 2011 found that almost all media articles that mentioned Adderall use spoke about the potential benefits of using Adderall, whereas only about half thoroughly explained the side effects associated with misusing the drug. Misinformation, lack of information or common misconceptions can be extremely dangerous for individuals misusing this drug.
From 2000 to 2006, the rate of stimulant misuse almost doubled in college-aged students. Younger adults may abuse Adderall for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is to finish assignments quickly or to meet deadlines. Adderall abuse not only has serious negative effects on cognition but is also associated with several cardiovascular risks.
Short-Term Effects on the Heart
Similar to individuals that use their Adderall prescription properly, elevated blood pressure and heart rate have been reported by people misusing Adderall. Though it has rarely been reported, taking the wrong dose of Adderall or taking an extremely high dose of Adderall may lead to a heart attack or sudden death, particularly in individuals who were not aware that they had cardiac abnormalities. At doses between 30 and 40 milligrams (on the high end of prescribed doses), several young adults experienced a heart attack or related symptoms.
Adderall’s Long-Term Effects on the Heart
In addition to the possibility of a heart attack that can result in damage to the heart, there are several other problems that can develop over time due to Adderall use or misuse, including:
- Developing heart palpitations
- Developing a fast or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Long-term high blood pressure or an elevated heart rate
- Developing cardiomyopathy (long-term or chronic heart condition)
- Necrotizing vasculitis (inflamed blood vessel walls)
Even in individuals using Adderall as prescribed, a person’s physical and mental health should be carefully monitored while using this drug.
Key Points: Adderall and Heart Risks
There are some key points to remember for those who are using Adderall, including:
- Using Adderall as prescribed is associated with minimal cardiovascular risk
- Misusing Adderall can lead to cognitive problems and heart damage
- Adderall has both short and long-term effects on the cardiovascular system
- Long-term Adderall use can cause heart problems to develop
If you or a loved one live with an addiction to Adderall, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment can help. Individualized addiction treatment programs can address the substance use disorder alongside any co-occurring mental health disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Lakhan, Shaheen; Kirchgessner, Annette. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.” Brain and Behavior, July 23, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2019. Sichilima, Tangu; Rieder, Michael. “Adderall and cardiovascular risk: A therapeutic dilemma.” Paediatr Child Health, March 2009. Accessed June 12, 2019. Sinha, A.; Lewis, O.; Kumar; R.; Yeruva; S. “Adult ADHD Medications and Their Cardiovascular Implications.” Case Rep Cardiol, August 8, 2016. Accessed June 12, 2019. The United States Food and Drug Administration. “ADDERALL (CII).” 2007. Accessed June 12, 2019.
Lakhan, Shaheen; Kirchgessner, Annette. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.” Brain and Behavior, July 23, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2019.
Sichilima, Tangu; Rieder, Michael. “Adderall and cardiovascular risk: A therapeutic dilemma.” Paediatr Child Health, March 2009. Accessed June 12, 2019.
Sinha, A.; Lewis, O.; Kumar; R.; Yeruva; S. “Adult ADHD Medications and Their Cardiovascular Implications.” Case Rep Cardiol, August 8, 2016. Accessed June 12, 2019.
The United States Food and Drug Administration. “ADDERALL (CII).” 2007. Accessed June 12, 2019.