Adderall is a combination drug that includes levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It acts as a stimulant on the brain and central nervous system and changes the chemistry of the brain. Adderall works by affecting certain brain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

Adderall is available only by prescription, and it is FDA-approved to treat two primary conditions in adults and children. These conditions are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Though Adderall requires a prescription, it’s frequently abused and used illegally by people who purchase it on the streets.

What Is the Drug Adderall Used For?

Adderall may be prescribed to adults help to treat narcolepsy and daytime sleepiness related to the disorder. However, it is primarily used to treat symptoms of ADHD in adults and children. It’s believed that around 4.4% of U.S. adults have it, although not many get diagnosed. Many children who are diagnosed with ADHD continue to have it as adults.

Some of the ADHD symptoms Adderall helps treats include:

  • Problems organizing and finishing tasks
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Difficulty following directions

In children, some of the common ADHD symptoms include high activity levels, short attention spans, and difficulty sitting still. If not addressed in childhood, there are also many associated complications of untreated ADHD in adults, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Anger and impulsivity problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Relationship problems

While many adults who truly have ADHD don’t realize it or don’t receive treatment, some individuals may potentially fake symptoms of the disorder in order to get Adderall. Researchers say there are cultural pressures, such as the drive of competition, that lead adults to seek these drugs even when they don’t have ADHD.

What Is Adderall Used for Besides ADHD?

The only other FDA-approved use for Adderall is the treatment of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where a person has excessive sleepiness and symptoms like hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and loss of muscle control. Someone with narcolepsy usually feels very sleepy during the day, and they may involuntarily fall asleep at odd times. Adderall can help increase their wakefulness and regulate their sleep-wake cycle.

There are other off-label reasons a doctor might prescribe Adderall, such as to help with treatment-resistant depression. However, the FDA does not approve of these uses.

Adderall is also frequently abused or obtained illegally without a prescription. It’s one of the most widely abused prescription drugs in the U.S, often used to help people study, accomplish more, or feel more sociable. On campuses across the U.S., it’s not uncommon for students to use the drug around exam time or to perform well in school. Young professionals may do the same thing as they work to get ahead in their careers. Adderall is also sometimes used illicitly to help people lose weight, as the drug is an appetite suppressant.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Adderall misuse, The Recovery Village can help. We encourage you to learn more about our treatment programs that can work well with your situation.

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.