Adderall is a stimulant medication that is commonly used to treat ADHD. Adderall helps alleviate ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and lack of focus. The Federal Drug Administration has approved Adderall for use in children, adolescents and adults diagnosed with ADHD.  Adderall is classified as a controlled substance, which means that it has the potential for abuse, causing emotional or physical dependence.

Adderall has different effects on people with ADHD and people without ADHD. Adderall improves alertness and attention in individuals with ADHD, as increased amounts of dopamine are released to combat an inactive prefrontal cortex. Adderall use in a person without ADHD results in an excess amount of dopamine being released in the brain, causing that person to feel high. In addition to feelings of euphoria, a person can experience dangerous physical and emotional side effects. Learn more about the different effects of Adderall below.

Adderall Effects on ADHD

Adderall’s effects on ADHD include a reduction of impulsivity and an improvement in a person’s attention and focus. Adderall helps ADHD by increasing activity in the central nervous system by enhancing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

People with ADHD have an inactive prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls attention. Adderall compensates for deficits in the prefrontal cortex by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Increased levels of norepinephrine cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Elevated levels of dopamine help improve focus and attentiveness, enhance impulse control and promotes a calming effect and mild pleasurable feelings.   

How Does Adderall Help ADHD?

Adderall alleviates many symptoms of ADHD. When used as prescribed, Adderall can improve:

  • Organization
  • Task completion
  • Concentration and focus
  • Listening and following directions
  • Hyperactive behaviors
  • Short attention span

What Does Adderall Do If You Don’t Have ADHD?

Adderall is not a performance-enhancing drug and instead works to balance attention deficits. A person without ADHD lacks these deficits, as they have appropriate amounts of neurotransmitters and normal prefrontal cortex. Thus, when a person without ADHD takes Adderall, the body is overloaded with dopamine and norepinephrine. Excess dopamine can disturb brain communication and cause euphoria instead of having the calming effect that it would typically have on a person with ADHD.     

Adderall has the potential for abuse and dependency when not taken as prescribed. People may abuse Adderall to increase memory, attention, or occupational and academic performance. Adderall abuse in high school and college is relatively common, as students take the drug to stay awake and study to obtain better grades. People with an eating disorder may also abuse Adderall for the appetite suppressant effects.  

When people become dependent on Adderall, they will feel that they need to continue using the drug to be productive and attentive. Individuals may take Adderall in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed, may crush and snort the drug, may purchase from an illegal source or may consume it for recreational use. A person may continuously chase feelings of euphoria, causing them to take higher amounts of Adderall as their brain chemistry changes. Long-term use and taking high doses of Adderall can result in more severe effects, including cardiovascular issues. When a person who is dependent on Adderall stops taking it, they can feel lethargic, hazy and sad.

Taking Adderall Without ADHD

Taking Adderall without ADHD can increase a person’s energy and induce a sense of euphoria. For people who don’t have ADHD, Adderall can also increase attentiveness and motivation and improve social confidence. A person taking Adderall without ADHD may be very talkative and speak rapidly. Adderall can also potentially enhance memory for a short time but may not help a person improve their long-term academic performance.

Taking Adderall without ADHD can result in several physical and psychological side effects including:

  • Headaches
  • Decreased, or non-existent, appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia or diminished sleep
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Sadness and mood swings

Long-term side effects of Adderall can be dangerous and include chest pain, vision problems, tingling in the extremities, blistering skin, seizures, paranoia or mania. People may experience Adderall withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug. Ongoing Adderall use can cause chemical imbalances in the brain.

Key Points: ADHD and Adderall

  • Adderall is a commonly prescribed drug that alleviates symptoms of ADHD.
  • Adderall increases neurotransmitter activity in the brain and attempts to compensate for deficits in inactive prefrontal cortexes.
  • When an individual takes Adderall without the deficits present in ADHD, it results in a neurotransmitter overload, causing euphoria and other side effects.

If you or someone that you know is dependent on Adderall, please contact The Recovery Village, a network of rehab facilities with trained mental health professionals that can assist you in treating Adderall dependence.


Bellum, S.  (2012, Nov 1).  Prescription Stimulants Affect People with ADHD Differently. 

Gregory, P. (2018, Aug 28). Adderall (Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine).

Patterson, E. (2017, May 24).  Adderall Abuse.

Puniewska, M. (2016, Nov 18).  What are the Effects of Adderall if You Don’t Have ADHD.  

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.