Adderall and Schizophrenia: How Adderall Affects Schizophrenia

While many people know about the addictive nature of Adderall when not taken as prescribed or used recreationally, few people know about the Adderall-schizophrenia connection. Researchers have found that Adderall can cause hallucinations and delusions in some people. In the most severe cases, a person may experience symptoms of psychosis that mimic schizophrenia so closely that it is nearly indistinguishable.

Some researchers estimate that as many as 25 million people worldwide take Adderall (or other, similar drugs) to focus. While the adverse effects of Adderall and schizophrenia have been documented for decades, they have received little attention. In the late 1950s, The British Medical Journal reported: “A common result of amphetamine intoxication is the development of a paranoid psychosis indistinguishable from schizophrenia, during which the patient may be a serious social danger.”

Studies published since this time have found that stimulant-induced psychosis may only be distinguished from schizophrenia when a person is hospitalized. Schizophrenia-like symptoms will generally subside within a few days if they are caused by amphetamine use. If schizophrenia is present, the symptoms will not resolve fully or without medical interventions.

For a person with a pre-existing mental health condition, the side effects of Adderall abuse are likely to be more severe. This fact is especially true for people with disorders that involve psychotic breaks, such as schizophrenia. A person with one of these disorders considering taking Adderall may wonder how it would affect them. Some common questions include:

  • “Can Adderall help with schizophrenia?”
  • “Can Adderall make schizophrenia worse?”

A person with pre-existing schizophrenia may find that the impact of Adderall on schizophrenia symptoms is severe. Taking Adderall or other stimulants is likely to trigger the onset of a psychotic break.

The primary treatment for schizophrenia is antipsychotic medications. Antipsychotic medications may cause drowsiness and an impaired ability to concentrate. Some people may use Adderall or other stimulant medications to offset the side effects of antipsychotic drugs. This practice is dangerous as Adderall is likely to cause a psychotic break. Even in cases where a psychotic break is not triggered, other symptoms have been shown to worsen by the introduction of stimulants.

Psychosis is perhaps the most startling side effect of Adderall abuse. Fortunately, this side effect is relatively rare. Studies on schizophrenia-like symptoms and amphetamines have estimated that symptoms of psychosis only occur in approximately 0.1 percent of people who abuse Adderall. The following symptoms of psychosis characterize both schizophrenia and Adderall-induced psychosis:

  • Paranoia (extreme and irrational feelings of suspiciousness)
  • Delusions (false beliefs despite proof indicating otherwise; these are usually irrational beliefs)
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real)
Individuals diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to have a family history of schizophrenia than people who do not have an ADHD diagnosis. Concerns when starting medication for ADHD are often focused on side effects such as weight loss or concerns about developing dependency. However, for an individual with a family history of schizophrenia, the most urgent question may be, “Can Adderall cause schizophrenia?”

To answer this question, researchers interviewed individuals treated for amphetamine-induced psychosis six months after the initial hospitalization. Of the patients who remained abstinent during this period, most reported continued psychotic symptoms. However, none met the criteria for schizophrenia.

While Adderall induced schizophrenia episodes are possible, it appears that Adderall does not cause schizophrenia in people who are not already predisposed to developing it. However, for a person who may be predisposed to developing schizophrenia, Adderall abuse may be a catalyst for earlier onset or more debilitating symptoms.

Substance use disorders, such as Adderall use disorder, are highly treatable. However, when co-occurring disorders are present, such as drug or alcohol use and a mental health condition, treatment is complicated. An individual who is using Adderall and seeking schizophrenia treatment needs to be open with their provider to ensure both disorders are treated simultaneously. The skilled professionals at The Recovery Village can provide the necessary treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring schizophrenia. Reach out to a representative today to begin your recovery.
Important points to remember about schizophrenia and Adderall include:

  • Adderall and schizophrenia are more closely related than many people realize
  • For individuals with a family history of schizophrenia, using Adderall, whether as prescribed or recreationally, should be considered carefully
  • Possible Adderall side effects, including psychosis, should be discussed with a doctor openly

If you or a loved one struggle with Adderall addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition, The Recovery Village can help. Our programs treat physical and mental symptoms of addiction through combining medical support with counseling. To learn about our programs, or to get started with treatment, call The Recovery Village today.

Berman, S. M., et al. “Potential adverse effects of amphetamine treatment on brain and behavior: a review.” Molecular Psychiatry, August 2008. Accessed December 2018.

Bramness, J. G., et al. “Amphetamine-induced psychosis–a separate diagnostic entity or primary psychosis triggered in the vulnerable?” BMC Psychiatry, December 2012. Accessed December 2018.

Lakhan, S. E., et al. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.” Brain and Behavior, September 2012. Accessed December 2018.

Haglage, Abby. “Can Adderall Abuse Trigger Temporary Schizophrenia?” The Daily Beast, March 2016. Accessed December 2018.

Mozes, Alan. “ADHD Meds May Raise Risk for Psychotic Side Effects in Some Kids: Study – WebMD.” WebMD, December 2015. Accessed December 2018.

Rognli, E.B., et al. “Understanding the Relationship Between Amphetamines and Psychosis” Springer Nature, September 2015. Accessed December 2018.

Adderall and Schizophrenia
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