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Adderall Effects on Personality

Key Points

  • Adderall treats ADHD by improving focus, concentration, attention, and productivity.
  • Some people experience personality changes on Adderall, including mood swings, irritability, hostility, and depression symptoms.
  • In rare cases, Adderall can cause psychosis symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.
  • The risks of adverse effects with Adderall increase with heavy use or abuse, including the risk of addiction.

Adderall is a commonly prescribed stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It can improve the symptoms of these conditions by increasing focus, attention, and executive function, but that can come with personality changes like moodiness, irritability, and anxiety.

If you or a loved one is taking Adderall, it’s important to understand the potential personality effects and behavior changes that can occur.

What Is Adderall Used For?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It’s commonly used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but it’s also a drug of abuse and carries a potential for addiction.

Adderall Personality Effects

The effects that make Adderall effective for treating ADHD and improving executive function can also cause personality changes. These effects can be multifaceted and may be caused by side effects, the direct action of the medication, and the individual’s response.

Some people may have positive changes in their focus, motivation, and productivity, which can improve their life or function. However, there are negative personality effects that can occur with Adderall, including irritability, anger, worsening insomnia, and some symptoms of depression.[1]

While Adderall is used to treat narcolepsy, its stimulant effects can also cause insomnia in some individuals. This insomnia may contribute to personality changes, but these changes can also be a direct side effect of the medication itself, not solely from sleep deprivation. For example, with chronic insomnia, people may have unstable moods, heightened anxiety, or poor memory.

While personality effects can seem drastic, the drug itself is unlikely to fundamentally change someone’s core personality traits with short-term use. They are more noticeable in people who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD and misuse or abuse the medication.

Adderall Behavioral Changes

In addition to personality changes, Adderall can affect someone’s usual behavior. The purpose of the drug is to improve disruptive symptoms of ADHD so that many people can concentrate and focus better.

These behavioral changes can have accompanying negative effects, however, such as mood changes, reduced appetite, and chronic fatigue. Some personality changes can lead to behaviors that are extreme, unpredictable, or out of character.

Like any medication, the benefits should outweigh the risks and side effects.

Adderall Effects on the Brain

Adderall Effects on the Brain
Taking Adderall can have short- and long-term effects on the brain, even when used as prescribed. In the short term, Adderall can increase focus, energy, and alertness, but it may also cause mood changes, nervousness, and sleep changes. Side effects differ from person to person and may vary by age. For some, side effects stop after a week or two on the drug.

Though rare, Adderall can cause serious side effects like delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms of psychosis. Serious mood changes and psychosis can be dangerous, so it’s crucial to speak to your doctor if you notice these symptoms or other symptoms that affect your daily life.

The initial feelings of energy, focus, and motivation from Adderall use can be significant, often described as euphoric by some users. However, as tolerance develops, these positive effects may diminish, leading to less pronounced benefits and potentially more negative side effects over time.

With long-term use, Adderall may cause decreased energy or fatigue, anxiety, panic, irritability, and other emotional changes. Some people may experience a loss of interest in sex or erectile dysfunction, particularly with heavy use.

Another serious long-term effect of Adderall use is tolerance, which is when you need more of the drug to produce the same effects, and dependence, which is when your brain relies on the drug to function and produces less dopamine on its own. This can bring changes like fluctuating moods, irritability, low energy, and a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed.

When tolerance and dependence occur, you may need to take Adderall at higher doses or more frequently to get the same effect. If you stop taking it or cut back on your use abruptly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Addiction can develop over time.

Does Adderall Permanently Change Brain Chemistry?

Adderall can affect brain chemistry while it’s in use, including how the brain uses neurotransmitters. This is more likely with higher doses or over long periods, however, stopping Adderall may reverse these effects.

Physical effects that can be brought on by Adderall use, such as heart damage, may be irreversible.

Taking Adderall as prescribed by a doctor at the appropriate dose is not associated with permanent adverse changes. It’s important to take Adderall as directed by your doctor. If you’re taking Adderall that isn’t prescribed, you’re at a greater risk for adverse effects.

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, Adderall and other stimulant drugs have the potential for abuse and addiction. Taking Adderall regularly can lead to tolerance and dependence, which can quickly develop into a substance use disorder (the technical term for addiction).

Adderall’s potential for tolerance and dependence is significantly increased with misuse. People who take Adderall to study, lose weight, or get high are at a greater risk of developing dependence and addiction.

Signs of Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Addiction to Adderall is a stimulant use disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The criteria include:[2]

  • Using or misusing Adderall in higher doses or for longer periods than intended
  • A desire or repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop or cut back on use
  • Spending a lot of time attempting to obtain, use, or recover from Adderall use
  • Cravings for Adderall
  • Recurrent use that affects school, home, or work
  • Continued use despite negative effects
  • Giving up on activities once enjoyed
  • Using Adderall in situations that can be dangerous

Treatment for Adderall Addiction

Though Adderall can be safe when used under the supervision of a doctor, it’s still an addictive drug. If you or a loved one is developing an addiction, don’t delay in getting help. The longer use or misuse occurs, the more likely you are to experience personality changes, behavioral changes, and adverse effects.

You can’t normally do it alone, however. Stopping Adderall abruptly, especially with heavy use, can bring on unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can cause relapse. Medical detox with a supervised taper schedule can help you come off of Adderall safely while minimizing the severity of symptoms.

After detox, you can enter an inpatient or outpatient treatment program to treat the psychological aspects of addiction. Treatment plans are individualized but may include psychotherapy (talk therapy), group therapy, peer support groups, and behavioral therapies.

If you’re struggling with Adderall addiction, treatment can help you get off of Adderall safely and find a healthier path forward.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Effects of Adderall

Adderall can have emotional or personality side effects like irritability, hostility, aggression, anxiety, and nervousness.

Some people are more social and talkative on Adderall, even to the point of feeling grandiose or invincible. Adderall can cause behavioral changes like mood swings or dramatic shifts in behavior. In rare cases, it may cause delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis.

Adderall can cause intense irritability in some people, which could indicate that they need a different dosage or a different medication. Some people experience extreme mood swings as well, including extreme highs and extreme lows.

While Adderall can exacerbate existing bipolar symptoms or mimic mania-like symptoms, such as increased energy and decreased need for sleep, it does not directly cause bipolar disorder. However, misuse of Adderall can lead to severe adverse effects, including symptoms similar to those of mania, hallucinations, and delusions.

Increased feelings of anger or irritability on Adderall can result from its impact on neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These changes can affect mood regulation, leading to heightened emotions or aggression, especially at higher doses or when the medication is not well-tolerated. [3]

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[1] Adderall: Uses, dosage, Side Effects & Safety Info. Drugs.com. (n.d.-b). Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/adderall.html#side-effects

[2] Stimulant use disorder. PsychDB. (2022, November 30). Retrieved from https://www.psychdb.com/addictions/stimulants/1-use-disorder

[3] Horsting, R. (2017, July 13). Research note: Irritability and ADHD medications. Yale School of Medicine. Retrieved from https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/research-note-irritability-and-adhd-medications/#

Last medically reviewed February 12, 2024.