Understanding Adderall Addiction

Lindsey Blakley
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
June 29, 2022

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. What is Adderall
  2. What Adderall looks, tastes, and smells like
  3. Identifying Fake Adderall
  4. How to safely take Adderall
  5. What Adderall is called on the streets
  6. How Adderall is used and abused
  7. Adderall Abuse on College Campus
  8. Symptoms and Physical Consequences of Adderall Abuse
  9. Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality Statistics
  10. Detox and treatment

As one of the most popular drugs on college campuses, most college students don’t even consider Adderall a drug. A recent study showed that out of 175 undergraduates interviewed, only two percent described Adderall as “very dangerous.” Still, it is a medication that can have serious side effects when not taken under the care of a professional. It’s time the world knew just how serious this drug really is.  

What is Adderall

At its core, Adderall is a stimulant. It is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, two well-known central nervous system stimulants. Together, they increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain to reduce impulsivity and increase focus. 

It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 but was first stumbled upon by accident in the late 1920s. An American chemist, Gordon Alles, was searching for an asthma treatment. He knew adrenaline worked well with bronchial relaxation, and was searching for a similar substance when he created amphetamine. 

Adderall is only available to those with a physician’s prescription, but adults and children can both be prescribed the drug. It is mainly used today to help with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. When used in combination with anti-anxiety medications, it can also help with depression symptoms. 

Children as young as two can be diagnosed with ADHD, but most symptoms don’t present until around seven years of age. 

Because it is a combination of two amphetamines, Adderall is easily addictive and should only be taken under the care of a physician. 

What Adderall Looks, Tastes, and Smells Like

Adderall is a small, chalky tablet. The tablet is round, peach in color, and scored with a “dp” on one side and a “30” on the other. It doesn’t typically have much of a smell or taste as it is meant to be taken without chewing. 

There are other brands and similar versions of the drug. Some are extended-release, and some aren’t. Some come in capsules, but most are round tablets. 

All of the different types of Adderall and similar medications that are on the market can make it that much more confusing for someone trying to buy it recreationally. There is now a fake Adderall on the streets that looks extremely similar to the brand name drug, but contains different ingredients and is potentially dangerous. 

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Identifying Fake Adderall

Here are some characteristics of the fake version of Adderall:

  • They are labeled as Adderall 30mg tablets but don’t contain the same ingredients 
  • The tablets are round and white in color and don’t have any markings on them
  • It comes in a blister pack, while real Adderall comes in a bottle
  • Real Adderall has a National Drug Code (NDC) number, while the fake version claims to have an “NDS” number. 
  • The ingredients listed misspells “Amphetamine Aspartate” as “Amphetamine Aspartrte.”

It is crucial to know what Adderall really looks like to potentially stop someone from buying the fake version recreationally. 

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How to Safely Take Adderall

First and foremost, Adderall should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor and should always be taken exactly as prescribed. If you feel like the medication isn’t working as intended, it is vital to speak with your doctor before trying to self-medicate. Your doctor will work with you to make sure you get the relief you need without endangering yourself with addiction. 

It is also crucial that you never share your prescription with anyone else, especially someone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse. It should always be kept in a place away from public view and reach. 

Here are a few other pointers to remember when taking Adderall: 

  • Do not break, crush, or chew the tablet. Swallow it whole. 
  • You may take it with or without food.
  • It is best when taken first thing in the morning.
  • Always be open and honest with your doctor during your visits.

Adderall works by increasing connections between the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system when taken as directed. These connections speed up the brain activity, and it usually lasts four to six hours unless the patient is prescribed extended-release (XR) capsules. 

The XR version slowly releases the medication into the system rather than all at once. The patient may not feel the effects as strongly or suddenly, but it will last longer to help them make it all the way through the day. 

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What Adderall is Called on the Streets

By far, the most common street name for Adderall is ‘addy(s).’ nine times out of ten, this is what you’ll hear when talking about Adderall. Even patients with a prescription often shorten the name to Addy when speaking in conversation. 

There are a few other popular street names, though. A few of them include: 

  • Study Buddies
  • Smart Pills
  • Uppers
  • Beans
  • Pep Pills
  • Speed
  • Dexies
  • Zing
  • Black Beauties 

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How Adderall is used and abused

Adderall is more common among college students than any other age group, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Not only that, but in 2018, 11% of college students admitted to using Adderall without a prescription, according to the Monitoring a Future College Students and Young Adults survey. And that’s just the college students that actually admitted to using Adderall recreationally. 

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Adderall Abuse on College Campus

The truth is, it is extremely easy to find Adderall on any college campus. So, most college kids won’t even bother going to the doctor for a prescription. Rather, they will self-medicate and often abuse the drug without a parent or doctor even knowing. 

Adderall is most often abused among college students to help them pull all-nighters to study or get projects done. However, danger arises when students take the drug and mix it with alcohol and other drugs at parties. 

College is a high-pressure environment. Whether the pressure is to get good grades or to spend time partying with friends, the pressures are there. Adderall is a drug that can be abused in the classroom or the party scene, which makes it potentially even more dangerous and addicting among college students. 

Still, anyone at any age can abuse Adderall. All it takes is someone to overuse their prescription without speaking with their doctor first. That alone is abuse, and the fact that the longer you take Adderall, the more you need, makes it dangerously easy for someone to quickly develop a dependency or addiction to the substance. That is why being open and honest with your doctor is of the utmost importance. 

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Symptoms and Physical Consequences of Adderall


The physical symptoms of Adderall are usually felt right away, even when someone takes the XR version. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms: 

  • Improved attention span
  • Impulse control 
  • Short breathes 
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased brain activity 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervousness 
  • Swelling
  • Dry mouth 
  • Constricted blood vessels 

Yes, Adderall is extremely effective at increasing focus and decreasing impulsivity but at what cost? The above-mentioned symptoms are the most common symptoms, and side effects felt when taking Adderall. These are the things people are used to. There are other side effects and consequences that aren’t as pleasant. 

Some of the consequences include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision 
  • Anxiety 
  • Tics or seizures
  • Hallucinations and other thought problems 
  • Increased depression symptoms

Not to mention the long-term effects the drug has on the body, like: 

  • Sleeping problems
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Aggression 
  • Lethargy 
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia 
  • Panic attacks
  • Thoughts of suicide

These are some of the dangers of this controlled substance that people experience all the time. With so many people trying Adderall without a prescription, it becomes impossible to really know the number of people experiencing these serious and long-term effects without mentioning them to a doctor. Even if you’ve been taking Adderall recreationally, if you experience any of these foul symptoms, you should call a doctor right away to speak about what’s been going on. Nothing is more serious than your own health. 

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Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality Statistics

By 2018, Adderall overdose deaths increased by 55% from 2016 and were the culprit of more deaths than any other stimulant that year. And according to Guide 2 Research, 33% of college students have given some of their prescriptions to others. 

Those that abuse Adderall are at an increased risk of not only addiction but overdosing and death. You never know how the medication will react to your body type and health background. Professional care is necessary to reduce the addiction and death rates of Adderall. 

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Detox and Treatment

Depending on your tolerance, how often, and how long you’ve taken Adderall, the detoxing can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Withdrawal symptoms usually only show up in those that have abused the drug and taken more than directed by a doctor or taken it without speaking to a doctor at all. 

The main withdrawal is the fact that dopamine levels will drop rapidly. Your brain and body must adjust to this change and compensate for the loss. There isn’t a real treatment method for someone experiencing Adderall withdrawal. However, it is important to ask for help or to speak with a doctor if you begin feeling powerless, fearful of the future, paranoid, or suicidal. 

Adderall might be looked at as a play drug by most college students, but it is still a controlled substance that requires a lot of discipline to take properly to avoid addiction. Remember, it is never too late to ask for help.

Avenues Recovery Centers offer real, lasting recovery options for Adderall addiction. Find the Avenues location nearest you and take the first step towards your new life.

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