Drug and Alcohol - Depression and Anxiety

Adderall & Depression: Why Does Adderall Make Me Depressed?

Are there links between Adderall & Depression? Our blog examines potential connections between ADHD drugs and depressive disorders.

Are There Links Between Adderall & Depression?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 7, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Adderall is a prescription stimulant. So, why does taking Adderall make some people feel depressed?

Substance abuse can sometimes be a poor coping mechanism for individuals struggling with depression. While it may provide temporary relief or escape, it ultimately makes the problem worse. It also creates a cycle of behaviors that often leads to depression.

While substance abuse may provide temporary relief, it is not a healthy or effective long-term solution for managing depression. Instead, substance abuse can worsen depressive symptoms, increase dependency, and create a cycle of addiction and negative consequences. 

Adderall & Depression: How Substance Abuse is Used as a Coping Mechanism for Depression

However, here are some ways in which substance abuse may be used to cope with depression:

Temporary Mood Elevation

Prescription drugs, illegal substances, or alcohol can provide a temporary sense of euphoria or relief from depressive symptoms. They may offer a temporary escape from negative thoughts, low mood, or emotional pain, creating a temporary lift in mood.

Numbing or Self-Medication

Substance abuse can be a way to numb emotional pain or numbness associated with depression. By altering brain chemistry and numbing emotions, individuals may temporarily avoid confronting and processing their feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair.

Coping With Underlying Trauma

Some individuals with depression may have experienced past traumatic events. Substance abuse may be a coping mechanism to suppress or numb traumatic memories and associated emotional distress.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Individuals with depression may engage in self-destructive behavior as a manifestation of their negative self-perception. Substance abuse can be a way to engage in self-harm or self-sabotage, reflecting feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a medication that combines amphetamine salts to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It belongs to the class of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. It is commonly used to improve focus, decrease impulsivity, and manage hyperactivity in individuals with ADHD.

The active ingredients in Adderall are dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine, which increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, regulate attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. 

While Adderall is beneficial for individuals with ADHD when used as intended, it can be used and abused. For example, some individuals may use Adderall without a prescription or take higher doses than prescribed to enhance focus, increase energy levels, or improve academic or work performance. Some people also combine Adderall with other drugs.

This misuse of Adderall can be dangerous and may lead to addiction, cardiovascular problems, and other adverse effects.

Does Adderall Have Any Side Effects?

Adderall can have several side effects that vary in severity and may affect individuals differently. 

Adderall & Depression: Common Adderall Side Effects

  • Decreased appetite: Adderall can suppress appetite, leading to reduced food intake and weight loss.

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep: Adderall's stimulant effects can cause insomnia or disrupt standard sleep patterns.

  • Dry mouth: Adderall may cause a decrease in saliva production, resulting in a dry or uncomfortable feeling in the mouth.

  • Headache: Some individuals may experience headaches as a side effect of Adderall use.

  • Nervousness or restlessness: Adderall can increase feelings of anxiety, nervousness, or restlessness.

Adderall & Depression: Physical Side Effects of Adderall

  • Stomachache or abdominal pain: Adderall may cause discomfort or pain in the stomach or abdomen.

  • Nausea or vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea or vomiting as a side effect.

  • Diarrhea or constipation: Adderall can affect bowel movements, leading to diarrhea or constipation in some cases.

Adderall & Depression: Adderall & The Heart

  • Increased heart rate: Adderall is a stimulant that can elevate heart rate, causing palpitations or a racing heart.

  • Increased blood pressure: Adderall can raise blood pressure levels, which may be of concern for individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

Adderall & Depression: Adderall’s Negative Effects on Mental Health

  • Irritability or agitation: Some individuals may experience increased irritability or agitation while taking Adderall.

  • Anxiety or panic attacks: Adderall can exacerbate feelings of anxiety or trigger panic attacks in susceptible individuals.

  • Mood swings: Adderall may cause mood fluctuations, leading to heightened or low mood periods.

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Adderall & Depression: What is Depression?

Depression describes a variety of mental health disorders that can manifest with various symptoms. The severity and duration of these symptoms can vary among individuals. Experiencing some of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate clinical depression.

However, experiencing some of the symptoms below for a prolonged period is usually an indicator of depression:

  • Prolonged sadness: Feeling down or melancholy for the majority of the day, almost every day

  • A lack of enthusiasm or enjoyment: A decline in interest or enjoyment in activities you once relished. This can apply to your hobbies, friendships, or socializing events.

  • Significant changes in appetite or weight: Experiencing a noticeable decrease or increase in appetite that leads to weight loss or weight gain

  • Sleep disturbances: Having difficulties with sleep, such as insomnia (trouble going to asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early) or hypersomnia (extreme drowsiness or extended hours of uninterrupted sleeping)

  • Exhaustion or loss of energy: Feeling tired throughout the day, requiring too much energy even for small tasks, or having a significant decrease in energy levels

  • Feelings of insignificance or guilt: Having feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, or blaming yourself for every minor and major issues

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions: Experiencing challenges with focus, concentration, memory, or making decisions

  • Psychomotor changes: Experiencing observable changes in physical movements and behaviors, such as restlessness, agitation, slowed movements, or speaking more slowly

  • Suicidal thoughts: Constantly thinking about death or dying

  • Physical symptoms: Experiencing physical symptoms not explained by any underlying medical condition, such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain

Adderall & Depression: Why is Dealing with Depression Hard?

Dealing with depression can be challenging for several reasons:

Complex Nature of Depression

Depression is a multifaceted mental health condition involving biological, psychological, and social factors. It is not simply a matter of feeling sad or down. Depression affects your mood, thoughts, behaviors, and physical well-being, making it complex to understand and manage.

Stigma and Misunderstanding

Despite increasing awareness about mental health, there is still stigma and misunderstanding surrounding depression. This can lead to shame, isolation, and reluctance to seek help. In addition, societal attitudes and misconceptions can create barriers to accessing proper support and treatment, making it more challenging to address depression effectively.

Internalized Negative Beliefs

Depression often distorts one's perception of oneself and the world. Negative thoughts and beliefs become ingrained, leading to self-criticism, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness. Overcoming these internalized negative beliefs can be a significant challenge and may require therapeutic intervention.

Persistent Symptoms

Depression is characterized by persistent symptoms such as a persistently low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, sleep disturbances, fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulties with concentration, and thoughts of worthlessness or suicidal ideation. These symptoms can be relentless, making engaging in daily activities, work, or relationships difficult.

Treatment Trial and Error

Finding the right treatment approach for depression can be a process of trial and error. What works for one person may not work for another. Finding the most practical combination of therapies, medications, and lifestyle adjustments takes time to manage depression effectively. This process can be discouraging and prolong the journey toward recovery.

Social and Environmental Factors

Depression can be influenced by social and environmental factors, such as stressful life events, relationship difficulties, financial problems, or a lack of support systems. Addressing these external factors while managing the internal aspects of depression can add to the complexity of the healing process.

Lack of Energy and Motivation

Depression often saps an individual's energy, motivation, and ability to self-care or seek help. The nature of depression can make it challenging to take proactive steps toward recovery, such as seeking therapy, engaging in physical activity, or maintaining healthy habits.

Each person's experience with depression is unique, and their challenges can vary. Fortunately, with appropriate support, understanding, and professional help, you can work towards managing and recovering from depression. 

The relationship between depression and Adderall (amphetamine salts) can be multifaceted. While Adderall is primarily prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are instances where healthcare providers may prescribe it off-label as an adjunct treatment for depression. This may be done when other antidepressant medications have not been effective.

Adderall's stimulant properties can potentially increase energy levels, improve focus, and alleviate some depressive symptoms in specific individuals. However, using Adderall for depression is not a common practice, and a healthcare professional should carefully consider and monitor the decision to use it off-label.

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Adderall & Depression: Adderall as a Treatment for Depression

When Adderall is used for depression, it is believed to work through its stimulant properties. Adderall contains amphetamine salts that increase certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play a role in regulating mood, motivation, and pleasure.

By increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, Adderall may potentially alleviate some symptoms of depression. For example, it may enhance energy levels, improve concentration and focus, and help individuals feel more motivated and engaged. These effects may relieve some depressive symptoms, such as fatigue, lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating.

However, it is essential to emphasize that using Adderall for depression is not a standard or recommended treatment approach. Antidepressant medications specifically designed to target depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are generally considered the first-line treatment options for depression.

These medications have been extensively studied and proven effective for managing depressive symptoms. 

Adderall & Depression: Can Adderall Cause Depression?

Adderall itself is not known to cause depression. However, there are some factors related to Adderall that could potentially contribute to depressive symptoms or worsen existing depression:

Side Effects

Adderall can cause side effects in some individuals, which may impact your mood and mental well-being. Common side effects of Adderall include decreased appetite, insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. These side effects can potentially aggravate depressive symptoms or contribute to feelings of low temperament or irritability.

Comedown Effects

As the effects of Adderall wear off, some individuals may experience a "comedown" period. During this time, they may feel tired, irritable, or experience a temporary worsening of mood. These comedown effects can be particularly pronounced in individuals who misuse or abuse Adderall or take it in higher doses than prescribed.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Using Adderall without medical supervision, taking higher doses than prescribed, or abruptly stopping its use can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include fatigue, low mood, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which may resemble depressive symptoms.

The relationship between Adderall and depression is complex. Some individuals with ADHD who take Adderall as prescribed may experience improvement in their depressive symptoms due to better management of ADHD symptoms.

But, in other cases, Adderall may not be appropriate for individuals with depression, and it may even worsen their condition.

Adderall & Depression: How to Avoid Depression While Taking Adderall

As we have seen how Adderall may lead to some depressive feelings, it is important to consider strategies that can help you minimize the risk of depression while taking this medication. 

Open Communication with Your Healthcare Provider

Maintain regular and open communication with your prescribing healthcare provider. Discuss any concerns or changes in mood that you may experience while taking Adderall. They can provide guidance, monitor your medication response, and make necessary adjustments.

Supportive Therapy

Engage in therapy or counseling to address any underlying psychological factors that may contribute to or exacerbate depression. Therapy can help you develop coping strategies, manage stress, improve self-esteem, and enhance overall emotional well-being.

Balanced Lifestyle

Maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, including regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and sufficient sleep. These factors can positively impact mood and overall well-being.

Self-Care Practices

Engage in self-care activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction. This can include hobbies, mindfulness or meditation exercises, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Social Support

Cultivate a strong support system by connecting with friends, family, or support groups. Share your experiences, seek support, and engage in activities that promote positive social interactions.

Regular Breaks and Self-Monitoring

Take regular breaks from Adderall if recommended by your healthcare provider. Periodically assess your mood, energy levels, and overall well-being while taking the medication. If you notice any concerning changes, discuss them with your healthcare provider.

Remember that everyone's response to medication is unique, and what works for your friend or family member may not work for you. Therefore, work closely with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan addressing your needs and concerns.

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The Forge Recovery Center Effectively Treats Addiction to Adderall & Depression

A dual diagnosis is the combination of a mental health disorder (like depression) and a substance abuse problem (like addiction to Adderall). A serious – but treatable – problem, The Forge Recovery Center has a deep understanding of dual diagnosis. Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, we provide expert, evidence-based care for Adderall abuse, depressive disorders, and dual diagnosis.

Our treatment center was carefully created to be a warm, welcoming place where addiction and mental health disorders can be explored and treated safely and effectively. With 24/7 access to medical support, individual therapists, and more, there’s no better place to heal.

If you want to learn more about our effective addiction to Adderall & depression treatment programs, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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