Adderall XR is the most prescribed ADHD medication but what are the side effects and dangers of this using drug?
Adderall’s side effects, or contraindications as they are properly known, identified in the drug trials are in most cases mild and relatively infrequent. During Adderall’s drug trials poor appetite, stomachaches, and insomnia were the generally reported side effects by parents but headaches were rated notably more significant when children were receiving higher doses of Adderall.
The frequency of these side effects do vary from trial to trial depending on dose and age of the participants. In trials on children, loss of appetite occurred 10 more often as an Adderall side effect than the placebo or chance frequency. It affected 22% of those taking Adderall. Insomnia was seven or eight times more likely and affected 17% of those on the drug. In adults headaches were twice as frequent (26% of users) and loss of appetite ten times more likely (33% of users).
The data doesn’t reveal how many users suffered multiple side effects but at least 20% of all users of Adderall suffer a side effect and it could be 40% or more.
An adverse event is a significant change in health whilst taking the medication. These may not be an Adderall’s side effect but if it occurred during a clinical trial it has to be recorded. Generally an adverse event is serious enough to cause the patient to stop taking the medicine. Often these events are unrelated to the drug being tested. During two trials of Adderall, 2.4% of participants stop taking the medication due to adverse events but 2.7% of the patients receiving the placebo dropped out because of them.
In larger trials where Adderall was assessed for side effects over longer-term usage the adverse events were:
|Adverse event||% of pediatric patients discontinuing (n=595)|
|Anorexia (loss of appetite)||2.9|
Half of these patients had been taking Adderall for 12 months or more.
Other Long Term Health Risks
In addition to trial data, longitudinal studies and individual reports by doctors have indicated other Adderall side effects.
Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state in which thought and perception are severely impaired. Persons experiencing a psychotic episode may experience hallucinations. Amphetamines (one of Adderall ingredients) have been known to amplify exisiting psychosis. It is unclear if long term usage will cause psychosis in a previously healthy patient.
As Adderall is a relatively new drug, the longer term effects are not known but some data has indicated that it and other stimulants may stunt growth. Other research suggests that children with ADHD are more at risk of stunted growth generally.
Sudden death in Adderall users is linked to those with patients with existing heart problems. Only twenty five patients have died after taking any form of ADHD medication and many of these may not be connected to the medication.
Addicition, Withdraw and the Central Nervous System
Long term use of amphetamines generally leads to the body building up a tolerance to the drug. This forces doctors to prescribe higher dosages or switch the patient to other, possibly less suitable, medications. The constant stimulation of the central nervous system may lead to dependence on the drug with severe problems when the drug is stopped. Long term usage may also increase the chance of cocaine addiction, a stimulant similar to amphetamine.
FDA Patient Information Sheet
Placebo-Controlled Evaluation of Amphetamine Mixture—Dextroamphetamine Salts and Amphetamine Salts (Adderall): Efficacy Rate and Side Effects
Growth in Hyperactive Children Treated With Stimulant Medication.