Adderall is a prescription medication, and when doctors hand out the drug, they tell their patients how much to take and how often to take it. The dose written on the pill bottle is the dose doctors consider safe for that person at that time. Taking more isn’t considered wise. In fact, it could be considered dangerous.
People who have addictions may not have doctors to talk to about their addictions. They may not even have pill bottles to refer to. People who abuse Adderall may buy it from street dealers, or they may steal it from medicine cabinets. In a way, they’re working like their own doctors. They take the dose that seems to deliver the best high.
Unfortunately, Adderall truly is dangerous, and taking too much can lead to an overdose.
Can You Overdose On Adderall?
Adderall is a relatively safe medication when used as directed. It is usually well-tolerated by the people who need it. However, taking it in high doses can lead to an overdose. Like many prescription medications, high doses of the drug can increase your risk of experiencing uncomfortable side effects. As a stimulant, side effects can involve overstimulation, like insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, and panic. In higher doses, it could cause more serious symptoms like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and chest pains.
An overdose is any high dose of a drug that leads to negative or dangerous side effects. It’s possible to experience an Adderall overdose by taking a high dose of the drug or mixing it with other substances. However, overdoses can also be deadly. It’s not common to take a deadly overdose of Adderall by accident when using it for therapeutic effects. However, it may be possible to experience a deadly overdose of Adderall when taking it for recreational effects, especially if you mix it with other substances.
What’s a Normal Dose of Adderall?
The standard dose of Adderall that you might take will depend on several factors, including your age and the reason you’re taking it. Adderall is commonly taken to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects children and adults. Adderall can be prescribed to children, and it’s relatively safe to use, although doctors may suggest breaks to determine if the drug is still necessary as the child develops.
Adderall is not recommended for children as young as age 3. But children between ages 3 and 5 may start with a dose of 2.5 mg (milligrams) and increase it upon a doctor’s recommendation. The daily dose may be increased by 2.5 mg each week until you see positive results. Children age 6 and older may start with a 5-mg dose and increase it by 5 mg each week until ADHD symptoms are relieved. For adults, Adderall tablets are available in doses of 10 mg and 30 mg. It is rare for a dose of 40 mg to be necessary, and that may be the upper end of normal for ADHD treatment.
Adderall is also used to treat narcolepsy. The dose may vary widely based on the individual patient. Narcolepsy patients may take a dose anywhere between 5 and 60 milligrams. However, it’s generally best to start with a small dose and increase it as needed.
How Much is Too Much?
Adderall is a therapy for people who have Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In an article published by ADDitude, a doctor reports that there is no “recommended dose” of Adderall, as the drug’s action can be influenced by:
- Rate of absorption in the gut
- Movement of the drug from the bloodstream into the brain
- Metabolization rate
- Intake of vitamin C
All of these factors can vary from person to person, so doctors who want to provide an optimal therapeutic dose must go through a trial-and-error period. They offer the medication and then follow up with their patients to see if the drugs helped or if the dose should be adjusted.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backs up this claim. The FDA says that individual responses to amphetamines like Adderall can vary quite a bit from one person to the next, and some people have severe side effects at doses that seem quite low.
People with a low tolerance for Adderall could experience life-threatening complications at very low doses. People who have addictions to Adderall can take extremely high doses that wouldn’t be safe for anyone.
The body has the ability to adjust to the presence of Adderall, and people with addictions may find that they need to take more of the drug to get the effects they once felt with small doses. This means people who abuse the drug may take in massive doses as their addictions progress. For example, in an interview published in Women’s Health Magazine, a woman with an addiction to Adderall took four 70-milligram Adderall pills per day, most days of the week. Typically, doctors prescribe just one per day, she says.
This woman overdosed, but luckily, she survived the experience. Not all people who take in high doses of Adderall are so lucky.
Adderall is an amphetamine, and according to an article in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, it works by stimulating the release of norepinephrine in the body. That substance can make blood vessels shrink down. At the same time, stimulants can trigger an increase in heart rate and blood flow. At high levels, the authors say, the substance can serious symptoms.
- Cold body temperatures
- Fast, irregular heartbeats
These are life-threatening symptoms. They continue as long as the drug is active within the body. That means people can endure seizures that last for extremely long periods of time, and each seizure can raise body temperatures. People can experience massive organ failure due to these ongoing seizures.
Treatment is vital for an Adderall overdose, and according to a study in the journal CNS Drugs, treatment tends to be supportive. There are no substances doctors can provide that renders all Adderall inactive. Instead, doctors need to offer therapies that help to mitigate the symptoms people feel while they are overdosing. Typically, those therapies involve medications. Doctors give anti-seizure drugs, provide sedatives, and may give antipsychotic medications. These aren’t therapies people have at home in their medicine cabinet. They all require a prescription. That’s why it is vital for people to get medical attention when dealing with an overdose.
Doctors writing for the Huffington Post put it plainly: People who overdose on Adderall and don’t get help from a medical professional are unlikely to survive. That means people who overdose while alone may not survive.
Other Issues of Concern
In this article, we’ve been focused on the dangers that come with taking too much Adderall, but that’s not the only risk people face when they use this drug. Even small doses of the drug could cause problems that are life-threatening.
For example, in an article published in Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine, researchers write about a person who experienced a life-threatening episode of liver failure after taking Adderall. She was using the medication to treat ADHD, and she was taking the proper dose. She required hospitalization in order to recover. Doctors say this seemed like an unusual case, but Adderall was the only substance this woman was taking. It was the Adderall that put her life at risk, and if it happened to her, it could happen to others.
Similarly, in a study published in the journal Paediatrics and Child Health, researchers report on several cases of children who developed life-threatening heart issues due to taking prescription medications for ADHD.
The doctors report that this side effect is common, and doctors should screen their patients closely for any signs or family history of heart disease before the drug is prescribed. Studies like this suggest that Adderall may not be safe at any dose for some people who have underlying medical conditions. Even doses considered small or therapeutic could cause complications that could end a person’s life.
Why Would Someone Take a High Dose of Adderall?
High doses that could lead to a potentially lethal dose of Adderall may be taken to achieve a recreational high. Adderall may be used as a study drug, which is a drug taken for its ability to enhance cognitive performance. However, very high doses are more likely taken to achieve a stimulating euphoric high.
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical closely tied to reward and motivation. In high doses, it could cause euphoria and feelings of excitement or empowerment. Adderall may be used to achieve recreational stimulation similar to cocaine or meth. However, Adderall’s effects are far less intense, and it would take a very heavy dose to achieve a euphoric high.
Treatment is a Better Choice
Rather than looking for ways to take Adderall at doses that don’t cause loss of life, it’s best for people with an addiction to get the help they need in order to recover. For people abusing Adderall, that means therapy. Doctors can help to unpack the signals that lead to drug use, and they can help their clients to develop healthy habits that can allow them to resist the urge to use.
Adderall therapy programs don’t typically include a medication component, as there is no FDA-approved medication for the addiction to stimulants. But that doesn’t mean that treatment programs are ineffective. Therapy is a very powerful tool that can help people to establish new habits and skills that can keep them sober. Therapy can also help people to repair their relationships, so they’ll have a solid support system in place when the urge to use begins to rise. Therapy can help people to feel stronger and more confident, which could help them in all aspects of life.