Adderall and Depression

Is There a Connection Between Adderall and Depression?

Is there a connection between Adderall and depression? Read on to find the answer and learn about this drug and how it may contribute to a depressive disorder.

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adderall and depression


What is Depression?

Depression is a medical condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It can be difficult for those struggling to find the proper treatment that works for them. Depression is a mood disorder that can lead to numerous problems such as a lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating or staying motivated, and a loss of energy1 Being in this state of lethargy every day can lead someone struggling with depression to turn to a stimulant such as Adderall.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a stimulant, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It works by increasing activity in several neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. By increasing activity in these neurotransmitters, it activates centers in the brain that deal with hyperactivity and impulse control.2

Adderall is often prescribed for medical conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy. Adderall is not an FDA approved treatment for depression. The FDA cautions that the use of Adderall in patients with combined mental health disorders could cause adverse effects.3

Now that we’ve defined Adderall and depression, let’s find out if there is a connection between the drug and mental condition.

Can Adderall Cause Depression?

Unfortunately, Adderall is a drug that is commonly misused and abused. Many people take Adderall without a prescription for many reasons. Adderall has been well known for a while now due to it often being misused by college students as a “study drug.” Sometimes used to stay awake when they need to study all night for an exam or to finish a project they procrastinated on.

Adderall can become addictive when it is frequently misused or abused. Typically, when Adderall is abused in a binge-like pattern is when symptoms of depression will occur. Therefore, it is very important to consult a doctor before taking Adderall and follow strict medical guidelines if it is prescribed to you.

So, there isn’t a direct connection between Adderall and Depression when taken as directed but abusing Adderall can cause depressive symptoms.

Can Adderall Help Depression?

Someone who is experiencing symptoms of depression and decides to take Adderall may feel as though it is helping with their depression. Adderall is a stimulant that can result in feeling more energetic, very motivated, and provide a sense of euphoria. For someone who is dealing with depression, these feelings of increased energy, motivation, or the “high” that comes from using this drug may provide a sense of relief. This can mislead people to believe the drug is helping with their depression. Unfortunately, this is often where addiction to this drug begins. 

Adderall Can Mask Depression

If someone feels like the drug is helping their depression, they will want to keep using it and may begin to take it in a binge-like pattern. Someone who becomes addicted will begin to feel as though they can’t function without the drug and may spiral into major depressive symptoms when they aren’t taking it. Essentially, Adderall may seem like it’s making these symptoms from depression less of a burden, but it’s only masking them for a short time. Adderall is not medically prescribed to treat depression. If you are struggling with depression, consult a medical professional so they can help you get the proper treatment. We still haven’t found a direct link between using Adderall and depression, but we have discovered that Adderall can mask depression symptoms and lead to Adderall abuse.

Can You Become Addicted to Adderall?

Yes, you can become addicted to Adderall, specifically if you are taking it at unprescribed doses. Using Adderall recreationally or to self-medicate puts you at high risk for developing an addiction. You should only take this drug at recommended dosages when prescribed by a medical professional.

Adderall Alternatives

If you are prescribed with Adderall and you’re worried that it might not be right for you, there are alternatives that you can investigate.

Vyvanse vs. Adderall

The main difference between Adderall and Vyvanse is that Adderall has more potential to be abused. Adderall is a mixture of four types of amphetamine salts, whereas Vyvanse only contains one called lisdexamfetamine.4 Lisdexamfetamine will only become active once it is in the body and comes into contact with red blood cells, which acts as a deterrent to abuse of this drug. Studies have shown that Vyvanse and Adderall are both effective. However, Vyvanse is more expensive because there is no generic form of it available.4

Ritalin vs. Adderall

Ritalin is the brand name for a stimulant called methylphenidate, whereas Adderall is the brand name for a combination of stimulants called amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The main difference between the two is that Ritalin will work sooner and reach peak performance more quickly than Adderall will. However, Adderall will last a while longer.5 Generally, these drugs both cost about the same and they have a similar effectiveness rate. You should talk to a doctor for more information about which one would be better for you.6

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What Can You Do to Treat Adderall Addiction?

It’s not always easy to spot the signs of addiction as those struggling may not show immediate indications or may try to cover it up. However, if you feel you’ve reached a point where you need help overcoming Adderall addiction there are many options available. It may be necessary to get treatment provided by a drug treatment facility.

Inpatient and Outpatient

There are both inpatient and outpatient treatment options available based on needs. Inpatient programs involve staying at a drug treatment facility where you can remain in an entirely sober environment, free of temptations. Outpatient programs give you the ability to stay at home and be able to see your family every night. A recovery program at a treatment center will not only get you off Adderall, but it will help you learn skills that will be effective for managing daily tasks and stress without the need for Adderall.


After going through a treatment program, it will be helpful to continue with some form of aftercare, such as a twelve-step program. Maintaining a continuous support system around you will help with maintaining sobriety and coping with the daily stresses of life. It will give you a structured program to continue following and a support system of other people who care about your well-being. Recovering from addiction isn’t easy and you don’t have to do it alone.

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