Snorting Adderall or Adderall XR: Dangers, What Happens and Side Effects
In a world that values alertness, efficiency, and productivity, it can be tempting to turn to stimulants for a boost. But there is a big difference between drinking a cup of coffee to jump-start your day and misusing prescription medications like Adderall, an amphetamine that is prescribed in small doses to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
While not the only population to misuse the drug, Adderall misuse has become increasingly common among high school and college students looking for a competitive edge in their studies. A 2018 survey found that approximately 24% of college students misused Adderall in the past year.1 A common way that Adderall is misused is by snorting.2 Snorting Adderall produces a faster onset of the drug’s effects and is associated with increased potential for misuse.3
What If I Need Adderall?
Many children, teens, and adults use Adderall for several reasons. When taken as prescribed, Adderall can improve quality of life by helping individuals control distracted, impulsive behavior. For individuals who suffer from ADHD, Adderall can make it easier to concentrate on specific tasks. For individuals with sleeping disorders, Adderall can help them fall asleep at appropriate times.
When taken as prescribed, users typically begin with a low dose, then increase the amount taken very gradually. Doctors should monitor an individual’s reactions to the drug closely to make sure they are not experiencing negative side effects. Some Adderall users experience dangerous allergic reactions or interactions with other drugs that they are taking. If you take Adderall without a doctor’s supervision, you may not have any warning if something goes seriously wrong, especially if you are snorting the drug.
Dangers of Adderall Misuse
Adderall, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is available in capsule or tablet form.2 When the drug is used for non-medical or recreational purposes, it can be snorted by crushing the tablets or by opening the capsule to access the powdered medication. The effects of the extended-release form, Adderall XR, can be two times longer than immediate-release Adderall, according to the drug’s manufacturer. While Adderall can help ease the symptoms of ADHD, the medication can have life-threatening side effects, such as:4
- Decreased appetite.
- Delays in development in children and teens.
- Heart attack.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate.
- Mood swings.
- New or worse bipolar illness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
The cardiovascular risks of Adderall misuse are heightened when you snort the drug. When Adderall is taken intranasally, the medication enters the bloodstream rapidly and exerts its effects more quickly. In addition to the physical side effects of Adderall, the medication can have serious effects on your behavior, mental health, and mood. People who snort the medication can become aggressive and hostile. They may have suicidal thoughts or attempt to harm themselves. Adderall abuse can cause agitation, anxiety, delusions, and hallucinations.
Is Adderall Addictive?
One of the biggest dangers of snorting Adderall is the risk of becoming dependent on the medication. Like other amphetamines, the drug has high abuse potential and can be extremely addictive, which is why it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.5 Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, the active ingredients in Adderall, raise dopamine levels in the brain, creating sensations of pleasure or euphoria.
But once your brain gets used to higher levels of this neurotransmitter, you will need to take more of the drug to experience those pleasant feelings or to reach the same degree of concentration. This condition is known as tolerance. Eventually, your craving for the drug can become so intense that you resort to criminal or dangerous behavior just to get Adderall. You may not be able to quit, even if you want to. You might continue to seek and use the drug at any cost, even to the detriment of the well-being and safety of the people you love. This condition is known as addiction.
Health Risks of Snorting Adderall
There are specific risks associated with snorting amphetamine drugs. Users who snort the drug tend to take more Adderall than those who take the drug in oral form, which means that they may develop a tolerance or dependence more quickly. Inhaling the drug through your nostrils can damage the membrane that lines your respiratory tract, making you more vulnerable to airborne infections and illness. Extended misuse of this amphetamine may even damage the internal structures of your nose and sinuses.
Because Adderall acts much more quickly when it is snorted, users experience the impact of its effects almost immediately. Adderall XR, a drug that is intended to last all day when you take it in prescribed doses, is even more potent and can cause more severe side effects, such as high fever, shock, and sudden death.
Psychosis is one of the potential side effects of Adderall misuse. During a psychotic episode, you might see or hear things that are not real or have severe misconceptions about reality. You might become extremely agitated or violent, even towards people you care about. When amphetamines enter your blood too quickly, you are more likely to experience disturbing or frightening misperceptions. Although Adderall can initially make you feel more focused and productive, you may experience an emotional and physical crash when the drug wears off.
How to Tell If You Have a Problem With Adderall
Whether you are taking an amphetamine under medical supervision or using medications like Adderall recreationally without a prescription, you might not suspect that you have a problem until the drug has seriously undermined your health.
Adderall is a stimulant and misuse falls under the stimulant use disorder category within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Stimulant use disorder is diagnosed based on an individual meeting any two of the below criteria within a 12-month period:6
- The stimulant is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
- A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control stimulant use.
- A significant amount of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the stimulant.
- Inability to fulfill major obligations at home, school, or work, due to stimulant use.
- Continuing to use the stimulant despite having recurrent interpersonal or social problems caused by the effects of the stimulant.
- Forgoing important occupational, recreational, or social activities because of stimulant use.
- Using the stimulant in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Continuing to use the stimulant despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem likely caused by stimulant use.
- Developing a tolerance to the stimulant.
- Experiencing withdrawal.
Even if you have only been misusing Adderall for a short period, it is not too soon to reach out for help. Recreational use of amphetamine-based medications can quickly snowball into addiction. Before you reach that dangerous turning point, reach out for help.
Getting Help for Adderall Misuse
If you are struggling with Adderall misuse, seeking help is the first step. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of inpatient and outpatient rehab treatment services. AAC is committed to supporting those struggling with addiction on their journey to recovery. If you are looking for information on Adderall misuse and your treatment options, you can contact us 24/7 at to learn more.
If you decide to enter treatment, insurance should cover at least part of, if not all, the cost of treatment. You can call the number on the back of your insurance card or check your insurance coverage online by filling out the form below.
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