Does Adderall Help With Anxiety?

Over 40 million U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder, making this group of mental health conditions the most common in America.[1] Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder, all have effective treatments available including counseling and prescription medications. While there are many medications that are approved by the FDA for the management of anxiety disorders, Adderall usually isn’t one of them.

Rarely is Adderall used off-label to treat depression or anxiety because there is little to no evidence that Adderall helps with anxiety. In fact, in people with existing mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, the medication can actually make symptoms worse.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a stimulant medication that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The prescription drug is approved by the FDA to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a daytime sleep disorder. Adderall is also a Schedule II Controlled Substance because it has a high-risk potential for abuse and dependence.[2]

In people with ADHD, Adderall can improve focus and concentration, however, it can cause side effects such as nervousness, restlessness, and difficulty falling asleep. More severe side effects include paranoia or the worsening of existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Can Adderall Help With Anxiety?

Using Adderall to treat anxiety is uncommon because there is no evidence that the medication can effectively reduce anxiety symptoms. Adderall is a stimulant that increases energy and motivation, and stimulants are not known to help with anxiety. However, people who experience anxiety because of their ADHD may notice a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

One circumstance in which a person with anxiety may be prescribed Adderall is if they also struggle with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy causes people to fall asleep during the daytime and struggle to stay awake, and since Adderall is a stimulant, it can help people with narcolepsy stay awake throughout the day.[3] Narcolepsy can also have far-reaching effects that increase anxiety, so by using Adderall to get the sleep disorder controlled, the medication can help reduce anxiety.

How Can Adderall Make Anxiety Worse?

Stimulant drugs work by increasing activity in the brain’s neurotransmitters by producing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This causes side effects such as increased energy, restlessness, improved focus, and anxiety. In high doses, Adderall can cause panic, paranoia, panic attacks, and extreme anxiety.

Another way Adderall can make anxiety worse is if a person is physically dependent on the drug and goes into withdrawal. Stimulant withdrawal is mostly psychological and consists of symptoms like restlessness, paranoia, tremors, depression, and anxiety.

Why Does Adderall Reduce Anxiety Symptoms in People With ADHD?

Nearly 50% of adults with ADHD struggle with anxiety.[4] Some of this anxiety comes from the fact that symptoms of ADHD make it hard to focus, complete tasks, or be productive, causing those who suffer from it to worry or feel anxious about certain aspects of their lives. When individuals with ADHD begin taking Adderall and get their symptoms under control, they may say that their anxiety is gone, but this is simply because the root cause of the anxiety is finally being treated.

What to Do When Adderall Causes Anxiety

While any drug can cause anxiety if someone becomes addicted to it, people who take Adderall as prescribed may still experience anxiety as a side effect. If this occurs, individuals can talk to their doctors about switching to a non-stimulant ADHD medication like Concerta (Methylphenidate) or Strattera (Atomoxetine). People should also avoid taking Adderall with other stimulants like caffeine.

Some people may find that their anxiety persists even after they begin taking Adderall for ADHD. These individuals may consult with their doctor about adding an anti-anxiety medication or an SSRI like sertraline or fluoxetine into their daily regimen.

Finally, if someone has developed anxiety symptoms after becoming addicted to Adderall, it’s time to consider seeking professional addiction treatment. Quitting Adderall may cause symptoms of withdrawal and it may be difficult to do without medical support, but symptoms can be effectively managed at a drug detox center.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction and Anxiety

Dual diagnosis rehab centers provide integrated treatment that addresses both mental illness and substance abuse. This approach can give patients the ability to stop using drugs while also learning how to manage symptoms of anxiety. At Addiction Intervention, can we help you or a loved one find a dual diagnosis treatment program near you.

If you or someone you love is addicted to Adderall, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members to get the help you need. Someone is standing by 24 hours a day to take your call, assess your needs, and connect you with a life-changing recovery program.

References:

  1. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
  2. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344488/
  4. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/adult-adhd

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