Brain and Body

10 Things That Happen in the Brain and Body on Adderall

July 25, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Adderall pills in a prescription bottle
Photo credit: Patrick Mallahan III/Wikimedia (CC by SA 3.0)

The increasingly popular “study drug.”

Adderall is a pharmaceutical substance prescribed to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are both central nervous system stimulants.

However, in the recent years, Adderall is becoming increasingly popular among those without ADHD, as the drug can help people focus and pay attention, making it a popular “study drug” for students cramming for tests or working on demanding projects.

Here’s what’s actually going on in the brain and body while on Adderall.

SEE ALSO: Why 'Smart Drugs' Can Make You Less Clever

1. It releases chemicals that make you feel happy

When a person does something that brings about good feelings, like seeing a favorite band or scoring a goal in a soccer game, certain chemicals in the brain are released — serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline.

These chemicals are associated with regulating mood and energy, which explains why people on Adderall tend to feel happy and charged. When Adderall is taken by those who don’t really need the medication, it can induce feelings of euphoria.

2. Blood pressure and heart rate goes up

After taking Adderall, which is an amphetamine, the user’s blood pressure will increase and heart rate will accelerate. Blood vessels can also become constricted.

3. It makes you crave more Adderall

As explained before, Adderall leads to a release of dopamine, but it also prevents the chemical from replenishing itself. Therefore, once the Adderall wears off, it can leave users craving more in order to feel that dopamine rush again.

4. It can give you dry mouth

Adderall inhibits the production of saliva, which can bring about the unpleasant feeling of dry mouth, often referred to as “cotton mouth.”

5. It triggers the body’s “fight or flight” responses

Since the drug largely stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s fight or flight responses are triggered from taking Adderall, including increased sweating and dilated pupils in the eyes.

6. It speeds up the body’s metabolism

Some people without Adderall prescriptions, who acquire the drug by other means, use it as a weight loss aid, as it speeds up the body’s metabolism and lowers appetite. However, since it can speed up the heart and sometimes even cause irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest, it’s certainly a risky means of trying to lose weight.

Plus, the University of Wisconsin Madison explains that any weight loss due to Adderall would likely be temporary, since weight gain would likely occur once Adderall use was stopped.

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7. It masks the effects of alcohol intoxication

Another Adderall misconception that seems to be particularly prevalent on college campuses is that taking the drug can allow people to drink all night and stay up partying. However, UWM reports that Adderall actually masks the effects of alcohol intoxication, putting users at risk for alcohol poisoning.

8. It acts in the nucleus accumbens, increasing the risk of addiction

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means the risk of addiction or abuse is high.

“When taken as prescribed by a physician, there is little risk of addiction, but if taken recreationally for the "euphoric" effect, the risk of abuse will be enhanced,” Dr. Maria Pino, a toxicologist at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, told Live Science. “This is due to increased dopamine in the nucleus accumbens" area of the brain, which reinforces behavior.

9. It can mess with your sleep schedule

Just like with other stimulants, like coffee and cocaine, Adderall can make it difficult for people to fall asleep after taking the drug. It can also bring about feelings of nervousness or restlessness.

10. It makes you pee more often

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Adderall contains the chemicals ammonium chloride and sodium acid phosphate, which are known to make people have to urinate more often.


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