Snorting Adderall or Adderall XR: Side Effects and Dangers

In a world that values alertness, efficiency and productivity, it’s tempting to turn to stimulants of some kind to heighten your natural abilities. But there’s a big difference between drinking a cup of coffee to jump-start your day and abusing prescription medications like Adderall, an amphetamine that’s prescribed in small doses to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The New York Times recently reported that Adderall abuse has become increasingly common among high school and college students who are looking for a competitive edge in their studies. Even more disturbing, many parents apparently support their children’s use of the drug if it means their kids earn better grades and qualify for prestigious colleges or universities. How can you protect yourself and the people close to you from the dangers of snorting Adderall? Educating yourself about the drug’s risks and side effects is a good place to start.

What if I Need Adderall?

There are a lot of children, teens and adults who use Adderall to improve their quality of life, to learn more easily and to control impulsive, distracted behavior. For people who suffer from ADHD, Adderall can make it easier to concentrate on specific tasks and to manage your impulses. You may feel less irritable or agitated when you take the medication at the prescribed dose. Some people take the medication for sleeping disorders that cause them to fall asleep at inappropriate times.

When you take Adderall under a doctor’s supervision, you’ll usually begin with a low dose, then increase the amount you take very gradually. Your doctor should monitor your reactions to the drug very closely to make sure you aren’t experiencing negative side effects. Some Adderall users experience dangerous allergic reactions or interactions with other drugs that they’re taking. If you take the medication without a doctor’s supervision, you may not have any warning if something goes seriously wrong, especially if you’re snorting the drug.

Dangers of Adderall Abuse

Adderall, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is available in capsule or tablet form. When the drug is used for recreational or non-medical purposes, it can be snorted by crushing the tablets or by simply opening the capsule to access the powdered medication. The effects of extended release form — Adderall XR — can last twice as long as immediate-release Adderall, according to the drug’s manufacturer. While this medication may seem like a miracle drug to teens or adults who have the symptoms of ADHD, snorting the medication can have life-threatening side effects, such as:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Heart attack or stroke in adult users
  • Death in users with heart problems — even children and teenagers
  • Delays in development in kids and teens
  • Tolerance, dependence and addiction

According to Columbia University, the cardiovascular risks of Adderall abuse are heightened when you snort the drug. When Adderall is taken intranasally, the medication enters the bloodstream more rapidly and exerts its effects more quickly.  In addition to the harm it can do to your body, Adderall can have serious effects on your mental health, your moods and your behavior. People who snort the medication can become aggressive and hostile — even violent. They may have suicidal thoughts or attempt to harm themselves. Adderall abuse can cause anxiety, agitation, hallucinations and delusions.

Unless you have the symptoms of ADHD or you have a sleep disorder that requires pharmaceutical therapy, abusing Adderall just isn’t worth the risks to your health. Snorting Adderall can be especially dangerous if you:

  • Have a health condition that affects the structure of your heart
  • Are taking medications that interact negatively with Adderall
  • Have a history of a mental illness, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder
  • Have high blood pressure

Is Adderall Addictive?

If you’re staying up late to study for your college boards, working a double night shift or just trying to prolong the fun at a party, snorting Adderall probably doesn’t seem like a big risk. After all, it’s a prescription medication, so it must be safe, right? People who snort Adderall may do so because they want to feel more focused mentally in a shorter period of time. They may also snort the drug because it’s less expensive and more accessible than cocaine, but it produces a similar surge of energy.

One of the biggest dangers of snorting Adderall is the risk of becoming chemically dependent on the medication. Like other amphetamines, the drug has a high abuse potential and can be extremely addictive, which is why it’s classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 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’ll 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 may become so intense that you’ll resort to dangerous or criminal behavior just to get Adderall. You may not be able to quit anymore, even if you desperately 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.

*Adderall Abuse in College

A lot of college students who are pulling all-nighters are doing it with the help of Adderall, according to the results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). College students who use Adderall without a prescription may also be more likely to abuse other drugs. The 2009 survey reported that:

  • In survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 22, Adderall abuse was twice as common as in respondents who weren’t in college.
  • College students who abused Adderall were more likely to abuse other drugs, including cocaine, prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers and marijuana.
  • Almost 90 percent of college students who abused Adderall also had a recent history of binge drinking.
  • Over 50 percent of college students who misused Adderall reported that they also drank heavily.

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 illness and airborne infections. Extended abuse of this amphetamine may even damage the internal structures of your nose and sinuses.

Because Adderall acts much more quickly when it’s snorted, you’ll experience the impact of its effects almost immediately. Adderall XR, a drug that’s intended to last all day when you take it in prescribed doses, is even more potent than Adderall and can cause more severe side effects, such as a high fever, toxic shock and sudden death.

Psychosis is one of the potential side effects of Adderall abuse. During a psychotic episode, you might see or hear things that aren’t real or have severe misconceptions about reality. You might become extremely agitated or violent, even to people you care about. When amphetamines enter your blood too quickly, you’re more likely to experience unpleasant, disturbing or frightening misperceptions.

Although Adderall can initially make you feel smarter, sharper and more productive, you may experience a physical and emotional crash when the drug wears off. The Georgetown Independent warns that the intensity of the high you experience when you snort Adderall could be followed by an equally intense episode of exhaustion and depression. If you’ve been running on Adderall for days, the effects of sleeplessness and excessive activity will eventually catch up with you, harming your health and making it even harder to concentrate on work or school.

Finding Help for Adderall Abuse

It may take a while to realize that snorting Adderall is endangering your life, especially if you’re taking the drug with a prescription, or your family supports your use of the medication. You might not even know that you have a problem until you become aware that you’ve been snorting larger doses of the amphetamine than you did in the past. A lot of young students are unaware of the risks of Adderall and believe that because it’s manufactured in legal laboratories and prescribed by doctors, snorting it must be safer than snorting cocaine or meth.

*How to Tell if You Have a Problem With Adderall

Whether you’re taking an amphetamine under medical supervision or you use medications like Adderall recreationally without a prescription, you might not discover that you have a problem until the drug has seriously undermined your health. Here are a few signs that you may be headed in a dangerous direction with Adderall:

  • You no longer know how much Adderall you’ll end up using once you get started.
  • You forge prescriptions, lie to doctors or go to multiple doctors to get the drug.
  • You lie to your parents or friends about how much of the medication you’re taking, and you increasingly use it alone.
  • You steal or borrow Adderall from friends or family members when you can’t afford to buy the drug yourself.
  • You have nasal drainage, respiratory infections, nosebleeds or rashes from snorting amphetamines.

Even if you’ve only been misusing drugs for a short period of time, it’s 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, call us for help. Our experienced addiction professionals can help you locate an effective and private inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program in or near your community. Don’t hesitate to call our intake team for answers or advice on the effects of snorting Adderall.