Adderall can deplete dopamine. If you take high doses of Adderall for a prolonged period of time, your brain may become dependent on the drug and eventually produce less dopamine. Adderall may damage neurons if abused, which would cause downregulation of dopamine. This might cause mood changes and irritability.
Adderall is probably the single most abused “study drug” in the world today. While many people wrongly call Adderall a nootropic, this isn’t strictly correct; Adderall is a pharmaceutical drug designed to treat ADHD/ADD. It is not a nootropic. But it is a widely used study drug, particularly among college students and business executives in the US and Canada.
This is a problem for a number of reasons.
For one thing, Adderall is extremely dangerous when used without medical supervision. It is an extremely powerful pharmaceutical that is only intended for the treatment of serious conditions such as ADHD or ADD.
Another issue is tolerance and addiction. Adderall is extremely addictive, and it is very easy to become reliant on the drug for simple day-to-day cognitive function.
Despite these many problems, thousands of people still use Adderall every day without prescriptions to enhance their cognitive performance.
It’s no wonder then that we get so many questions from people asking about the many risks and pitfalls associated with Adderall use.
One question we get asked on an almost weekly is whether Adderall depletes dopamine levels.
This is such a common question because Adderall use so often leaves people feeling flat, demotivated, and lethargic. A big part of the Adderall “comedown” is low mood and a lack of motivation, so it makes sense that it would deplete dopamine levels.
So does Adderall deplete dopamine?
How does Adderall work?
What neurotransmitters does Adderall affect?
In this article, we’ll look at what Adderall does, how it works, and how it affects dopamine levels. We will explain why Adderall depletes dopamine levels, and what you can do to mitigate it.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a pharmaceutical drug used to treat behavioural and attention disorders such as ADD and ADHD. It is typically prescribed to adolescents exhibiting severe forms of ADD/ADHD.
Adderall is not actually a drug itself, but rather a brand name for a particular stack of amphetamine salts. In other words, Adderall is just a branded form of amphetamine! Many people are surprised to learn this, especially given how readily adolescents and children are prescribed Adderall in the US today.
Specifically, Adderall is a stack of the following salts of amphetamine:
Adderall has been configured in this way to make the drug both faster acting and longer lasting. Some of these salts of amphetamine have an immediate effect, while others take far longer to start working, but they last a lot longer.
This gives Adderall both a more immediate effect and a much longer action than amphetamine itself. The logic is that taking amphetamine in this way creates a more sustained increase in focus and attention than simply taking amphetamine, and it reduces the sudden crashes that are associated with amphetamine use.
How does Adderall work?
Amphetamine (and by extension, Adderall) is a stimulant. It works by exciting your central nervous system (CNS).
In simple terms, amphetamine increases CNS activity. It does this by triggering the release of norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine is your ‘fight or flight’ neurotransmitter. It is released when your brain senses imminent danger, and it triggers a cascade of bodily mechanisms designed to promote your chance of survival: increased alertness and attention, faster reaction times, elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and so on.
By triggering the release of norepinephrine, Adderall essentially puts your body on high alert. Anyone who has ever had a close encounter with serious danger knows that your senses are drastically sharpened, your reactions faster, your focus extra-sharp. This effectively counteracts the symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD.
While norepinephrine heightens focus and alertness, it comes at a cost; all of your maintenance processes (muscle and tissue repair, immune system function, etc) are put on the backburner as your body directs all resources to escaping danger.
This is why long-term Adderall use can come with a hefty price tag!
Does Adderall deplete dopamine?
If Adderall primarily works by boosting norepinephrine levels, then does it have any effect on dopamine?
Isn’t dopamine depletion a symptom of long-term Adderall use?
Yes, having chronically low dopamine levels is a symptom associated with long-term, chronic use of stimulants such as Adderall.
This happens because Adderall also spikes dopamine levels, along with serotonin. It is rare for a drug to only affect one neurotransmitter; like most stimulants, Adderall/amphetamine affects several different neurotransmitters at once, including dopamine.
As it spikes dopamine levels to an unnatural degree, Adderall can cause damage to dopamine receptors. Over time, this can lead to a slow degradation of dopamine receptors, which ultimately leaves you unable to experience the effects of that vital neurotransmitter.
Constantly forcing the body to pump out excessive quantities of dopamine also seems to suppress the brain’s ability or proclivity to produce the neurotransmitter in the future.
Both of these things cause people who abuse Adderall for long periods of time to experience symptoms of low dopamine. These include loss of motivation, low mood, poor behavioural control, and poor cognitive performance.
This is why we strongly recommend using natural Adderall alternatives in all but the most extreme cases of ADHD or ADD.
Which dopamine receptors does Adderall affect?
The most addictive drugs act directly on the D2 (Dopa 2) dopamine receptor. Adderall is just a collection of amphetamine salts, and as such it acts on the D2 receptor. This explains why Adderall downregulates dopamine activity and why the drug can be so addictive when taken without a prescription.
How long does it take for dopamine levels to return to normal after Adderall use?
How long it takes for dopamine levels to return to normal after Adderall use depends on how much Adderall you have been using and how long you ahve been taking it for. Many medical professionals suggest ninety days as a general estimate for dopamine recovery. Some people may take longer to recover, while others may find that their dopamine levels return to normal much faster.
There are ways to encourage your dopamine levels to return to normal aftr using Adderall. Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and consuming pro-dopamine supplements such as Tyrosine helps a lot.