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Can Adderall Be Used to Treat Depression in Teens?

Adderall is unlikely to be used to treat depression. Adderall is a prescription, brand-name medication that combines the stimulants dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Adderall is prescribed primarily to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it can also be a treatment for the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Adderall stimulates the central nervous system and certain neurotransmitters in the brain to help control symptoms of ADHD, like inattentiveness and lack of behavioral control.

Sad teen suffering with depression considering taking adderall for treatment
Since Adderall has a stimulant effect on the brain, some people wonder if there is the potential to use Adderall for depression. Currently, the use of Adderall for depression is unlikely to be recommended by a doctor.

What is Adderall Used to Treat?

Adderall’s primary purpose is to treat ADHD. When someone takes Adderall, it stimulates their central nervous system and increases the brain’s production of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. These are often described as “feel-good” neurotransmitters because they play a big role in determining a person’s mood and conditions like depression. Adderall is also a treatment for narcolepsy, although less commonly than ADHD due to the drug’s stimulant effects. Adderall can be prescribed for ADHD in children ages three and older. Adderall XR, which is an extended release version of the medication, can be used to treat ADHD in adults and children six and older. For narcolepsy, Adderall is approved for use in children 12 and older.

Does Adderall Help with Depression?

Theoretically, Adderall may help with depression in the short-term. When someone uses the drug, they may experience a boost in their mood and their sense of well-being. Adderall can also increase energy levels and concentration. The improvements in mood may occur quickly when someone takes Adderall. However, once the effects of Adderall wear off, not only will a person likely continue to experience depression symptoms but they may be worse than they were initially. Always consult with your doctor about your conditions and medical concerns.

Taking Adderall for Treatment-Resistant Depression

There are cases where people may say they’re taking Adderall for treatment-resistant depression, but this is not an approved use for the drug according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There’s not enough scientific evidence currently available to support the idea of taking Adderall for treatment-resistant depression. There are also risks of Adderall misuse, and these are more significant in people who abuse the drug or attempt to self-medicate a condition like depression. Risks include the addiction potential and the potential to become dependent on Adderall. When someone takes Adderall, they can also build up a tolerance very quickly, meaning they would need larger doses to see any antidepressant effects from the drug. That increases the risk of serious side effects including cardiac-related effects.

Can Adderall Cause Depression?

Some warnings come with Adderall regarding the effects it can have on mood and mental health. Adderall can cause depression in some people, and especially when the effects of the drug wear off. The withdrawal period from Adderall can lead to worse depression symptoms than what someone initially experienced before taking the drug. Along with causing depression, Adderall may lead to irritability, anxiety and aggression.

How to Get Help for Depression and Co-Occurring Adderall Abuse

If you’re a teen struggling with depression and Adderall misuse, or you’re a parent of a teen in a similar situation, help is available. Contact Next Generation Village and learn about our individualized treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Begin a healthier future today.  

Sources:

MedlinePlus. “Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine.” Accessed March 28, 2019.

Mental Health Daily. “Taking Adderall for Treatment-Resistant Depression.” Accessed March 28, 2019.

Dickstein, Steven G. “Can Adderall and Other Drugs Used to Treat ADHD Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, Accessed March 28, 2019.

Healthline’s Medical Network. “How to Manage Treatment-Resistant Depression.” September 4, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.

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