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Can Adderall Actually Help You Focus?

Student studying late hours taking adderall pills at home.  

Adderall is a common drug prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Nearly 8% of the American population has an ADHD diagnosis. More than 80% of children and almost 20% of adults with the disorder are treated for it, with stimulants like Adderall being first-line therapy. Adderall can be helpful for people with ADHD, helping them with learning, memory, and concentration. However, some people without ADHD take Adderall as well, in the hope that it will enhance their cognitive skills and focus.

Does Adderall Help You Concentrate?

Adderall is the brand name for a stimulant drug mixture of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. The medication can improve concentration in people with ADHD. However, it does not have the same effect in people without ADHD. The reason for this is that the brains of people with ADHD physically differ from the brains of people without the disorder. The differences in ADHD brains include:

  • Less gray matter, which contains the cell bodies of brain cells
  • Abnormal white matter, which contains the connections between brain cells
  • Reduced brain volume
  • Abnormalities in the cortex, or the brain’s outer layer

The physical differences in ADHD brain cells also lead to chemical changes in the way the cells communicate with each other. The brain chemicals mostly impacted by ADHD are:

  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine, or noradrenaline

Doctors think that the physical and chemical differences in ADHD brains translate into many of the problems linked to ADHD, such as concentration problems. Drugs like Adderall correct the imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Therefore, these medications can help to treat ADHD symptoms and improve concentration.

Some people without ADHD are tempted to try stimulants like Adderall to improve concentration. However, there is no evidence that Adderall is helpful in people without ADHD. Even though people without ADHD may believe they get a benefit from taking Adderall to improve their concentration and memory, doctors have found that there is no measurable benefit.

Risks vs. Benefits of Kids Taking Adderall

In people with ADHD, the benefits on memory, thinking and focus can exceed the risks of the drug. However, as a Schedule II controlled substance, Adderall use must be closely monitored due to the risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. Therefore, people with ADHD who take Adderall are often in monthly contact with their doctors to get their prescriptions, so any harm from the drug can be quickly addressed. Some common side effects linked to Adderall and related stimulants include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast pulse
  • Motor tics

It is unclear if Adderall has any benefit for people without ADHD. However, what is known are the risks. For this reason, it is very important not to take Adderall unless you are under a doctor’s care. Besides the side effects and addiction risks linked to Adderall, people without ADHD who take the drug may also be at an increased risk of:

  • Problems completing tasks that a person used to do well
  • Overestimating themselves
  • Long-term memory damage

If you or a loved one struggle with Adderall or other stimulants, help is here. Contact our team at Next Generation Village to learn more about how we can help you stop relying on stimulants.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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