What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription medication containing two closely related substances: levoamphetamine (often just called amphetamine) and dextroamphetamine. The effects of each vary – amphetamine has much stronger effects than dextroamphetamine – and Adderall tablets typically contain about 25% amphetamine to 75% dextroamphetamine.

Adderall is used to treat ADHD – specifically, symptoms like short attention span and mood swings – as well as narcolepsy.

What Does Adderall Do to You? Effects on the Brain

The effects of Adderall on an individual depend on its interaction with neurotransmitters in the brain, which are essentially its chemical messengers.

Dextroamphetamine causes a spike in dopamine levels. This is the brain’s “reward” chemical, and is responsible for the euphoria people experience when taking amphetamines or recreational drugs. Amphetamine also affects dopamine, but its effects are more closely related to epinephrine and norepinephrine, which impact the sympathetic nervous system. This improves focus, alertness and mental clarity.

So the question “what does Adderall do to you?” has more than one answer: it creates a drug-like euphoria and improves your ability to focus and concentrate.

Adderall as a ‘Study Drug’ and Addiction

The effects of Adderall on the brain have led to its use as a “study drug” by college students. Students take the drug to cram for finals, or just to stay up all night absorbing information from books. In these cases, people generally take more than the recommended medical dosage.

The problem is that Adderall is addictive, just like most other things that cause a spike in dopamine levels. If you’re using Adderall as a study drug, you may find yourself taking more and more to attain the same effects, and this can lead to addiction.

What Does Adderall Do to You? Other Effects

Adderall’s effects aren’t limited to your brain. One particularly notable effect over the long term is increasing your risk of having a heart attack, especially if you’re taking large doses. Other shorter-term side effects include:

  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness

Rarer side effects include:

  • Mania
  • Depression
  • Tics
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Severe high blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

Non-Medical Adderall Use Is Dangerous

Asking “what does Adderall do to you?” leads to a lot of different answers, but all of them point to the same conclusion: Adderall can be a life-changing medication for those in need, but non-medical use has considerably more risks than benefits. If you or someone you know is taking Adderall non-medically, the behavior should be stopped, ideally with the help of a counselor or drug rehab center if addiction is a possibility.


“Psychiatric Medications: Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine Mixed Salts” – Stanford Medicine


“Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review” by Steven M. Berman et. al.



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