Reasons Adderall Is Prescribed

Reasons Adderall Is Prescribed
Reasons Adderall Is Prescribed (Image: Paul Hill:

Adderall is a stimulant medication commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). The FDA has also approved this medication for the treatment of narcolepsy.

Heatlhcare providers also prescribe Adderall as an off-label treatment of depression and weight loss. However, due to the medication's safety profile and abuse and dependency potential, certain factors need to be taken into consideration before Adderall is used for these conditions.


Originally developed by Shire Pharmaceuticals, Adderall is available as a generic. There is also an extended-release formulation (Adderall XR), which is only available as a branded product. Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, a drug class with potential for abuse and dependency. As a result, Adderall is a schedule II (CII) drug and the Drug Enforcement Agency monitors all prescriptions and dispensing of the medication.

Adderall helps to increase attentiveness and decrease impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD. However, in those without ADHD, the medicine increases attentiveness, alertness and hyperactivity by stimulating the central nervous system.

The most common side effects of Adderall include decreased appetite, weight loss, mood swings, dry mouth, headache and stomachache. Adderall may also exacerbate symptoms associated with Tourette's syndrome such as motor and phonic tics. Adderall, as well as other amphetamines, can also impair motor skills.

Pediatricians, child development specialists, child primary care physicians/family practitioners and psychiatrists are the most common healthcare providers who prescribe Adderall.


Adderall is approved by the FDA for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in patients ages six and older. ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by lack of attention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. The onset of ADHD occurs before the age of seven; healthcare providers typically make the diagnosis when patients are between ages 8 and 10. However, in individuals who exhibit inattentiveness as the primary symptoms, diagnosis of ADHD may not occur until they are teenagers.

ADHD treatments include a stimulant medication such as Adderall, educational interventions and behavioral therapy.


Healthcare providers also use Adderall for the treatment of narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder characterized by sudden bouts of deep sleep and loss of muscle tone in patients six years and older. Other symptoms include sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

Narcolepsy treatments include certain long-acting wake-promoting medication, antidepressants that suppress REM sleep and amphetamine derivatives such as Adderall.


Due to its stimulant activity, Adderall is prescribed as an off-label treatment for chronic treatment-resistant depression. When traditional medications and psychotherapy do not fully improve symptoms, healthcare providers may use an add-on medicine such as Adderall or another pyschiatric medication to be used in combination with an antidepressant.

Weight Loss

Because weight loss and decreased appetite are common side effects of Adderall, healthcare providers prescribe Adderall for the off-label use of weight loss. Off-label refers to use of a drug for indications other than those approved by the FDA.

While the FDA has not approved Adderall for the treatment of obesity, other amphetamines have been approved as short-term treatments in obese and overweight patients. Due to their ability to suppress appetite, amphetamines promote short-term weight loss.

However, use of Adderall for weight loss in patients without ADHD is controversial due to the medication's side effects. While Adderall may promote weight loss, it also increases irritability, moodiness and anxiety. Increased heart rate and blood pressure are other factors that should be considered when using Adderall for weight loss. This is especially important for obese and overweight patients, who are at greater risk for heart conditions. Individuals should also take into consideration the abuse and dependency potential associated with Adderall.

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