For those not familiar with Adderall, it is a combination drug comprising amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. For years, Adderall has been considered a go-to drug for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, and this is for a good reason.
The amphetamine and dextroamphetamine in Adderall act as central nervous system stimulants, which means they affect chemicals in the nerves and brain responsible for regulating hyperactivity and impulse control. Because of its effects on the central nervous system (CNS), Adderall also combats narcolepsy. In short, this means it keeps people awake when they would otherwise be sleeping. Because Adderall promotes wakefulness in this way, it is exceedingly popular among college students. Available data shows that more than 14 percent of college men and a little over 8 percent of college women misuse or outright abuse the drug, often to stay awake while studying for an exam. Many have even admitted to pairing Adderall with caffeine to intensify its effects. Although combining Adderall with caffeine does make it easier to pull an all-night study session and maybe even ace a few exams, doing so comes at a hefty cost.
Adderall and Caffeine: The Downside of Being Overstimulated
There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing, and it certainly applies to combining Adderall and caffeine. When taken as prescribed and consumed responsibly, they both offer incredible benefits. However, pairing the two or misusing them by themselves can have consequences. Misusing Adderall alone can increase the risk of encountering numerous physical and mental health problems, notes a combined study from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Collectively, these organizations agree that the misuse and abuse of Adderall can alter the brain to the extent that it triggers cravings, drug-seeking behaviors, and, more often than not, addiction. But it doesn’t end there; the following can also stem from misusing and abusing Adderall:
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- Circulation issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Unintended weight loss
When individuals combine Adderall with caffeine, they are at even greater risk of experiencing these issues. They may even encounter a few additional ones as a result of being hopped up on caffeine, some of which include the following:
- Restlessness and shakiness
- A rapid heartbeat
- Digestive Issues
- Muscle breakdown
- High blood pressure
- A frequent need to urinate
How the Human Body Responds to the Combination of Adderall and Caffeine
Having established that there are dangers associated with combining Adderall and caffeine, let’s take a moment to learn about what happens in the human body when someone overindulges on these two powerful stimulants. Both Adderall and caffeine are powerful stimulants that affect dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which means they overtax the CNS when taken together. One of the things that have come out as a result of studies done on the effects of Adderall and caffeine is how caffeine reduces the efficacy of Adderall. Studies show that when individuals consume coffee, tea, soda, or even caffeine pills, it makes Adderall less effective and increases their chances of experiencing plenty of unpleasant side effects. And this was said to be true even if they consumed caffeine within just a few hours of taking Adderall. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned doctors and individuals alike about the dangers of combining Adderall with caffeine, citing that the combination can cause anxiety, nervousness, trouble sleeping, and more.
A Closer Look at How Combining Adderall and Caffeine Affects Both the Brain and Body
To fully appreciate how combining Adderall and caffeine, in any form, can trigger an onslaught of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms, we should probably take a close look at how these stimulants, when taken together, affect the brain and body. When someone has Adderall and caffeine in their system, their heart rate and blood pressure will increase considerably. Initially, these two events will trigger chest pain and feelings of anxiety, which speaks to the combined effects of Adderall and caffeine on the brain and the body.
As the body works to combat chest pain and feelings of anxiety, more side effects start to emerge. When the brain signals the nervous system and major organs in the body to work harder to counter the effects of chest pain and anxiety, it sends fewer signals to itself. And those are signals that the brain sends to itself are critical to homeostasis; as such, the chest pain and feelings of anxiety that most people experience due to having Adderall and caffeine in their system is usually in addition to the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased anxiety
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty thinking
Even if someone is lucky enough to avoid all of the side effects commonly associated with Adderall, there is still the risk of addiction.
How Caffeine Increases the Risk of Adderall Addiction
Studies show that Adderall is as addictive as crystal meth. That said, pairing it with caffeine only leads to a higher tolerance. When individuals develop a higher tolerance, they often resort to taking a higher dose of the powerful stimulant. The more they do this, the more likely addiction becomes, say many addiction experts in rehab facilities all across America. They further say this because of the increase in production of norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain when someone takes Adderall, especially when they combine it with caffeine. To better make sense of all of this, we should probably take a moment to familiarize ourselves with these two neurotransmitters. In the brain, norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting arousal, alertness, and vigilance, all of which help combat narcolepsy and feelings of fatigue. Dopamine, meanwhile, is a neurotransmitter responsible for, among other things, pleasurable sensations.
Common Signs of Adderall Addiction
When most people develop an Adderall addiction, they will often engage in new or strange behaviors. Some of these new or strange behaviors might include the following:
- Needing to keep upping their dose
- Wanting to quit stimulants but being unable to do so
- Not being able to get through the day without taking stimulants
- Becoming preoccupied with finding, buying, and taking stimulants
- Being unable to feel alert without stimulants
- Neglecting work or home obligations
- Becoming depressed, irritable, or struggling with other withdrawal symptoms typical of abrupt cessation of stimulants
Something to note when it comes to stimulant addiction is that it happens unintentionally in most cases. Even people who take Adderall or combine Adderall with caffeine do so for legitimate reasons, such as combating ADHD, staying awake to study for an exam, or being more productive at work. Over time, unfortunately, the constant desire or physical need to overindulge on stimulants culminates in addiction.
In summary, combining Adderall and any form of caffeine is a bad idea. After all, numerous side effects can result from doing so, not to mention an increased risk of addiction. If that is not enough to deter you, you should know that it is entirely possible to overdose and die from going overboard with Adderall. According to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), between 1994 and 2020, over 6100 reports of adverse events have been attributed to abusing Adderall and Adderall XR. Of those 6100 or so cases, over 200 resulted in death. Bearing that in mind, along with everything else discussed in this article, if you suspect that you have a problem with Adderall or any other stimulant, consider seeking help today.