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Adderall and weight loss: What to know

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Adderall and weight lossSeeing a doctorAlternativesSummary
Adderall is a drug that helps treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While its side effects include weight loss, you must only take Adderall with a prescription.
Medically reviewed by Yalda Safai, MD, MPH
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on

When you are trying to lose weight, you may be on the lookout for something that can help you reach your goals faster and easier. You have likely heard that the prescription medication Adderall can help you lose weight. However, Adderall is a strong stimulant medication that doctors often prescribe for ADHD and narcolepsy.

If you receive a prescription for Adderall and take it as your doctor tells you, it can have positive outcomes for your mental health. However, sometimes people misuse it. Weight loss is one of the things that people often misuse Adderall for.

Adderall and weight loss

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Adderall is a medication that doctors often prescribe to help treat symptoms of ADHD, depression disorders, and narcolepsy. It’s the branded form of a medication containing amphetamine-dextroamphetamine.

Adderall works by boosting the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters in your brain. Increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain of a person with ADHD can help manage symptoms by:

  • reducing fatigue
  • boosting mood
  • reducing impulsive behavior
  • increasing your ability to concentrate

A reduction in appetite and weight loss are common side effects of Adderall. Some research indicates that stimulants might be of benefit in managing hedonic appetite in people with obesity, leading to weight loss. Hedonic appetite refers to the desire to eat food for pleasure rather than due to hunger.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve the drug for this purpose.

It’s possible that a doctor can prescribe Adderall off-label (without FDA approval), but they will need to monitor your symptoms closely to ensure that there are no negative effects or reactions.

Taking Adderall without a prescription is a misuse of this medication. This is because taking Adderall for a long time when you do not need to increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain can cause serious side effects.

Adderall carries a high chance of misuse due to its risk of physical and psychological dependency.

According to research from 2016, Adderall misuse is particularly common in people who are at college. Weight loss is a commonly given reason for misusing stimulant medications like Adderall. But this comes with a chance of dangerous side effects.

These side effects may include:

Taking Adderall is particularly dangerous if you have a cardiovascular health condition, such as a heart defect or heart failure. A doctor will not prescribe Adderall to anyone with a heart condition, as it can worsen these conditions and even be fatal.

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Consulting a doctor

If you have concerns about your weight, there are healthier and safer ways to try and achieve your goals than using Adderall. Adderall is a powerful medication that can have serious and even fatal side effects if you take it without supervision from a doctor.

Sustainable weight loss is better in the long run, as it can help you form new habits that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. Some healthy ways to lose weight may include:

  • increasing your daily aerobic exercise
  • consuming whole foods
  • boosting your daily fruit and veg intake
  • eating a healthful diet, including plenty of proteins, like seafood and lean meats
  • avoiding foods high in sugar
  • avoiding foods high in saturated fats

ADHD and eating disorders

Some research finds that symptoms of ADHD, including impulsivity, may have a link with disordered eating, including binge eating and bulimia nervosa. A slight link may also exist between ADHD and restrictive eating in some people, although more research is needed on the topic.

This can leave people with a prescription of Adderall for the treatment of ADHD at risk of misusing their medication. This is because of the side effect of appetite suppression that Adderall can cause. This is particularly a risk if you are an adolescent.

It is important to attend regular checkups with the prescribing doctor to assess for any unhealthy weight loss while taking Adderall.

If you’re preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt about food choices, or follow restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.

Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, socioeconomic status, or other identities.

There are several ways you can get support. You can consider:

Adderall alternatives

If you do not get along with Adderall, there are a variety of alternative stimulant medications available to try. If you are considering changing medications, speak with a doctor before you stop taking any medication.

Alternative short-acting stimulant medications include:

These medications all start working quickly. A doctor will determine the best dosage for you to start with.

There are also some non-stimulant options you may consider trying. These include:


Adderall is a stimulant prescription-only medication that doctors often recommend to help manage symptoms of ADHD. However, due to its potential side effects of appetite suppression and weight loss, it has a chance of misuse as a weight loss fast fix.

It is important to only take Adderall under the supervision of a doctor and with a prescription. This is because Adderall can cause serious side effects and even death if you have a heart condition. If a doctor is not prescribing you Adderall, they cannot check if it is safe for you to take.

If you want to lose weight, it is safer to change your lifestyle choices, such as increasing your aerobic activity. This can help you build healthy habits to support your weight loss journey.   

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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