Adderall is arguably the single most popular psychostimulant medication on the market. In addition to being a highly effective treatment option for ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), it is also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy, and as an antidepressant augmentation strategy. Many doctors don’t mind prescribing this drug to patients with non-addictive personalities because it has been on the market for a long time, is well-researched, and has a safe track record.
Despite the fact that Adderall is used responsibly to treat conditions like ADHD for which the drug was medically intended, there are others that get away with using it for off-label purposes. For example, the drug is appealing to frequent partiers and ravers because it elicits feelings of pleasure, confidence, and talkativeness as dopamine is released in the brain. Therefore, certain individuals seek out the drug for uses other than to treat ADHD.
Even among people with ADHD, there are often times ulterior motives for getting (or attempting to get) an Adderall prescription. Some people sell the pills (which is illegal), some want to experience a nootropic effect from the drug, and others may be more interested in losing weight from the drug than treating their ADHD. To most people it is clear that there are physical benefits to be obtained (by overweight individuals) from taking this drug.
Using Adderall for Weight Loss
The fact that Adderall promotes weight loss has lead many overweight individuals to use it as a “quick fix” solution to lose weight and achieve the “figure” they’ve always desired. The reality is that nearly any psychostimulant drug like Adderall will speed up the metabolism and help a person lose weight over the short-term. Sometimes the weight loss is so significant that an individual may feel like they’ve become an entirely new person. However, despite the societal appeal of short-term “quick and easy” weight loss from Adderall, it should never be endorsed as a beneficial long-term weight loss strategy.
How Adderall Causes Weight Loss
Many people that take Adderall may notice that the drug causes them to lose weight as well as a lower BMI (body mass index). This is due to the fact that Adderall increases the level of the stimulatory neurotransmitter “dopamine” in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter that is involved in motivation, movement, and satisfaction.
When taking this drug, it sends a signal that you are satisfied – leading to decreased appetite. On the contrary, studies have discovered that those with low levels of dopamine may be more likely to have obesity due to lack of satisfaction.
- Appetite suppression: Most people that take a moderate amount of Adderall notice initially that they aren’t as hungry as usual. When you aren’t as hungry as you were, you’re going to eat less and think less about food. This often leads to under-eating and overall less total calories consumed. Some people experience nearly a total elimination of feeling “hungry” when they first start taking this drug.
- Cognitive improvement: As a result of dopamine increases, your ability to think critically improves. This may lead you to be more conscious of the foods that you choose to ingest. If you were previously eating candies and pounding sodas like nobody’s business, and now you are more aware (as a result of improved cognition) that these foods are problematic, you’ll lose weight.
- Dopamine increase: The increase in dopamine as a result of taking Adderall is largely responsible for the weight loss a person experiences. Increasing dopamine can give the user more motivation to work out, it speeds up the nervous system (and metabolism), and suppresses the appetite. Greater levels of dopamine are the driving-force behind weight loss on this drug.
- Energy increase: Most people notice that their energy increases as a result of taking the drug. This is because more dopamine stores in your brain are being used up to give you an energetic boost. Increased energy often leads to getting more done, more physical activity, and more calories burned.
- Fight-or-flight: When your sympathetic nervous system becomes activated as a result of the drug, it stimulates your “fight-or-flight” response. This involves the body using up excess energy stores and decreases the need for food. This is a survival response generated from the body that allows people to survive for periods of time without food.
- Increased metabolism: It’s no secret that even if you are able to force yourself to eat the same amount of food while taking Adderall as you did prior to taking the drug, you’re probably still going to lose some weight. This is due to the fact that your metabolism will have increased from the drug. Many people enjoy the increase in metabolism because they can keep the same diet, and lose weight by taking a pill.
- Motivation: Dopamine release also increases your overall motivation to accomplish tasks. If you experience a surge in motivation, you may direct this motivation towards making progress at the gym, with your diet, and/or other aspects of workouts. People that are relentlessly motivated to improve their physical fitness are going to lose weight.
- Physical activity: The boost in energy often leads a person to get more exercise than usual. This may mean going on more walks, going to the gym, and/or moving around more. Even simple activities such as cleaning the house or pacing more frequently can lead to more calories burned and a higher metabolism as a result of physical activity.
- Self-control: It is important to highlight the fact that when dopamine levels increase, your ability to exercise self-control improves. Drug-induced improvement in self-control gives you more power to turn down unhealthy foods and choose healthier ones. Prior to taking Adderall, you may have caved into having unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
- Side effects: Some people may experience side effects from the drug such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Although these are not common side effects to experience over the long-term, they can all lead to weight loss. If you aren’t retaining food and/or feel nauseous, it’s unlikely that you’re going to eat as much as you typically would.
Factors that influence weight loss on Adderall
There are several factors that will determine how much weight you lose while taking Adderall. These include the dosage that you take, how long you’ve been on the drug, whether you’ve become tolerant to its effects, your current lifestyle, genetic variations, as well as other drugs that you’re ingesting. These factors help explain why some people may lose more weight than others while taking this drug.
The amount of Adderall that you take will have a significant influence in determining how much weight loss you experience. If you take a relatively small dose, you may not lose much weight because you aren’t getting as much of the drug. In other words, at smaller doses, less dopamine is released and there is less stimulation of the central nervous system.
At high doses, there is a greater release of dopamine and the effects of the drug become amplified. Someone who has never taken Adderall and jumps on a moderate to high dose may experience significant energy, euphoria, and weight loss during the initial stages of treatment. Assuming you haven’t developed tolerance, the greater the dose, the greater the weight loss.
2. Frequency of Usage & Subtype
Those that take the drug more frequently tend to lose more weight than those who use it on an “as needed” basis. Additionally those staying medicated for a longer duration throughout the day should experience more initial weight loss.
- Frequency: How frequently do you take Adderall? If you take it on an infrequent or “as-needed” basis, you’re probably not going to lose much weight. This is because your body will attempt to reestablish homeostasis during periods for which you abstain from the drug. If you are taking the drug a couple times a week or the immediate-release version once daily, you may not lose much weight.
- Subtype: There are two main types of Adderall… the “IR” (immediate-release) version and the “XR” (extended release) version. Those that take the IR version once a day or as needed may not lose as much weight as people taking the XR version. Obviously if the “IR” version is taken at several intervals throughout the day, this achieves the same effect as taking the “XR” once a day.
3. Duration of Treatment & Tolerance
Those that have been taking the drug over a short-term are more likely to experience change in weight than those who have been taking it for a long-term. Over the short-term, the effects of the drug are heightened due to the fact that tolerance has not yet been established. As a person establishes tolerance over the long-term, they experiencing diminishing returns in regards to weight loss from the same dosage.
Obviously if you are constantly increasing the dosage each time you become tolerant, this should lead to increased weight loss. However, eventually you will hit a peak dosage and your body will adapt to the metabolic and stimulatory effects of that dose. Once you become tolerant to a high dose, you may end up gaining some weight back that you initially lost.
4. Lifestyle / Personal habits
The amount of weight you lose on Adderall is also partially influenced by your lifestyle and habits. Those that eat a healthy, clean diet, and incorporate plenty of physical activity in their daily routines are more likely to lose weight than those who don’t. Healthy habits while taking this drug will likely lead to more weight loss than someone who isn’t making effort to get any exercise and/or eat a healthy diet. If you aren’t losing as much weight while taking this drug as you’d hoped, your unhealthy habits may be overriding the effects of the drug.
Although most people will lose weight on this drug, the amount of weight loss experienced may be influenced by genetics. Those with certain genetic variations may lose more weight than those with other genes. New technology like “GeneSight” is being refined to help people get a better understanding of how their genetics will influence side effects (e.g. weight changes) as a result of a particular medication.
6. Other drugs
If you are taking other medications, this may amplify or offset the weight loss experienced on Adderall. Certain medications such as atypical antipsychotics and SSRI antidepressants are associated with weight gain. These drugs slow the metabolism, alter hormones, and increase appetite – ultimately causing weight gain. If you take Adderall with drug known to cause weight gain, they may cancel each other out, leading to you remaining “weight neutral.”
In other cases, you may be taking such a low dose of Adderall, that the other medication overpowers its effects, leading to slight weight gain. Another scenario could be that you are taking a stimulatory drug like Wellbutrin in tandem with Adderall, which may amplify the propensity of weight loss. If you have questions as to how certain drugs may be interacting with Adderall, be sure to speak with a medical professional.
Why you should think twice about using Adderall for weight loss…
Using Adderall for weight loss has lucrative short-term appeal, but will ultimately lead to an array of long-term problems. Once you become tolerant to the effects of the drug, you may gain back some weight that you initially lost. Furthermore, if you ever want to discontinue Adderall, you’ll experience weight gain, sometimes gaining significantly more weight than you lost as a result of low dopamine and metabolic slowing. For these reasons, the practice of using Adderall to lose weight isn’t medically supported.
- Abuse: Some people figure out that taking a drug like Adderall can lead to weight loss. Instead of using the drug responsibly, they take a little bit, then a little more, and eventually end up abusing it. This may involve taking significantly more of the drug than is medically recommended (or safe). In the event that they aren’t able to lose as much weight as they’d like, they may continuously increase their dose.
- Addiction: Those that take Adderall specifically to lose weight often become addicted to the drug. They become addicted to the weight loss that they experience, but they also become addicted to the pleasurable mental effects and cognitive improvement derived from the drug. Amphetamines like Adderall are considered to be among the world’s most addictive drugs.
- Dependence: You may never think that you’ll become reliant upon a medication, but Adderall is some powerful stuff. A day may come when you stop taking it and realize that you can’t function without it. Many people become reliant on the drug to maintain an ideal weight, perform well at their job, etc.
- Diminishing returns: The longer the duration over which you take Adderall, the less likely you will experience weight loss from the same dosage. Of course increasing the dose will help, but you can only do that for so long until you hit a maximum dose. Returns will continue to diminish and you may gain back some weight that you originally lost.
- Dopamine burnout: After awhile of taking this drug, your dopamine stores will get used up. This leads to a person requiring more of the drug to feel the same degree of concentration, focus, and/or maintain weight loss. Once most of your dopamine stores are used up, it will take an extended sober period before they are replenished. When your dopamine stores are depleted, you’re going to eat more and potentially gain weight.
- Illegal: It is illegal to use Adderall to lose weight unless prescribed by a doctor for this specific purpose. This is a “controlled-substance” in the United States due to the fact that it has high potential for abuse.
- Long-term effects: While this drug is considered relatively safe when used responsibly (for medically approved conditions), it is not void of long-term effects. Each person has different reactions as a result of long-term treatment. Although Adderall may be relatively safe over the long-term, it is unknown as to whether it may pose detriment to your health.
- Muscle loss: If you end up losing weight, some of the weight that you lose may be muscle. If you are a guy, you may not like the fact that you are actually burning some muscle from taking this drug. While not everyone will lose a significant amount of muscle, it is important to highlight the fact that this is a possibility – especially at higher doses.
- Side effects: Even though many people like the side effects of this drug, some people don’t. You may get headaches, mood swings, experience poor sleep quality, and may notice an increase in blood pressure as a result of this medication. For some individuals, the side effects of the drug are difficult to cope with.
- Tolerance: When taking any drug for an extended period, you’re going to become tolerant to its effects. This leads to less therapeutic effect from the same dose that you had been taking. As you develop tolerance, you’ll need an increase in dose to achieve the same weight loss that you may have been experiencing. The problem is that you’ll eventually hit a wall when you become tolerant to the maximum recommended dose.
- Unrealistic image: Taking Adderall to lose weight may help you achieve a desired figure, but it may be unrealistic. Even though hard work at the gym and formatting your dietary intake may help you achieve a great look, the way you look on a drug may be unrealistic. Drugs can help you exceed your natural limitations. Unfortunately, when the effects wear off, you may always compare yourself to the unrealistic figure you attained while on Adderall, which can be highly depressing.
- Withdrawal: Many people experience a great deal of psychological distress when they pursue Adderall withdrawal. If the drug isn’t providing benefit and/or you aren’t able to continue getting pills to keep off your weight, you will end up first experiencing an “Adderall crash,” characterized by low dopamine. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and difficulty with cognitive functions – often for an extended period of time.
- Rebound effect: Assuming you quit taking Adderall, it can take many months (in some cases longer) to correct the changes that the drug had made to your nervous system and physiology. If you were dependent on the drug for functioning and had to discontinue, you are going to experience the opposite of what you experienced on the drug. The old saying “what goes up, must come down” applies here. If you lost a bunch of weight while taking the drug, you will probably gain all of that weight back. In some cases, the rebound effect is so strong, that you’ll actually end up gaining significantly more weight than you lost. This is in part due to abnormally low dopamine stores, as well as fatigue, and slowed metabolism for an extended period of time.
Safe, effective weight loss strategies
Fortunately there are safe, effective weight loss strategies that you can use as an alternative to taking a drug. Sure taking a drug like Adderall to lose weight is effective over the short-term, but is ultimately unsustainable. In order to keep your metabolism up and lose weight, you’ll want to alter your dietary intake as well as physical activity. Although these weight loss methods require some effort, they get easier with continued practice.
- Daily walking: Something as simple as going for a walk each day can speed up your metabolism and help you burn calories. Although most people like the idea of heavy cardio, a simple activity like consistent daily walking will lead to some weight loss for previously sedentary individuals.
- Dietary changes: You may not want to give up the chips, fast food, sodas, or refined carbs that you are shoveling down the hatch each day, but making dietary changes may be necessary in order to lose weight. Analyze your diet and customize a diet based on what works for your genetic code to help you lose weight.
- High-intensity interval training: This is a form of exercise in which you perform a high-intensity exercise to get your heart rate up, followed by a short rest period. It alternates between an elongated intense period of working out and rest. Even short high-intensity interval training (e.g. 15 minutes a day) is enough to promote weight loss.
- Hypertrophy training: This is a style of training that involves building muscle size in order to look more aesthetic. This type of training generally involves lifting weights at higher repetitions in order to burn fat and build up the muscle. Although this style of training may not make you incredibly strong, it will help you lose unwanted weight (assuming you are overweight).
- Strength training: This involves progressively lifting heavier weights. As your body builds strength, your metabolism increases, you lose fat and build muscle. There are many free strength training programs available online.
Note: With all these methods, you cannot expect immediate results like you’d get with Adderall. These take consistent effort, but in many cases they are not that difficult to start. Unfortunately they do require “effort” – something not many people are willing to put forth in order to get results.
How much weight will you lose from Adderall?
There’s no telling exactly how much weight you’re going to lose from Adderall. Some people lose a significant amount, while others lose a very miniscule amount. Yet others may experience no weight change as a result of taking other medications and/or having built up a tolerance to the effects of stimulants. Assuming you have no tolerance, you may lose weight in the first few years of treatment.
Some people have claimed net weight losses of up to 30 lbs. after a year of treatment as a result of this drug. There aren’t many specific reports regarding weight loss from this drug, but it is a noted effect in a large percentage of people. Keep in mind that when you lose weight in early years of treatment, you’ll eventually gain it back with continued usage and/or discontinuation.
Have you used Adderall for weight loss?
If you’ve used Adderall to lose weight, be sure to share your experience in the comments section below. Mention whether you are currently taking it, your dosage, how long you’ve been medicated, as well as other factors that may have contributed to your weight loss. Also mention the primary condition for which you were prescribed Adderall (e.g. ADHD) to help us get a better idea of why you started using the drug.
For those that had taken the drug to lose weight, discuss at what point you noticed diminishing returns on weight loss. If you have been a long-term user and/or discontinued, be sure to mention the degree to which the weight returned. The reality is that while many people successfully use this drug to achieve a desired weight loss goal, its effects are ultimately unsustainable over the long-term.