Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) remains among the most popular pharmaceutical ADHD medications on the market. In part, it is popular due to the fact that it is highly effective, and tends to be well-tolerated among individuals with ADHD. When used responsibly, many professionals consider it a safe and effective long-term treatment option for inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
In addition to using the drug for its intended purpose (to treat attentional deficits), some people find ways to obtain the drug for non-medically accepted uses. Adderall is frequently used recreationally and/or “off-label” for purposes such as: cognitive enhancement, for the treatment of depression, by partygoers to achieve (a dopaminergic) euphoria, and by obese individuals to lose weight. Although the effect of “weight loss” may be appealing to those who are overweight, indivdiuals who are already “fit,” skinny, or underweight may find Adderall-induced weight loss to be problematic.
Preventing Weight Loss Taking Adderall
Assuming you are underweight and don’t want to lose any weight while taking Adderall (or another stimulant), below are some strategies that you can implement to minimize the amount of weight loss you experience on the drug. There are two primary methods to prevent weight loss: firstly – minimize the drug’s influence over your physiology, and secondly – take measures to offset the drug’s effects.
Minimizing the drug’s influence over your physiology…
The effect of Adderall is closely tied to the dosage you take as well as the frequency you take it. Someone who takes a relatively low dose on an infrequent basis is unlikely to experience significant weight loss. However, a person taking a high dose daily for a year is likely to end up losing weight. The goal is to take a minimalist approach in terms of dosage and frequency if you don’t want to lose weight.
1. Lower dosage
To minimize the amount of weight you lose while taking Adderall, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking the “minimal effective dose.” In other words, take a dose that helps combat your inattentiveness, but make sure you aren’t taking excess. Higher dosages have a greater propensity to cause weight loss. This is due to the fact that high doses further elevate dopamine and increase CNS stimulation, which further reduces appetite and increases metabolism.
2. Take less frequently
Some people may need to take Adderall daily in order to function at work and/or school. However, if you want to make sure that you don’t lose a massive amount of weight from taking the drug, you should use it as infrequently as possible. Follow your doctor’s recommended guidelines for usage, but don’t assume that you need to have mixed amphetamine salts pumping through your body at all times in order to function.
- “As needed” basis: Consider taking the short-acting “immediate-release” (IR) version “as needed” and avoiding the drug during times when you aren’t engaged in a cognitively demanding task. Many people take the drug just for stints in which they cannot function without it (e.g. school or work). As soon as you are away from an environment that demands intense focus, simply stop taking it and give your nervous system a break.
- Adderall vacation: Some people take (what’s recreationally referred to as) an “Adderall vacation.” This vacation is considered a considerable chunk of time you’ve set aside for taking a break from the drug. An ideal time for taking a vacation would be when you’ve got a break from work and/or school. Some even consider the weekends to be a “mini” vacation. These vacations allow your physiological functioning to reestablish a varying degree of homeostasis. Homeostasis helps reset your metabolism, brings back appetite, and may help restore your sleeping pattern. During a vacation you’ll likely experience somewhat of an “Adderall crash” but the impairment won’t be nearly as severe as full-fledged Adderall withdrawal.
3. Consider the “immediate release” version
If you’re hoping to prevent weight loss while taking Adderall, you’ll probably want to take the “IR” (immediate release format). This will give your body the medication during times that you actually need it, and allow physiology to function normally for gaps without the drug. The “IR” version is favorable to the “XR” (extended release) version for individuals hoping to lose weight in that the effect isn’t sustained over a long period of time.
Therefore the appetite suppression, increased energy, and metabolism increase should subside when the drug wears off. The extended-release format delivers the drug over a prolonged period, therefore is more likely to cause weight loss. Taking low doses of the “IR” format on an “as-needed” basis is ideal for preventing weight loss.
Offsetting Adderall’s weight loss effects
There are some personal measures you can take to help offset side effects from Adderall associated with weight loss. Unless you are taking another medication that slows your metabolism and increases appetite, you may need to force yourself to eat extra food even when you’re not hungry.
1. Forced eating
Many people implement the practice of “forced eating” into their regimen with success. This involves eating the same number of meals and equal (or greater) portion sizes during Adderall treatment as they ate before taking the drug. In other words, if you were eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but find yourself struggling to remember to eat three square meals, force yourself to eat what you did before.
Taking Adderall increases dopamine in the brain, stimulating the reward center and decreasing appetite. In some cases you may literally forget to eat because you don’t feel hungry. In that case, set a timer at times you believe you should normally eat and/or give your body fuel. A timer will help you consciously remember to eat even though your appetite is suppressed.
2. Extra eating or “snacking”
In addition to appetite being suppressed by artificially elevated levels of dopamine, your metabolism will be higher than at its homeostatic baseline. This means that you’ll likely need to eat extra food in order to combat the significant increase in metabolism. Consider adding in a couple extra meals, protein shakes, or small “snacking” sessions throughout the day to get your body some extra calories.
3. Orexigenics (appetite stimulants)
Fortunately if weight loss is highly problematic for you on Adderall, you may be able to talk to your doctor about considering an orexigenic medication. These are drugs that stimulate appetite and should help offset any weight loss you experience on Adderall. If you are taking a medication for a condition like depression such as an SSRI or TCA, this should help counteract some of the weight loss caused by Adderall.
Have you considered alternatives to Adderall?
Everyone likes the easiest solution to treating psychiatric conditions like ADHD, but anything that requires consistent effort or long-term work is seldom pursued. There are very effective Adderall alternatives, many of which are free and can be used with significant efficacy over the long-term. Examples of alternatives include: various types of meditation, taking supplements, and/or consistent exercise. Although these may not be as potent as popping a psychostimulant, they aren’t going to cause unwanted weight loss.
Maintaining and/or gaining weight on Adderall
While many people still view weight loss on Adderall as an added perk, clearly not everyone shares this sentiment. If you have managed to avoid weight loss while taking Adderall, feel free to share some strategies that you implemented with success to combat potential weight loss. Be sure to share whether you maintained weight and/or were even able to gain weight or muscle mass while taking the drug.