Does Adderall make you lose weight?
LAST UPDATED: May 31, 2023
6 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
And if you’ve been taking Adderall for a while, you may have noticed an unexpected side effect: weight loss. It’s pretty common to lose some weight while taking Adderall, which leads people to wonder if it can be used as a weight loss drug. The answer is no: it is not safe to take Adderall for weight loss, and the drug is not designed for that purpose. Read on as we explain why, and offer suggestions for what you can use instead.
Get access to GLP-1 medication (if prescribed) and 1:1 support to meet your weight goals
Does Adderall make you lose weight?
Yes, Adderall can make you lose weight. Decreased appetite and weight loss are both common side effects of stimulants like Adderall IR (immediate release) and its extended-release version, Adderall XR. For example, during clinical trials of Adderall XR:
22% of children lost their appetite, and 4% lost weight
36% of teens lost their appetite, and 9% lost weight
33% of adults lost their appetite, and 10% lost weight
Why does Adderall make you lose weight?
As an amphetamine, adderall works by stimulating your central nervous system, or CNS. The drug targets two neurotransmitters in your brain — norepinephrine and dopamine — to make your brain work faster, give you an energy boost, and create feelings of euphoria. This all helps you stay focused, which is the point of the medication. However, because you’re feeling so great, you may not feel as tired, so you may be more physically active, or stay active longer, than you normally would.
In addition to boosting energy levels, stimulants like Adderall might affect two hormones: ghrelin (the hormone that tells you you’re hungry) and leptin (the hormone that tells you you’re full). Together, these hormones regulate your appetite and feelings of fullness, or satiety. Using or overusing stimulants could create long-term changes in how your body evaluates your energy needs, which may cause you to eat less. Over time, these changes can affect your metabolism and cause low body weight.
For some people, seeing the weight loss makes them even more motivated to misuse Adderall for this purpose, but that’s a dangerous path to go down.
Adderall weight loss risks
Using adderall for weight loss is relatively common (one study found that 12% of undergrad college students use prescription stimulants for weight loss), but that does not mean it is safe. Research shows that using Adderall for weight loss is associated with disordered eating, laxative use, and other harmful behaviors, like stress eating or purging (vomiting) to lose weight.
When you lose your appetite on Adderall, you may not eat all the nutrients you need. This can be particularly risky for kids with ADHD who are still growing, as malnutrition can slow down their development and affect their body weight and BMI (body mass index).
For adults, using Adderall for weight loss can be just as risky. While it is the first-choice treatment for ADHD in adults, Adderall does have side effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, blurred vision, dry mouth, irritability, aggression, and uncontrolled shaking. Adderall is also a Schedule II controlled substance, a category which includes cocaine, fentanyl, OxyContin (oxycodone), methamphetamine (“meth”), and Ritalin, another ADHD medication. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers these drugs to have a high potential for abuse, which is why the FDA requires Adderall to carry a boxed warning — its most serious warning — about the potential for abuse and dependence when using Adderall.
Abuse can occur when people take Adderall more often than prescribed or increase their dosage above the recommended amount, or when they take Adderall without an ADHD diagnosis. (Reduced appetite is also considered a warning sign of amphetamine abuse, one of the two active ingredients in Adderall.) Overstimulating the CNS in this way can lead to dangerous and uncomfortable side effects like panic, irregular heartbeat, nausea and vomiting. Then, once you stop using Adderall, you crash, opening you up to fatigue, depression, and insomnia — as well as increased appetite.
How to manage Adderall weight loss
If you’re worried about losing weight on Adderall, talk to your healthcare provider. They can offer guidance for managing weight loss on Adderall, including tips for diet and exercise.
Take Adderall as prescribed, always following your healthcare provider’s medical advice on dosage and timing of your doses. If you start taking any new medications, vitamins, or supplements, let them know in case you experience side effects.
Because of the drug’s potential for abuse, your healthcare team should continue to work with you to ensure Adderall is still working for you. Keep them in the loop on any side effects you’re experiencing, including weight loss. They may refer you to a nutritionist or offer tips for managing a healthy body weight through diet and exercise.
Follow a healthy diet
First things first: There’s no solid evidence that eating habits, or a poor diet cause ADHD. However, there may be a connection between ADHD symptoms and certain foods, and some scientists speculate restricting certain unhealthy foods, such as processed foods, and unhealthy fats could be beneficial on top of behavioral and medication therapy. More research is needed here. But regardless of the science, healthy eating patterns— including the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet — is always a good idea, and not only for the brain, but also for the heart.
Fill up on fruits and veggies, and ensure you get enough of these nutrients:
Iron, found in red meat, fish, egg yolks, whole grains, and dried fruit
Omega-3 fatty acids, which you can get from fish as well as fish oil supplements
Exercise can even help manage ADHD symptoms, according to some research. One study found that 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise several days a week can be beneficial for ADHD. However, because adderall increases heart rate, you may want to check with your healthcare provider about the safest exercise routine for managing weight loss while taking Adderall.
Get access to GLP-1 medication (if prescribed) and 1:1 support to meet your weight goals
Alternatives to Adderall for weight loss
There are plenty of safe and effective options you can use for weight loss instead of Adderall, including medication, diet, and exercise.
Prescription weight loss pills
Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) and Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion) are two stimulants that are FDA-approved for weight loss. Like Adderall, they can lift mood and boost focus. However, phentermine/topiramate also carries a risk of abuse and dependence. Both weight loss pills are effective at producing long-term weight loss.
GLP-1 receptor agonists are another type of medication that is prescribed for weight loss. These medications work by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) that tells your brain you’re full. They also regulate blood sugar levels and slow down gastric emptying, a part of the digestive process where food moves from your stomach into the small intestine. Together, these effects help you feel full faster, reducing your appetite so you eat less and lose weight.
On average, people taking Wegovy (semaglutide) lose 14.9% of their body weight within a year and a half, while people taking Saxenda (liraglutide) may lose over 9% of their body weight within four months. Other GLP-1 medications may be prescribed off-label for weight loss, including Ozempic and Mounjaro. However, only Wegovy and Saxenda are currently FDA-approved for this purpose. Typically, you must have a BMI of at least 27 and a weight-related health condition (like high blood pressure) to be eligible for these medications.
Whether or not you choose to use medication, it’s worth noting that these medications work best when you also implement lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Saxenda Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Ozempic Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Mounjaro Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Diet plays a large role in weight loss: to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. A low-calorie diet is often recommended as a first step for weight loss. To ensure you get the nutrients you need, aim for a diet that contains:
30% fats, including 10% saturated fats
The current recommendations for exercise start with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity (150 minutes sounds like a lot, but you can do 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week).
Using Adderall for weight loss isn’t a healthy solution. Not only is it risky, but once you stop taking it, the weight can bounce right back. If you want to lose weight, it’s safer to use diet and exercise, and, if your healthcare professional recommends it, other medications specifically designed for weight loss.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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