Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/26/2021
If you’ve been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), your healthcare provider may prescribe ADHD medication such as Adderall® to help you treat your symptoms and stay focused on specific tasks.
Adderall, which contains the ingredients amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is a stimulant medication that’s used to treat ADHD.
While Adderall is effective as an ADHD treatment, it may cause certain side effects, including sexual performance issues such as erectile dysfunction.
Below, we’ve explained how Adderall works, as well as the effects it may have on your sexual performance. We’ve also explained what you can do if you experience ED after using Adderall to treat your ADHD symptoms.
Erectile dysfunction is a known side effect of Adderall, as well as other medications used to treat ADHD.
It’s often possible to treat Adderall-related ED by planning ahead of time and modifying your dosage on days you plan to have sex.
If you experience persistent ED that doesn’t seem to improve, medications like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) can treat ED and improve your sexual performance.
These medications are only available with a prescription, meaning you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider before you can purchase and use them.
In addition to medications like Adderall, certain health conditions and habits can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction. You may be able to improve your erections and general sexual performance by treating these.
Adderall is a prescription medication for ADHD. It contains the active ingredients amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall is available in a short-acting version and in a longer-acting, extended-release formulation called Adderall XR®.
As a treatment for ADHD, Adderall works by increasing the effects of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
These neurotransmitters help to regulate certain aspects of your behavior, including your ability to focus on specific tasks and control impulsive behavior.
In addition to Adderall, a range of other medications are used to treat ADHD, including Ritalin®, Concerta®, Vyvanse® and others.
These medications are typically very effective at treating ADHD. About 70 percent of adults and 70 percent to 80 percent of children experience improvements after starting therapy with Adderall and/or other stimulant medications.
Like many other medications, Adderall can cause certain side effects, including side effects that may affect your sexual health and performance.
In adults, the most frequently reported side effects of Adderall are loss of appetite, insomnia, dry mouth, weight loss, headaches, nausea, anxiety, agitation, diarrhea, asthenia (lack of energy or strength), tachycardia (fast heart rate) and urinary tract infection.
Although it’s not a highly common side effect, between two and four percent of men prescribed Adderall report experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, can vary in severity. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, you may have ED if you:
Can’t get an erection at any time
Can get an erection, but find it difficult or impossible to maintain it for long enough to have fulfilling or satisfactory sex
Can get an erection occasionally, but not consistently enough to have sex when you want to
Erections are all about healthy, optimal blood flow. As a stimulant, Adderall can constrict your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure and make it more difficult for blood to flow to the erectile tissue of your penis when you’re sexually aroused.
A variety of factors, from your physical health to your day-to-day habits, may also increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
You may have a higher risk of developing ED if you smoke, drink alcohol excessively, use illicit drugs, are overweight or obese, or if you have a physically inactive lifestyle.
Certain physical and psychological factors may also increase your risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues.
For example, diseases such as heart and blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), multiple sclerosis and others are all linked to erectile dysfunction.
Psychological conditions and mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, stress and guilt or fear regarding sex, may also cause ED or make your symptoms worse.
Finally, in addition to Adderall, other medications may increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. These include antidepressants, prescription sedatives, medications for high blood pressure, appetite suppressants, antiandrogens and others.
Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be a frustrating experience. Luckily, erectile dysfunction is almost always treatable.
If you’ve recently started to experience ED and think your use of Adderall is the cause, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
When you talk to your healthcare provider, make sure to inform them about your symptoms and when they started. ED is a common issue that affects men of all ages, meaning there’s no need to feel embarrassed or worried when you talk to your healthcare provider.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to your regular healthcare provider about ED, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider online.
Your healthcare provider may suggest making certain changes to your use of Adderall to reduce the severity of your ED and improve your sexual performance. These may include:
Adjusting your dosage on days you have sex. This may help to reduce the severity of your ED symptoms. Make sure to only adjust your dosage of Adderall after you’ve talked to your healthcare provider.
Not taking Adderall before sex. If you take a split dose of Adderall throughout the day, your healthcare provider may suggest not taking it shortly before sex. Do not stop taking Adderall without first talking to your healthcare provider.
Waiting it out. If you’ve only recently started taking Adderall, your healthcare provider may recommend waiting for several weeks to see if your ED symptoms disappear over time on their own.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend switching to a different medication to treat your ADHD symptoms.
In addition to suggesting changes to the way you use your medication, your healthcare provider may prescribe ED medication to improve your erectile health and sexual performance. A variety of medications are available to treat ED. Common options include:
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil offers relief from ED for a similar amount of time to sildenafil.
Avanafil. A newer, second-generation ED medication, avanafil (sold as Stendra®) works quickly to provide relief from ED and is less likely to cause certain side effects than older medications.
These medications work by increasing blood flow to the tissue of your penis. Our guide to PDE5 inhibitors (the class of medication common ED drugs belong to) goes into more detail about how these medications work, their advantages, potential side effects and more.
If your ED is related to an underlying health condition, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe additional medication.
Finally, it’s often possible to reduce the severity of erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual health by making certain changes to your habits and lifestyle. Try to:
Maintain a healthy body weight. Research shows that being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk of developing ED. Obesity is also linked to other issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, that can contribute to erectile dysfunction.
If you’re overweight or obese, try changing your eating habits and activity level to reach a BMI in the healthy range. You can use the CDC’s BMI calculator to check your current BMI and learn more about other metrics for measuring your physical health.
Keep yourself active. Research shows that men with ED caused by certain heart health issues may benefit from aerobic forms of exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling and other activities.
According to Harvard Medical School, as little as 15 minutes of regular exercise per day can have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Since healthy erections rely on healthy blood flow, paying attention to the foods you eat may help you to reduce the severity of your ED symptoms and improve your sexual performance.
Research shows that the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet, which consists of vegetables, nuts, fish and fresh fruit with limited processed foods, may be associated with improved sexual performance in men with ED.
Avoid cigarettes and nicotine. Nicotine and many other chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage your blood vessels and affect blood flow, potentially affecting your erectile function and sexual health.
If you smoke, make an effort to quit. Our guide to quitting lists science-based strategies that you can use to stop smoking, deal with cravings and kick the habit for good.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Research shows that people who drink large amounts of alcohol are more likely to develop sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, low sexual desire and premature ejaculation.
Try to drink alcohol in moderation. The CDC recommends up to two servings of alcohol a day for men, or one per day for women.
Erectile dysfunction is a known side effect of Adderall that may affect you if you take Adderall or Adderall XR to treat ADHD.
While ED can be frustrating to deal with, it’s almost always treatable by using ED medication or making changes to your lifestyle and habits.
If you’ve recently experienced ED and want to take action, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider to learn more about your options and, if appropriate, receive a prescription to purchase ED medication online.
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