Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/2/2021
Adderall® is a popular medication that’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
It contains a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine and is designed to improve focus and concentration.
In addition to ADHD, Adderall is sometimes prescribed to treat narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness.
Adderall comes in several different varieties, including a timed-release version called Adderall XR.
If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, your healthcare provider might have prescribed Adderall to help you control your symptoms.
You may have also heard of Adderall as an illicit study aid.
Data shows that about one in every eight college students misused Adderall in 2018, with medications like Ritalin® (another ADHD drug) also popular for pre-exam cramming.
Adderall can cause side effects, including some that may affect your quality of life. Although it’s uncommon, some people have reported experiencing hair loss after starting Adderall.
Below, we’ve explained how Adderall works, as well as the side effects you could experience if you’re prescribed this medication.
We’ve also shared expert tips and techniques to help you avoid hair loss, whether it’s linked to Adderall use or more common causes of hair loss such as male pattern baldness.
Adderall is an amphetamine-based medication that’s used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Amphetamines are stimulant medications. The two amphetamines in Adderall -- amphetamine and dextroamphetamine -- work by modifying the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain and speeding up your central nervous system.
Research shows that the ingredients in Adderall and similar medication can help to control the symptoms of ADHD.
Adderall is a powerful, effective medication that’s helpful for people with ADHD. However, like many other medications, it can cause certain side effects.
Potential side effects of Adderall include:
Changes in sex drive or sexual performance
In women, painful menstrual cramps
Although uncommon, Adderall and similar ADHD medications can also cause more serious side effects. These may include:
Slow or difficult speech
Motor or verbal tics
Grinding of the teeth
False beliefs, memories or hallucinations
Feelings of suspicion regarding other people
Agitation, fever, sweating, confusion and elevated heart rate
Changes in vision and/or blurred vision
Difficulty breathing and/or swallowing
Mania (an abnormally excited or frenzied state)
Swelling that affects the face, eyes, tongue and/or throat
Rash, hives, itching, blistering or peeling skin
Weakness or numbness in the limbs
It’s important to contact your healthcare provider immediately or seek emergency medical help if you experience any of these side effects.
As a stimulant, Adderall can affect your cardiovascular health. If you have a heart condition, this type of medication may lead to complications.
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any cardiovascular health issues before using Adderall.
Although it isn’t very common, stimulants like Adderall can potentially cause you to shed more hair than normal.
Research has also found that amphetamines, the class of medications to which the ingredients in Adderall belong, are often linked to hair shedding.
Although ADHD medications like Adderall can cause hair shedding, they aren’t associated with male pattern baldness -- the most common cause of hair loss in men.
Most of the time, any hair you lose from Adderall isn’t gone permanently. Instead, it’s likely shed as a result of higher levels of stress, reduced sleep or other side effects from your medication.
Male pattern baldness -- the type of hair loss that gives you a receding hairline or bald patch at your crown -- is caused by a combination of genetic factors and the effects of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
If you’re genetically prone to hair loss, DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and cause your hair follicles to gradually miniaturize.
Over time, these follicles stop growing new hair, leading to the classic M-shaped receding hairline that characterizes male pattern baldness.
Our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness discusses this process and its effects on your hair in more detail.
Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to show that Adderall or similar ADHD medications have any effects on your DHT levels or risk of developing male pattern baldness.
Researchers aren’t completely sure of why medications like Adderall cause hair loss.
However, it may be linked to the effects Adderall can have on your habits, emotions and general levels of stress.
Amphetamines, which are the active ingredient in Adderall, are known to ease hunger.
In fact, weight loss is one of the most common side effects of both Adderall and Adderall XR.
While weight loss isn’t known to cause male pattern baldness, it’s a common cause of a form of temporary hair shedding called telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium can cause sudden hair shedding that occurs across your entire scalp.
If you are affected by this form of hair loss, you may notice that your entire head of hair begins to look thinner than normal, with more visible scalp and less coverage.
Other issues related to sudden weight loss, such as low protein intake or deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals, may also trigger telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium can also occur due to stress, which you may experience if medications such as Adderall interfere with your sleep habits.
As a powerful stimulant, Adderall may affect your ability to fall asleep if you take it during the afternoon or evening.
One important thing to note is that temporary hair loss caused by Adderall can potentially cover up the effects of male pattern baldness, making it harder to tell if you’re losing hair as a result of Adderall or due to the effects of DHT.
For example, if your hair is already thin due to sudden weight loss or lack of sleep that’s caused by Adderall, you’ll find it a lot harder to spot DHT-induced thinning.
In general, hair loss isn’t a common side effect of Adderall.
However, it’s important to take note if you’re prescribed this medication and notice extra hair on your pillow or that your hair seems thinner than usual when you look in the mirror.
Hair loss is also a potential rare side effect of other ADHD medications.
The most obvious sign of hair loss is, well, losing more hair than normal. It’s normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day.
If you’re shedding more than this, it’s often a sign that you’re affected by some form of hair loss.
Telogen effluvium, the form of hair loss that’s often caused by stress or nutritional deficiencies, tends to cause diffuse hair loss.
This means that you’ll lose hair across your entire scalp, not just the areas around your crown or hairline.
If you’re losing hair at your hairline or crown, your hair loss could be the result of male pattern baldness, not Adderall-induced telogen effluvium.
If you’re prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD or narcolepsy and notice that you’re shedding more hair than normal, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
To treat your hair loss, they may recommend lowering your dosage of Adderall or switching to a different type of medication.
It’s important not to adjust your Adderall dosage or stop taking your medication without discussing this with your healthcare provider first.
If your hair loss is linked to rapid weight loss or a nutritional deficiency, you may be able to treat it by making changes to your diet.
As a stimulant, Adderall may cause you to feel anxious and stressed. Basic stress management techniques and activities like meditation may help you to keep calm, manage your emotions and avoid letting stress take over your life.
If you’re taking Adderall without a prescription as a productivity aid for work or studying, it’s best to stop using this medication.
Because Adderall-related hair loss isn’t caused by DHT, finasteride isn’t likely to treat or prevent this form of hair loss or help you to regrow your hair.
However, the topical medication minoxidil may help to speed up hair regrowth.
This medication works by increasing blood flow to your scalp and transitioning your hair follicles into the anagen, or active growth, phase of the hair growth cycle.
Although hair loss from Adderall isn’t common, it is possible.
If you change your eating habits or feel more stressed while you use Adderall, there’s a chance that these changes could contribute to noticeable hair loss.
Since this type of hair loss isn’t caused by DHT, your hair should grow back once the underlying issue is treated.
Concerned about hair loss? You’re not alone. You can learn more about the most common type of hair loss for men in our full guide to male pattern baldness, or view our large selection of hair loss treatments online.
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