Are ADHD Meds Addictive or Not?

Are ADHD meds addictive? Well, are they? Yes or no? Can’t somebody answer my question? Apparently not. Oh, sure, the ADHD-doesn’t-exist crowd might be quick to suggest the meds are addictive, but I’ve found it virtually impossible to find a definitive answer to the question from a credible source.

For almost two years, I searched high and low to find a subject matter expert who will answer the question on record and then do so in an interview on Attention Talk Radio. But I couldn’t come up with anyone. Why? I suspected that no one wanted to go on record, for fear of what they say being taken out of context, which is almost a liability risk for mental health professionals. They are subject to being attacked or being bogged down in controversy.

But my perseverance paid off at last, and I found Dr. Anthony Rostain, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rostain agreed to be interviewed by me on Attention Talk Radio and to address my questions around the abuse and addictiveness of the stimulant medications used to treat ADHD.

As much as I’d like to synthesize the answer down to yes or no as to whether ADHD stimulant medications are addictive, I now believe it would be irresponsible to do so in the absence of many contextual factors that Dr. Rostain illuminates throughout our interview.

You can be confident in the interview and the quality of the content simply because the interview was posted on the APSARD Website.

A big thanks to Dr. Rostain for clarifying things so succinctly. I encourage you to listen to my interview with him in its entirety. Just click the image below.


Jeff Copper, Attention and ADHD Coach

8 thoughts on “Are ADHD Meds Addictive or Not?

  1. Jeff,
    You and I have known each other for many years. Throughout those years and still today, I am being treated for ADHD with Adderral. In total, I have been treated with this medicine for about twenty years.
    That said, as to the addictiveness, that’s a difficult question to answer and here’s why. If one must take the medicine on a routine basis to help control ADHD, does that make the person an addict and the medicine an addictive drug? How Adderral affect me is simple. It allows me to focus quicker and better. I can miss a dose here and there, and I can feel virtually no difference. I am authorized by my doctor to take two, 30mg doses per 24 hour period. I have taken 2 doses a day on very rare occasions. Usually, I can manage very well with as little as 1/4 of one pill per day and function just fine.
    So that raises the question, since I need the medicine every day, albeit, as little as quarter of a dose at times, that make me an addict and the medicine addictive? Personally, I don’t think so. Certainly, my need to take this medication every day makes me no more of an addict than the person who MUST take a blood pressure medication every day to maintain their blood pressure at a safe level.
    What are your thoughts?

    1. JV, thanks for your post. I did the interview with Dr. Rostain because of the demonization of stimulants by the media. I think Dr. Rostain did a good job distinguishing drug abuse, dependency, and addiction. They are really different things. What I took out of the interview is, yes, using stimulants can be abuse. Athletes have used them as a performance enhancing drug. Students use them like we used No-Dose back in my day to cram for tests. Drug abuse is drug abuse and it should not be inferred that, if you have ADHD, you abuse drugs. The other side is addiction. Often, people are led to believe ADHD stimulants are addictive like meth or nicotine. I thought Dr. Rostain did a good job explaining that, if you stop the meds cold, you’ll feel the effects, like I get a fever the day after I stop drinking coffee, but I don’t have to go into rehab to beat the addiction. Drug dependency is different. I depend on my high blood pressure meds and my thyroid meds to live a less impaired life. If I stopped those meds, I would need some kind of rehab. For you, I’m hearing the meds enable you to sustain focus and live a more fulfilling life. The key to the interview is that ADHD meds are not addictive. Yes, many depend on them to sustain focus, and, yes, their use is sometimes abused, BUT drug abuse is still drug abuse. Just because ADHD stimulants are drugs doesn’t mean the meds should be demonized. Again, I appreciate your comments.

    2. I completely agree with you Jerry. Same medication for me and I take 20mg 2x a day but I break it up into smaller doses. One because of my inability to swallow pills and 2 it allows me to monitor myself and take more based on a certain time if day. I also feel that when I have missed a couple of doses, I have felt no withdrawal symptoms at all, only the lack of focus. I don’t believe, for me ,it’s addictive either. I’ve been on it for about 6 years now and it has worked out great for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. I have ADD with hyperactivity,I’ve been on Adderall for 20 my personal experience my husband lied to the doctor so he could get Adderall, he didn’t have ADD WITH HYPERACTIVITY, he would stay up for 3 weeks straight until his months supply ran out.It doesn’t affect me that way,Adderall has saved my life but in my husband’s situation he ended up dieing ,he no longer was able to get Adderall so he started smoking crack,died of a heart attack. So yes it can be Adictive if you don’t have ADD WITH HYPERACTIVITY. I was told this medication could be good for you or bad,I lived both sides of the affects of this medication.

    1. Hi, Sherry, thanks for your comments. We never like to hear about the loss of life, especially in cases like your husband’s, but drug abuse is drug abuse and lying to the doctor to get meds is a form of drug abuse. Just like with athletes who may have taken Adderall for performance enhancement. It is not intended for that, and its abuse is definitely an issue and I appreciate your concern.

  3. Jeff and ATR,

    Excellent topic that is frequently discussed in the professional health care world and a big concern for parents as well as adults considering medication as first option for treatment. Also, interviewing Dr. Rostain, Director of the Adult ADHD clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, is a great choice. He is one of the leading experts in this important arena of medication treatment plus he has a comprehensive treatment philosophy of CBT and ADHD Coaching being important elements in the successful management of ADHD. He is also one of the most respected physicians and pioneers specializing in the treatment of adult ADHD. Can’t wait to listen to this groundbreaking interview!

    1. David, thank you for your post. I couldn’t agree with you more regarding Dr. Rostain. What’s more is he was the only one I could find with the guts to get up and talk about this. I searched high and low for three years trying to find somebody. All I got was crickets until he came along.

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