Depression is a mental health illness that affects a great number of people. In fact, major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of major depressive disorder for people ages 15 to 44.3 in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. More than 16 million over the age of 18 are affected by it. Also, the organization says that roughly 3 million people are affected by persistent depressive disorder (formerly called dysthymia). It is a form of depression that lasts for at least two years.

Various prescription medications treat the symptoms of depression. Antidepressants are the primary type of medication that is often prescribed. Adderall is not an antidepressant but a medication that might help people struggling with depression.

You might be wondering how effective Adderall would be in treating your depression symptoms. Keep reading to find out.

Depression: What You Should Know

Depression, sometimes diagnosed as MDD or clinical depression, is a fairly common and serious mood disorder. Its symptoms affect how you think, feel, and deal with everyday activities, like going to school or work. Diagnosis requires that your symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) shares that there are several different types of depression:

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): This is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. An individual who is diagnosed with PDD will have episodes of major depression coupled with periods of less severe symptoms, but the symptoms last for two years.

Postpartum depression: Some people may call this the “baby blues,” but it is much more serious than that. Individuals who suffer from postpartum depression have full-blown depression during pregnancy or after delivery. They will experience extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that come with depression, making it very difficult to care for the newborn and normal household activities.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that comes on during the winter months when there is less sunlight. Generally, SAD lifts in the spring when there is more sunlight. People who have SAD will likely withdraw from social activities, sleep more, and gain weight. SAD can come back every year when the seasons change.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression symptoms and signs may last most of the day, almost every day, and stick around for at least two weeks. These are:

  • Persistent feelings of feeling sad, having an “empty mood,” or feeling anxious
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilt
  • Moving or talking slowly
  • Trouble sleeping, waking too early or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once joyful
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Suicide ideation or suicide attempts
  • Random aches, pains, headaches, digestive issues, or cramps with no physical cause

People with depression may experience some of these symptoms or all of them. Each person experiences depression differently. Diagnosis for one or the other type of depression depends on the length of time and severity of the symptoms.

Depression can affect anyone at any age. Some risk factors that could produce the onset of depression are:

  • A family or personal history of depression
  • Major life changes, stress, or trauma
  • Specific physical illnesses and medications

Because depression affects us all differently, there is no one perfect treatment for it. So how will you know what medication is the most effective one to use?

Medication for Depression

Antidepressants are the most common medications for depression. At first, the antidepressant you take might ease depression symptoms. It may also cause some side effects that are undesirable to you. A good way to determine which medication works best for you is to try what is prescribed and report to your doctor how it is working and if its side effects are manageable.

It is wise to be open and honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms, physical ailments, and overall lifestyle so that he or she can determine which drug might be the best choice.

Some medication options are:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs cause fewer side effects and are better in higher doses than other antidepressants. Some examples of SSRIs are Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are also commonly prescribed. Some examples include Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, and Fetzima.

Atypical Depressants: Medications in this group are sometimes prescribed. Some of them are Remeron, Wellbutrin SR and XL, and bupropion. Bupropion is not known to cause sexual side effects, such as SSRIs and SNRIs.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs are usually prescribed when the others do not work. They are associated with serious side effects and can react badly with certain foods, like pickles, cheeses, and wines. Examples of an MAOI are Parnate, Nardil, and Emsam.

Other medications: Your doctor may prescribe two different antidepressants to help alleviate your depression symptoms.

What About Adderall for Depression?

adderall as depression treatment

Maybe you have read that Adderall can help ease some of your depression symptoms. You might have even heard that it can be effective in treating depression. We are going to explore that in this section.

Adderall is composed of two central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. When these two ingredients reach the brain, they act like the naturally occurring neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine.

Dopamine is widely known as the “reward” neurotransmitter. Adderall can sometimes cause a feeling of euphoria from the effects the drug has on the brain’s dopamine. It can also help the brain from being distracted. Epinephrine is tasked with ramping the body up into fight-or-flight mode. It triggers alertness, focus, and clarity. Norepinephrine helps increase focus.

Can Adderall Cause Depression?

Generally, Adderall is not prescribed to treat depression; it treats the symptoms of ADHD. It may cause some children taking it to feel listless or sad. If the dose is too high, a child may look sedated, as noted in this column from the Child Mind Institute. Children diagnosed with ADHD may be feeling depressed to begin with due to the challenges of having ADHD.  However, it is essential to note that sometimes higher doses of Adderall can cause depressive symptoms.

Can Adderall Treat Depression Symptoms?

As mentioned above, Adderall is not usually prescribed to treat depression. Adderall is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat depression. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

There have been medical studies that showed how some symptoms of depression improved from taking a psychostimulant, like Adderall, coupled with conventional antidepressants. In one study, the majority of patients in a drug trial, including Adderall, concluded that a little more than half of the 65 patients showed “significant improvement, in particular with respect to energy, mood, and psychomotor activity.” 

In addition, the patients did not develop drug dependency on the stimulant, and side effect development was low. They also reported being less agitated and restless. Adderall takes effect rather quickly (usually within two to three hours) and tends to cover the time before antidepressants begin to work.

Is Adderall Effective for Depression?

People who have treatment-resistant depression may find that Adderall is effective in treating their symptoms. Mental Health Daily notes that Adderall can almost immediately:

  • Boost confidence by boosting dopamine, which can help you feel better about socializing
  • Increase energy levels, thereby stimulating brain activity
  • Improve focus and concentration so that you can complete tasks and feel more productive.
  • Boost mood so that you feel better, happier, and perhaps less suicidal

Conventional antidepressants can take several weeks before they begin to make you feel better. Adderall can be effective in alleviating some of the distressing symptoms of depression almost right off the bat.

Treatment for Depression

Depression can be debilitating and should be treated by medical professionals. If you are struggling with depression and self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, it is best to get professional help. 

Depression can also be a symptom of other mental health disorders, such as ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder. A medical study in 2008 found that almost one-third of patients with major depressive disorder also had a substance use disorder. Self-medicating can make depression worse when the effects of the substances wear off. Mental health treatment combines behavioral therapies with medication. If you struggle every day with depression, reach out for help. The caring staff at Vista Pines Health can get you back to feeling like yourself.

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