Adderall may be effective in treating depressive episodes related to bipolar disorder. But, there may be risks associated with using this medication to treat your condition.

Adderall is typically prescribed to treat conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. But it may also be effective in treating mood disorders.

If you have a dual diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder, you may wonder if Adderall is effective in treating ADHD without the risk of triggering a manic or depressive episode.

Understanding the risks and benefits of this medication can help you when discussing your treatment options with a mental health professional or physician.

It’s important to remember that everyone responds differently to medication and that each individual should always consult their doctor when attempting any change in medications.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by high-energy moods (mania or hypomania), low-energy moods (depression), or both. And symptoms of bipolar disorder can often overlap with ADHD symptoms, which can lead to misdiagnosis.

For example, symptoms of a manic episode, such as restlessness, impulsivity, and a short attention span are also symptoms of ADHD.

Once a manic episode ends, these symptoms will also subside –– unless the symptoms are due to ADHD, in which case they will persist.

According to a 2021 review, ADHD and bipolar disorder appear to have a high rate of comorbidity.

The review indicates that 1 in 6 adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder also lives with ADHD. While the causes of this common comorbidity are unknown, there’s likely a genetic connection.

Adderall is a stimulant widely prescribed for the treatment of ADHD.

A 2017 study found that Adderall and other stimulants are often prescribed off-label to treat major depression and depressive episodes related to bipolar disorder.

The study concluded that Adderall and other stimulants appear generally effective at treating depressive symptoms, but more research is necessary.

It’s inaccurate to say that Adderall is an effective treatment for bipolar disorder, but rather that it can help mitigate the symptoms of a depressive episode.

In fact, 2017 research suggests that stimulant use can potentially induce hypomanic episodes.

Older research from 2008 consisting of people who used a stimulant to treat bipolar disorder supports these findings. Researchers indicated that 40% of participants experienced stimulant-associated mania.

Adderall has many possible side effects, including:

  • insomnia
  • dry mouth
  • decreased appetite
  • nervousness
  • upset stomach

In addition to these side effects, people who use Adderall for extended periods of time may experience an increased tolerance to the medication, meaning that a higher dose is needed to feel the effects. Due to this, the chances of substance misuse and addiction may increase.

Adderall can trigger a manic episode in people with bipolar disorder. It’s important to note that while a manic episode may result from taking Adderall, the medication itself is not the root cause of bipolar disorder.

Recommended treatment for bipolar disorder

Like most mental illnesses and disorders, effective treatment plans for bipolar disorder differ between individuals.

It can sometimes take months or years for someone with bipolar disorder (along with their medical practitioner) to zero in on the right treatment plan for them.

In addition, treatment plans may need to change over time to better suit changes in the individual’s lifestyle or to address new side effects or symptoms that may occur.

Bipolar disorder is commonly treated with a combination of:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium or anticonvulsants
  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • therapy
Was this helpful?

ADHD and bipolar disorder can and do occur at the same time.

More research is necessary to definitively say whether or not Adderall is an effective treatment for bipolar disorder, though it’s commonly prescribed off-label to mitigate the symptoms of a depressive episode.

Stimulant medications such as Adderall may effectively treat depressive episodes experienced by people with bipolar disorder. But stimulant medications have the potential to trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder.

It’s important to note that any treatment plan is highly individual, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Only a qualified mental health professional such as a psychiatrist can diagnose you with a mental health condition. Consider speaking with your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, ADHD, or both.