Can Adderall Cause Autoimmune Disease?

In this article, we will take a close look at Adderall, a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, and its potential impact on Autoimmune Diseases. Autoimmune disease is an uncontrolled immune response against our cells and tissues. This blog post will help us understand the potential link between Adderall and Autoimmune Diseases.
Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Westminster, London.

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What is Adderall?

Adderral is a medication which is utilized to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness). Adderall is a stimulant medication that consists of a mixture of 2 active ingredients known as Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine. These substances function by altering the quantity of natural substances present in the brain and therefore help with raising focus and attention [1, 2, 3].

What does Adderall do?

Adderall assists individuals having ADHD with focusing, concentrating and controlling hyperactivity as part of a regimen consisting of various treatments that might include psychological or behavioural therapy. In turn, Adderall serves to keep people with Narcolepsy awake and alert throughout the daytime [1, 2].

Adderall is prescribed for use as either an immediate-release form, which lasts for a few hours, or an extended-release form, which has a duration of 12-15 hours, with the newer Adderall XR said to last up to 24 hours. Some people misuse Adderall to improve concentration or lose weight – it suppresses appetite – but to make Adderall work as a cognitive enhancement drug, it must be misused: it leads to dependency, addiction and serious health hazards [2].

Understanding Autoimmune Diseases

What is an Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune disease is an uncontrolled immune response against our cells and tissues. The exact causes of why the body’s immune system attacks healthy body cells and tissues are not fully understood. The aberrant immune reaction toward healthy cells may result in inflammation or injury in the affected region(s) of the body. An Autoimmune disorder could be organ-specific as the presence of inflammation and disease process would affect only one organ or systemic as it would affect the entire body to some extent [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

The immune system consists of special cells, organs and processes that mediate defensive responses to protect the body from germs and other potentially harmful substances. In Autoimmune Diseases, however, the immune system mistakenly targets part of the body as ‘foreign’, mounting an immune attack on healthy cells [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases identified so far. They include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma (a disease that affects connective tissues under the skin), thyroiditis (an inflammation of the thyroid gland that initiates the production of excess hormones), and multiple sclerosis, a condition in which myelin (brain’s protective sheath around the nerve cells) is damaged. Some Autoimmune Diseases may affect certain specific organs like type 1 diabetes which damages the pancreas while polypathic conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus may affect the whole body [4, 10, 11, 5, 6, 8].

Can Adderall cause Autoimmune Disease?

The relationship between Adderall and Autoimmune Disease is complex and not entirely clear. While there is no direct data implicating Adderall use in the development of Autoimmune Disease, studies have shown that drugs can engage the immune system, such that in special circumstances they can induce autoimmune responses [12, 13, 14].

Adderall is also known to affect immune function. Chronic use of Amphetamines including Adderall has been shown to increase both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, indicating an immune system imbalance that lasts weeks or longer [15, 16]. Pro-inflammatory cytokines have the potential to increase the risk of developing or worsening autoimmune diseases, though once again this is something that would need additional research to confirm.

A study revealed a high prevalence of Autoimmune Diseases (ankylosing spondylitis, ulcerative colitis and autoimmune thyroid disease) among subjects with ADHD, a condition whose neural mediators are direct targets of Adderall [17]. This invariant does not necessarily imply a cause-effect relationship, as a selective association might simply mirror a common genetic background or even an exposure to the same environmental risk factor.


Overall, although Adderall may impact the immune system, at this time it is clear that no established evidence directly ties Adderall to Autoimmune Disease. More research is needed to understand the role of Adderall on autoimmunity.

Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster in London. Currently, in her second year of undergraduate studies, she exhibits a keen interest in the dynamic field of healthcare. With a focus on understanding the intricacies of human biology and disease mechanisms, Greta is driven by a desire to contribute to advancements in medical research and patient care.