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Less down, more up: the perfect combination for someone trying to master their life. Whether you know a little or nothing about mental health, chances are you’ve wondered what it’s like for someone to take ADHD medication and antidepressants at the same time — whether there’s someone out there on Prozac® and Adderall® living their best life right now.
Chances are that if you suffer from both ADHD and depression, you’ve considered this very question — you may be doing so right now, while procrastinating from doing something else.
And if that’s the case, we can somewhat calm your worries — while there are risks associated with these medications in combination, they’re still considered safe to use together when used as directed.
But that just means you need to be cautious when using these two medications together. After all, Prozac and Adderall are powerful medications, and they can have a significant impact on the function of your brain in everyday situations.
You probably have some idea of what depression and anxiety are, so we can move pretty quickly through the antidepressant question.
Prozac (or fluoxetine, as it’s called in its generic form) is an antidepressant in the family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These medications essentially help your brain stabilize your mood by keeping your supply of the neurotransmitter serotonin from dwindling.
Antidepressant medications can treat a range of mental health and mood disorders, from depressive disorder to panic disorder to obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, dysphoric disorder and more.
Adderall is a little more complicated. Adderall, also known as dextroamphetamine/amphetamine is a stimulant: a class of drug used to treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, affects someone’s function with patterned behaviors of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Symptoms of this condition include fidgets, tapping and excessive restlessness, and may manifest as difficulties staying on task or difficulty sitting still.
Adderall treats this by stimulating the central nervous system and increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which help you regulate stress and pleasure.
Essentially, both of these medications affect the volumes of neurotransmitters in your brain, with the ultimate goal of helping you have more “normal” brain function.
So, what happens when you take two medications together that alter your brain’s levels of not one, not two, but three neurotransmitters?
It might be natural to assume that this could be considered overkill — that there might be a “too regulated” at some point. And indeed, that could be the case, though for different reasons than you might think.
Taking these two medications together is really only dangerous insofar as you might abuse them, or you might see increases in certain side effects that overlap.
For instance, both medications list among their side effects headaches, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea, decrease in appetite, seizure risks, agitated or irritable states and the potential for increased mood swings.
So what’s the verdict, then, about this drug combination? Is it safe to take these medications together, or will the drug interactions between the two cause you serious harm?
That’s a significant number of adverse effects that we just listed, and if you’re someone who is already prone to nausea from an existing medical condition, headaches, and some of these other common side effects, it is important to talk with a healthcare professional about the effects of amphetamine and the negative effects of antidepressants to determine if you should combine the two.
And that’s putting aside the risks associated with just Adderall, which include chest pain, excessive sweating and increased risk of adverse reactions for people with heart conditions, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.
But just because it might be a good idea to talk about unwanted side effects with a healthcare professional doesn’t mean these medications can’t be taken together.
In fact, some studies have shown that in certain combinations, the dynamic duo formed by antidepressant drugs and ADHD medications can cause significant improvements in conduct, mood and school work in students.
A 2015 study of concurrent stimulant and antidepressant use in undergraduate students found similar reasons for optimism about combined stimulant-antidepressant treatments, but emphasized a broader caution.
The study acknowledged that there were many misconceptions about the dangers of stimulants among undergraduate students and that education on the proper use of stimulants alone and in conjunction with other medications needed to be better communicated for safer use.
These limited studies no doubt need continued amending as long-term data continues to emerge, but for the time being, stimulant medications provide benefits that outweigh the potential risks — assuming your healthcare provider is on board.
Mental health isn’t a simple concept, and as we’ve learned the hard way over the last few decades, people’s mental illness issues often can’t be reduced to a single set of disordered symptoms.
It’s likely the case that we’ll see increases over the coming decades of comorbidities among the depression disordered and the attention disordered, and see an overlap in symptoms of ADHD and symptoms of depression.
Mental illnesses, mood disorders, attention disorders: these aren’t things we choose, but they can be things we control and overcome.
If you’re suffering from both right now, you can rest easy knowing that there’s a safe way to medicate both — at least with Prozac and Adderall.
But why stop at medication? Why not treat your disorders holistically?
If you’re getting your medication options squared away, it might be time to consider therapeutic practices as a supplement to your medications. For instance, online therapy is a convenient way to talk through the hurdles you come across while dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, OCD and other conditions.
If you’re ready to take the next step, consider using hers — you can speak to someone about mental health today and get the support you need to take control now.
Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
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