Adderall and other stimulant ADHD medications can have side effects, which may affect the mouth and tongue. Side effects may include dry mouth, soreness of the tongue, and teeth grinding.

Adderall is one of several stimulant medications that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a common psychological condition that affects a person’s behavior. In 2011, about 3.5 million children and adolescents with ADHD in the United States were taking medication for this condition.

Anyone concerned about potential side effects from Adderall use should consult a doctor about the best course of treatment.

This article looks at the side effects of stimulant ADHD medications, including Adderall, that affect the mouth or tongue. It also explains how to treat these side effects and when to see a doctor about them.

adderall tabletsShare on Pinterest
Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scientists estimate that 3–10% of school-aged children have ADHD and that about 25% of college students who are receiving disability support do so for ADHD. Adderall is a stimulant drug that doctors use to treat this condition.

As its name suggests, ADHD causes issues with attention and hyperactivity. Doctors and psychiatrists will use different criteria for diagnosis depending on whether the individual is a child or an adult.

In children, symptoms of ADHD include:

  • paying insufficient attention to tasks
  • rushing through tasks
  • missing smaller details
  • lack of organizational skills
  • forgetfulness
  • seeming inability to listen
  • fidgeting
  • climbing onto tables or chair
  • loudness
  • excessive talking
  • interrupting
  • blurting out answers to questions

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD may be less noticeable. They could include:

  • procrastination
  • mood instability
  • low self-esteem
  • impulsivity
  • inattentiveness

As with other stimulant ADHD medications, Adderall works by changing how the brain produces or uses dopamine, an important neurotransmitter that is essential to brain function. These effects on the brain can translate into improved attention and lessened hyperactivity.

Scientists divide stimulant ADHD medications into two groups: amphetamines and methylphenidates.

A 2018 study lists several examples of the brand name versions of these drugs.

Amphetamine ADHD medications include:

  • Adderall and Adderall XR
  • Evekeo
  • Dexedrine and Dexedrine XR
  • Dextrostat
  • ProCentra
  • Zenzidi
  • Adzenys XR
  • Vyvanse
  • Dyanavel XR

Methylphenidate ADHD medications include:

  • Ritalin, Ritalin SR, and Ritalin LA
  • Methylin and Methylin ER
  • Focalin and Focalin XR
  • Metadate CD
  • Quillivant XR and Quillichew ER
  • Concerta
  • Daytrana

These drugs affect a person’s brain in different ways. Amphetamines tend to increase the brain’s production of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

In contrast, methylphenidates block the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, increasing their concentration. These increased levels produce a stimulant effect.

Although these mechanisms differ, the result of taking either drug is a stimulant effect.

Due to the complex nature of the brain, many drugs that affect brain function can cause unwanted side effects.

Amphetamine side effects

Scientists know that amphetamine usage, including that of Adderall, can lead to the following adverse effects:

Methylphenidate side effects

Similarly, doctors are well aware of the following methylphenidate adverse effects:

  • insomnia
  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • tics
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • decreased appetite and weight loss
  • abdominal pain
  • heart palpitations
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • tachycardia, which is a fast resting heart rate

Some side effects of stimulant ADHD medications, including Adderall, specifically affect the tongue and mouth.

For instance, research has shown that both amphetamines and methylphenidates can cause dry mouth. Moreover, anecdotal reports suggest that people on stimulant ADHD medications can develop the following symptoms:

  • tongue and mouth movement, including tongue sucking
  • rawness and soreness of the tongue
  • biting or chewing of the tongue, lips, or inner cheeks
  • teeth clenching or grinding, known as bruxism

Scientists are also beginning to recognize less common mouth and tongue effects of stimulant ADHD medications.

For instance, one 2018 study documents the case of an individual who bit off small portions of their tongue and lips after using a methylphenidate for ADHD. The authors note that research has shown this effect of methylphenidates, alongside compulsive self-licking, to be common in rats and rabbits.

As the above tongue and mouth symptoms have not received much scientific attention, specific treatment options for people who develop these symptoms from taking stimulant ADHD medications do not currently exist.

However, because some of these symptoms can occur for various reasons, some less specific treatments could prove helpful. For example, people can treat dry mouth by:

  • staying well-hydrated
  • taking frequent sips of water
  • using artificial saliva from sprays, lozenges, or gels
  • chewing sugar-free gum
  • avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol

For people whose dry mouth is medication-induced, it might be best to speak with a doctor about changing a medication or stopping it altogether. However, this might not be helpful for many people on ADHD medication.

Less drastic measures could also help with some tongue and mouth symptoms of stimulant ADHD medication. For instance, a 2021 study recently found a statistical association between bruxism and deficiencies in vitamin D and calcium.

However, the authors conclude that further research is necessary before experts can confirm whether dietary supplements could help with bruxism.

Anyone who is taking stimulant ADHD medication and experiences side effects, including those that affect the mouth and tongue, should speak with a doctor.

It is important that a person is able to tolerate their ADHD medication. If this is not the case, a doctor can provide advice on how to proceed.

There are many different kinds of ADHD medications.

Recently, some people have started reporting that certain stimulant ADHD medications have had unwanted effects on their mouth or tongue.

Although there may be simple ways to alleviate these side effects, it is prudent to seek the advice of a doctor, as a change in medication or a reduction in dosage may be the best approach.