Ritalin + Adderall: Acne Side Effects

This is a letter from a reader about the relatively common belief that that acne is side effect of daily Adderall use.  Most people we have surveyed find that Adderall makes existing acne worse. Many people who never suffer from acne do not begin forming acne simply because they take Adderall.  Unfortunately, we don’t have an adderall acne solution besides eliminating the drug from your system altogether. If you absolutely must use Adderall, take the minimum dosage that you find effective (as low as 2.5 mgs or 5 mgs), and take it immediately when you wake up. Avoid Adderall XR, which is the extended release pill, as this is more likely to disrupt your sleep. The closer to the time you go to sleep that you take any central nervous system, more more havoc it is going to wreak on your sleep cycle and the more likely it will be to cause an acne breakout.

Adderall side effects include difficulty sleeping (insomnia), a temporary increase in blood pressure, increased cortisol production, all of which can lead to acne breakouts.

You might find that an Adderall substitute such as Ritalin has a lesser effect on acne, although a common side effect of Ritalin is also bad skin.

Dear AcneResearch.org,

I followed your regimen for the past month, and my skin improved dramatically.  However, things were not perfect.  My huge cysts were mostly gone, although I still had a small cyst show up from time to time, and I had maybe 3/4th of the number of whiteheads.  Of course, it is summer so I can’t spend 12 hours/day outside.  It’s simply too hot.  I am able to squeeze in about 3 hours during the middle of the day, at which time I also exercise, eat lunch, and take all of the recommended vitamins.  Anyhow, my skin was the best it had been without medication, but still not necessarily better than if I were following the acne.org regimen or using Proactiv.

Well, I felt like the acneresearch.org treatment was working and that the problem still had to do with something in my lifestyle.  That something, I am fairly certain, is my daily usage of Adderall. I had attempted to force all Adderall usage to first thing in the morning so that it would be out of my system by the time I went to sleep.  With an elimination half life of around 12-14 hours, this seemed feasible.  However, for one reason or another I think it was still affecting my acne. I had long suspected that Adderall caused acne, but I am so dependent on the drug for success at work and school that I wasn’t able to give it up. Anyway, acne prone skin causes me more distress and anxiety than success does happiness, so I decided to quit the drug. Rather than quit cold turkey (I used 20 mgs/day), I slowly decreased to 10 mgs/day for a week, then 5 mgs/day for a week, and then 0 mgs/day. My acne got a little better each week.  I have been completely off the drug for 2 weeks now, and these have been the best two acne I’ve had in some time.

I am not ready to chalk up all of the skin improvements to not using adderall  For one thing, the adderall withdrawals affected my sleep cycle.  I was sleeping an average of 8 hours/night when taking adderall. No matter what time I went to bed or how dark my room was, I couldn’t sleep for more than 8 hours. The month I slowly lowered my adderall dosage, I slept for 10 hours on many days, up to 11 on some days, and almost never less than 9. Now that my body is no longer recovering from Adderall dependency, my sleep has gone back to about 8.5 – 9 hours per night. But not all the way back down to 8.

One way or another, Adderall does appear to make my acne worse.  I don’t know if it is the direct effect of using a central nervous stimulant, the lack of sleep caused by adderall, or an increase in toxins coming through the skin caused by Adderall. It doesn’t matter, though. If I have to stay off Adderall to remain acne free, then I will.

14 Replies to “Ritalin + Adderall: Acne Side Effects”

  1. Hello. I have trouble with rather ugly acne rosacea and comedones. I’m afraid I have some scars as a natural consequence of scraping up the affected skin areas. What therapy could you suggest to cure these skin problems, any recommendations? So far, I have already used quite a few often mentioned cures like cider vinegar without success!

    1. I have lived an acne free life til I started to take Adderall and after just a few months of being on it I started to break out so bad that I didn’t even want to go anywhere because my face looked like a crack addict! I have stopped taking it and been adderall free for two weeks and my skin is completely acne free now but I have scars from the picking. Needless to say, i would recomend getting off it ASAP but talk to your doctor first about weaning off (with the right dosage) because depending how long you have been taking it and how much it can cause severe withdrawal. I should know!!! I’ve been sleeping for the past two weeks almost all day, everyday but I really do feel better now and if you get the proper help from a doctor then it won’t be so bad. I just decided to go the cold turkey route.
      Best wishes!!

  2. There is no doubt in my mind that Adderall causes major acne outbreaks. I stay mostly free of acne, but if I take even a single adderall I will have a cyst within 2 days. If I take adderall for a week or longer, I suffer from a massive outbreak that won’t go away until I completely quit taking the adderall. A shame, because the adderall helps me so much with my ADD.

    1. The only brand of Adderall that does not cause horrible skin problems is by SANDOZ….only sold at small mom and pop pharmacys…It will not be found at retail chain stores (walgreens..etc,, ….) SANDOZ has changed my life!

  3. Person before me almost hit in the center with answear about fat !!!
    So let me tell you whole story that goes like this :
    – All we know that people use carbs ( sugar ) or fats ( meat, oils )
    to produce ENERGY to function like human being.
    – Now is the best part a little bit of physics:
    If we have two humans ( ROBIN and TOMY ) with weight and height the same AND they both ate “ 6 hamburgers”- ( in it carbs and fats ).
    After this big dinner Tomy went to his room and spended the rest of the day on a chair watching movies on youtube, like other people enjoy their life.
    Robin on the other hand, decided that he will go with his girlfriend GINNA for a long walk to the nearby Wood’s-Park, where he first time met Ginna. They came late at night, freezed and hungary. They both jumped in to the fridge so they could make some tasty super sandwiches. Later, that night Robin and Ginna went quickly to bed and together did fall like death in to the deep sleep.
    What happen to Tomy ? Before he went to bed at 5 am morning, he eat huge bag of chips ( 25 normal servings in a bag ) and he drank his girlfriend ( ANNA ) 4 Energy drinks. She used them only for emergency situations when she had to study for a test or go to work for a night shift. Anna will be mad and she will show Tomy what is stress all about when she will come from night shift tired!
    Guess who has problem with acne?
    Let me help you first! Robin and Tomy genetically almost the same very healthy had too much for dinner 6 big hamburgers BUT.
    Robin got his fats and carbs to produce energy and he used it in very effective way ( walking, talking, loving ). So let say he got 2555 calories in him and he used them all. Food was digested and used in 99% so there was no time for food to stop in his digestive track and wait for him to start using it. This is Robin’s life style where he unconsciously must have high metabolism to get his energy producing and using.
    Tomy’s DS (digestive system) was up sad, because he putted so much calories in his body and he used only 35% . What happen to the 75% of food energy? Some of it decided that will change to a fat and some of it decided to sit there and wait and ferment to harmful toxins. Those toxins gets in to the blood by capillary channels and they circulate in the whole body system where most of the time end up on Tomy’s face, neck, chest or legs. Skin just doing every day job by expelling toxins. Face skin is sensitive, has many sensory fibers, so it wants to clean it fast because doesn’t tolerate inflammation caused by toxins.
    What about 4 energy drinks that Tomy consumed? He just increased his body temperature and his heart pumping function for no reason letting toxins flow in larger number in to his blood system and polluting his nice skin even farther.
    The same with RITALIN or ADDERALL or COFFEE or other stimulants. If there is undigested food in your DS from where toxins are produced, You will always get some kind of ACNE or redness or Inflammation or other kind of bad reaction in your kidneys or eyes or adrenal glands. Remember skin just showing you that there is something wrong with your lymph nodes system which is your cleaning system parallel to blood system. So be happy that you got first alarm from your body saying “ PLEASE FIX ME OR THERE WILL BE MORE TO FIX AND THAN CAN BE TO LATE “.
    Some people don’t get this kind of alarm and they find about their disease later when drugs or other procedures are required.
    Everything must have PURPOSE, other way just sits there and make no sense in purpose which is your nice looking face.

    1. People who don’t take adderall, don’t get it, we are not all of a sudden eating all fat, or having sleep issues, or not showering. ITS THE ADDERALL CAUSING THE ACNE!!! Now why do drug companies say it’s not the adderall? Because they don’t want people to not buy it! I’m 34, started using it recently, and became covered in acne. I’m not going through puberty, I’m just part of the small percentage that is affected by the side effect.

      1. Thank you for your honesty. I am 36. I’ve had the occasional pimple here and there, However, NEVER EVER like this. This is painful and unsightly. Never ALL over my face or neck either. My entire face is inflamed with what seems like thousands of tiny white bumps and worse combined with huge red blistering cysts. It’s out of control. Nothing is working, nothing is controlling. I’m embarrassed to leave the house. I haven’t allowed myself to be in any photographs in months. It’s causing me more anxiety than I had before the adderall! I’ve voiced my concern to my doctors, they all say the same. That it has nothing to do with the adderall and that there absolutely is no link between adderall and acne. But I’m not going through puberty. I’m not a child and I know my body. I’ve done my own tests and analysis. Repeatedly. If I skip the adderall for even one day, I immediately notice a positive change in my skin. Texture alone goes away. I was perscribed 30mg/day time release. Since the acne started to become a major issue for me, I decided to cut back on the dosage.. My doctor didn’t recommend for me to stop taking the meds cold turkey.. I went to 15/day and now only 5mg daily. 5mg doesn’t work for me nearly as well as the 15, but I’m terrified of the breakouts! (The texture of my face is to me, worse than the visible clusters.. I despise the feeling of the bumps and there is no makeup in the world that can mask them. I also noticed a significant change in my body odor as well. Awful. I’ve been too embarrassed and in denial to mention the b.o. To my doctors, but I know it has to do with the increase of sweat. There are no solutions to either side effect besides cold turkey cease of use. From what I’ve experienced. 🙁 ) Visible less acne within two days off adderall at the most. Urgh. It’s so frustrating to think that I may now have to go back to fighting myself daily to accomplish my projects with work and daily general life. Even my relationships with friends and family has gotten better simply due to my anger/impulses being under control. My relationship with my husband alone has been reason enough to be in denial of the adderall being the cause of my acne. I am now seeing a dermatologist… I’m willing to try anything but acutane. Which he swears is a “miracle acne solution”. He also swears the adderall has nothing to do with my “genetic severe acne” even after I’ve repeatedly told him I’ve never had severe acne in my life! -anyhow, lowering my dosage hasn’t stopped the acne. It slowed it down at first, but now it’s back to severe, covering my entire face. – thanks for your comment. Thanks for letting me vent. 🙂 I agree with you, re: of course the doctors won’t agree it’s the drug causing the acne Bc it makes the industry too much money. I thk your absolutely correct. I know what I need to do now. God bless.

    2. Thanks for this analogy. It’s clear that you’re very knowledgeable about this, although equally clear that English is a second language for you. I take Ritalin & consume lots of energy drinks to combat suspected narcolepsy. My skin has gone to complete Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea (slang for s#!t), especially around my jawline. Weirdly, I’ve been growing these rogue hairs on my chin & cheeks, some as black & wiry as male whiskers, others very long, fine and blonde colored. I’m almost 40 and Black American, so chalked it up to pre-menopause. Could Ritalin LA be the cause of this hairy situation?

      I’m talking with my doctor to wean me off the Ritalin completely, but I’m worried about permanent scarring, which my skin is very prone to do. What kind of treatments have been successful to improve stimulant-damaged facial skin?


  4. DrHenderson made a point and I agree with everything he said. I just want to add something to all of you who struggle with acne while on adderall. Let say your outter body is ford focus with engine inside from ford focus line also. When you take adderall you switching engine to one like from Porsche or Lamborghini but your outer body frame stays the same so in this case ford focus. Have you every seen ford focus with Porsche engine in it. I don t think so, but let say that someone magically made that happen. How long you think this car would survive. Not long.

  5. I just want to make a point. When you take adderall your heart, lungs, kidneys,liver and the rest of the internal organs work really fast and are really sensitive to toxins in your system. Without stimulants ( adderall) your body work as usually with the law that was designed as making hormones in regular way and discarding them in normal way. When you take adderall your body produces extreme amount of stress hormones
    such as cortisol and epinephrine are released by the body in situations that are interpreted as being potentially dangerous. Cortisol is believed to affect the metabolic system and epinephrine is believed to play a role in ADHD as well as depression and hypertension. Stress hormones act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate and shutting down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity. Constant stress causes continual release of various stress hormones which can cause:
    A depletion of energy storage
    Stress-induced hypertension
    Effects on metabolic processes
    Ulcers (digestion)
    Hampered growth
    Decrease in testosterone levels in males and irregular menstrual cycles in females

    . Increased likelihood of infectious disease and before I start to talk about it. I just want to make a second point at how our body start to work when on adderall . When we take a pill soon after we get really high amount of energy . Our body slams down digestive system and start producing extreme amounts of cortisol. Our brain then gets the best glucose of all straight from liver . Everything would be nice if we would be without harmfull bacteria. Almost all acne subjects have yeast overgrowth in their bodies and sniki yeast loves sugar and the sugar coming straight from the liver is even 1000 times more loved by yeast because is without insulin addictive.
    Now what you can do to make acne vanish. Stop putting carbs in to your body even fruits are not allowed until cystic acne will stop to form. Start Atkins diet but without completely any sugar. Start taking acidophilus only not other strains just plain acidophilus. The third crush 3 garlic cloves and choke it with almond milk. For 100% you will see results in 2 days and about 7 days you won’t see any new forming cyst. It is all about how big is your problem because u may have really large overgrowth of yeast so-during a 7 day you may get even worst inflammation but try sticking to the plan and you will have beauty face for life. At the end I just want to say that regime of no carbs, acidophilus and garlic you may discard slowly but you don t have to quit at all because this routine won’t harm you in any way. Don t use any topical creams or lotions cause problem is from inside . I only use isotretinoin cream 0.025% without any spf creams and I never had sun burn. Good luck and if you got any questions let me know.

  6. I am 43 and have been blessed with beautiful clear skin my whole life. I just began 2.5 mg of Adderall twice a day. It seems to help me finally focus, and I do not feel jittery at all. I can finally sleep and stay asleep without my mind racing 100 miles and hour. I think the dose is perfect for me. BUT within 4 or 5 days of starting, my neck and jaw line broke out with horrible “adult acne” – red bumps. I look like I have chicken pox all over my neck! I have a sensitive system when it comes to taking any medication and was hesitant but excited to try this medication with hopes that it would end my life frustration with focus. As such, I have always been mindful of what sort of foods and chemicals my body is exposed to; try to eat organic, avoid a lot of complex carbs, drink water as my form of hydration, etc. I know it is the medication reacting to my sensitive system because nothing else in my routine has changed. I am bummed after reading these posts. I was hoping this would work without side-effects.

  7. Guys, I’ve found my cure for adderall acne! & Ive waited for over a month to see the results before posting on pages like this. Basically long story short, adderall caused me painful cysts when i had clear skin before ever taking the medication! I ended up doing a lot of research and ended up thinking that if bacteria is growing under the skin maybe i should be taking things for bacteria and cleaning out my system. This lead me to the Probiotic, Acidophilus! If you’re not sure what it is, go research it! I saw my skin for from cysts that where under the skin for months that flattened and looked like they were dying in just two days! Acidophilus is a game changer and i just needed to share! Hope this helps!

  8. I’m 51 and started taking Adderall. I didn’t have scars on my face or a problem with acne before taking this drug. When I started breaking out I went to my doctor and she prescribed some antibiotics because she thought it was staph! I did alot of research and found it is cystic acne. The best thing I found to dry up the sores, because they were so painful I was messing with them in my sleep, is Biore charcoal face wash. I have since stopped taking this but the scars remain and guess what folks….. No more cystic acne! So yes, it is the Adderall because I haven’t changed my diet either.

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