Uh-oh, Will Stimulants Make Me Act Like a Zombie?

ADHD Medication and Zombies
Patient that is taking medication for Adult ADHD and appears to be a zombie.

I know you don’t want your ADHD meds to make you stumble around like an extra on The Walking Dead. Don’t worry--they won’t!

Albert Hernandez

October 23, 2021
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read

October 23, 2021
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read


Patients can feel apprehensive about how they might feel when they take stimulant medications such as Vyvanse, Concerta, or Adderall. One question people sometimes ask is, “Do ADHD medications make you act like a zombie?”

I get where this concern is coming from. Adults with ADHD want to tackle the symptoms of their disorder, such as:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Interrupting or talking over others
  • Inability to focus on complex tasks at work
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Losing paperwork or other important items
  • Being fidgety or unable to sit still for long periods of time
  • Appearing to others to not be listening when being talked to

These symptoms of ADHD in adults can lead to challenges in their workplaces, with their finances, in their sex lives, and in their other relationships. 

However, my patients with ADHD don’t want to get rid of these troublesome symptoms at the expense of their personalities or their ability to relate to other people, right? I have seen many patients that were concerned about potential personality changes when starting Adderall, Vyvanse, or Concerta. One of the big behavioral changes that my patients fear before starting a stimulant medication is that they will become withdrawn, numb, or spacey. 

The truth is, for most of my patients, it’s actually the opposite. Strange as it sounds, for a lot of patients the effects of their medications make it easier to interact with their family, friends, and co-workers. With those patients who are overbearing when I first start to see them, I find the medication makes them more pleasant to work with. Patients themselves let me know that their loved ones and friends are now able to get in a word edgewise and therefore truly interact.

Knowing how stimulant medications work for adults with ADHD can help us understand why this is the case.

How Do Stimulants Treat Adult ADHD?

ADHD medication that is in a pill bottle and blister packs.

In order for humans to think, work, and take action, neurons in our brain must pass information along to each other. When someone has ADHD, the way that neurons in the brain talk to one another gets interrupted. This disrupted communication can cause the lack of focus and attention that can be signs of ADHD.

Stimulant medication can stop this interruption in your neurons’ ability to communicate with one another. It does so by helping your neurons have enough neurotransmitters (chemical messengers used by your brain) available. The main neurotransmitters that stimulants can help with are dopamine and norepinephrine. By making enough of these neurotransmitters available to your brain, stimulants can ease the disruptive symptoms of ADHD in adults. Many patients see an improvement in their ADHD symptoms after their first dose of stimulant medication. 

What Should I Do If My ADHD Medication Side Effects Are Interfering With My Quality of Life?

A patient with Adult ADHD has left their baseball cap, medication, and souvenir on the table.

There is no cure for ADHD; medications will only work as long as you take them. For most patients, the improvement that their ADHD medications make in their work life and their relationships shows up right away. Patients are relieved and happy to have more focus and less stress.

However, all medications have potential side effects. Some of the potential side effects of stimulant medication like Vyvanse, Concerta, or Adderall are:

  • Decreased appetite/not feeling hungry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Small increase in blood pressure
  • Small increase in heart rate

Lifestyle changes such as drinking enough water, making sure to eat regularly, exercise, and getting enough sleep can help with some side effects of ADHD medication.

If you think that your medication is causing side effects that are difficult for you to handle, you should talk to your board-certified behavioral health provider right away. A behavioral health expert can assist you with medication changes such as:

  • Adjusting the dose of your medication
  • Adding another medication to help find the right combination of treatment for your ADHD symptoms
  • Changing to a different medication in the same category of meds, or changing to a different category of medication altogether
  • Helping you adjust the timing of when you take your ADHD medication

So, don’t be worried that stimulants will cause you to feel like a zombie, blunt your personality, or otherwise turn you into someone you’re not. If you’re currently a devoted Seattle Mariners fan, ADHD meds aren’t going to take your enthusiasm for the team away! But, by getting the treatment you need, you might be more likely to make it to the baseball game on time, and less likely to misplace your tickets. You’ll be able to focus on the game and avoid irritating your friends with your nonstop chatter. It’s truly a win-win. 

Find The Right Treatment For ADHD

If you work with a behavioral health expert to fine-tune your medications and your habits, together you will likely be able to find the right treatment for your ADHD symptoms. When you find the ADHD medication and dose that works for you, your true personality will be more able to shine. You’ll have the focus to have genuine back-and-forth conversations with the people around you. You’ll notice more energy due to not needing to work so hard to keep from dropping the ball at work and at home. 

Upper Valley Behavioral Health doesn't only serve patients in and around El Paso, TX; we have the ability to see patients from many different areas of New Mexico. For a complete list of the cities we serve, click here Are you ready to learn more about treatment for adult ADHD? Click here to complete our quick intake form. Don’t delay in getting the treatment you need for your ADHD--fill out our application for treatment today. 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

Tags: ADHD Symptoms, Living with ADHD, ADHD Awareness, Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness

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