Adderall vs. Dexedrine

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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Adderall vs. Dexedrine comparison

  • Adderall and Dexedrine are similar prescription stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) and narcolepsy. The only difference is Adderall contains two active ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, one of which is the single active ingredient in Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • For this reason, little difference exists in the effects and side effects of Adderall and Dexedrine, but Adderall tends to have more powerful effects because of the combination of ingredients. A few side effects of these drugs include:
  • Both Adderall and Dexedrine work by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, though how exactly it works to correct ADHD isn't fully understood.
  • Each medication has the potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Each medication can interact badly with MAO inhibitors and blood pressure medications, among other drugs. Antacids may increase absorption of both Adderall and Dexedrine, enhancing effects.

What are Adderall and Dexedrine?

Adderall and Dexedrine are amphetamines.

Amphetamines stimulate the brain by increasing the level of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain. (Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by nerves that are released and attach to other nearby nerves as a means of communication among nerves.)

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What are the uses for Adderall and Dexedrine?

Adderall and Dexedrine are used for ADHD and narcolepsy treatment.

Note: though amphetamines and dextroamphetamines are both used for ADHD treatment, they are not in the same drug class as Ritalin (methylphenidate), another common ADHD drug.

What are the side effects of Adderall and Dexedrine?

The side effects of Adderall and Dexedrine are nearly identical, given that dextroamphetamine is one of the two active ingredients in Adderall, the other being amphetamine. Amphetamine, itself, is in the same drug class as dextroamphetamine, and therefore has similar side effects.

Side effects for both Adderall and Dexedrine include nervousness, excitability, anxiety, increased heart rate and seizures, among others. Rarer, but more serious side effects from these drugs include sudden death, stroke, heart attack, aggression, manic episodes, psychosis, and growth suppression in children prescribed the drugs for an extended time.

Priapism, that is, a penile erection lasting more than four hours has been reported by some people if you suspect you have a priapism, call a doctor immediately.

This is not a complete list of side effects. If you are prescribed either medication, ask your doctor for more information.

Can I get addicted to Adderall and Dexedrine?

There is no question these medications have a high potential for abuse, especially if a doctor prescribes them for a long time. Adderall and Dexedrine are in a medication family called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, which includes the street drug methamphetamine, sometimes called meth. All amphetamines are highly addictive and should be prescribed and used with caution.

Signs of addiction to this type of medication include aggression, hostility, hallucinations, excitability, and even psychosis that resembles schizophrenia.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of Adderall and Dexedrine?

Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines include fatigue, depression and disturbed sleep patterns, among other health issues.

Agitation, hyperarousal, and cravings can lead a person who is suffering from amphetamine withdrawal to lapse back into abuse.

Certain antidepressants in some health studies of people trying to quit amphetamine and dextroamphetamine abuse have proven slightly helpful for treatment of withdrawal symptoms, but how useful they are in helping people abstain remains in question.

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How should Adderall and Dexedrine be taken (dosage)?

Adderall

  • Adderall usually is taken once or twice a day in pill form. Doses should be separated by at least 4-6 hours. The recommended dose is 2.5 mg to 60 mg daily depending on the patient's age and the purpose of the treatment.
  • Adderall XR - the extended release version - is taken once daily. The recommended dose is 5 mg to 40 mg daily administered in the morning. The entire contents of the Adderall XR capsules may be sprinkled into applesauce and consumed immediately.
  • Amphetamines should be administered during waking hours and late evening doses should be avoided in order to avoid insomnia.

Dexedrine

ADHD
  • Adults with ADHD are treated with 5 mg of dextroamphetamine once daily or every 12 hours. The dose may be increased weekly by 5 mg/day up to a maximum dose of 40 mg/day.
  • Children with ADHD should receive 2.5 mg to 5 mg of dextroamphetamine daily or every 12 hours. The dose may be increased by 2.5 mg to 5 mg/day weekly. The maximum dose is 40 mg daily.
Narcolepsy
  • The dose for adults and adolescents older than 12 years of age is 10 mg of dextroamphetamine daily in pill form, but the dose may be increased weekly to a maximum of 60 mg daily.

Which drugs interact with Adderall and Dexedrine?

Amphetamines like Adderall and Dexedrine should not be taken with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs, including phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and Zyvox; use of amphetamine within 14 days of using MAO inhibitor drugs should be avoided. Patients receiving antihypertensive medications may experience loss of blood pressure control with amphetamine. Antacids may increase absorption of amphetamine salts and increase their effectiveness and side effects.

Are Adderall and Dexedrine safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

Amphetamines should not be used during pregnancy. Infants who are born to mothers dependent on amphetamines exhibit symptoms of withdrawal and have an increased risk of low birth weight.

Mothers taking amphetamines should refrain from nursing their infants because these drugs are excreted in human milk and can have undesirable effects on the child.

REFERENCE:

FDA Prescribing Information

"Treatment for amphetamine withdrawal"
Cochrane Library of Systematic Reviews
February, 2009

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Summary

Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) are drugs prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy. Side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, and patient safety information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.

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Reviewed on 2/21/2017
References
REFERENCE:

FDA Prescribing Information

"Treatment for amphetamine withdrawal"
Cochrane Library of Systematic Reviews
February, 2009

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