What is Adderall, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Adderall contains amphetamine salts (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and is used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

  • Amphetamines stimulate the brain by increasing the level of 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.)

The exact mechanism of action in ADHD is unknown.

Adderall XR is an extended-release form of Adderall.

Adderall was approved by the FDA in 1996.

What brand names are available for amphetamine and dextroamphetamine?

Adderall, Adderall XR

Are amphetamine and dextroamphetamine available as generic drugs?

Yes (Adderall), No (Adderall XR)

Do I need a prescription for amphetamine and dextroamphetamine?


What are the side effects of Adderall?

Side effects of amphetamines include excessive stimulation of the nervous system leading to:

Blood pressure and heart rate may increase, and patients may experience palpitations of the heart.

Other important side effects include:

  • Sudden death,
  • stroke,
  • heart attack,
  • depression,
  • manic episodes,
  • aggressive behavior or hostility,
  • psychosis,
  • growth suppression (long-term use),
  • dependence, and
  • withdrawal symptoms

Priapism, defined as a painful and nonpainful penile erection lasting more than 4 hours, has been reported in pediatric and adult patients treated with stimulants.

  • The erection usually resolves when the drug is stopped.
  • Prompt medical attention is required in the event of suspected priapism.

What is the dosage for Adderall?

Adderall usually is taken once or twice a day.

  • Doses should be separated by at least 4-6 hours.
  • The recommended dose is 2.5 to 60 mg daily depending on the patient's age and the condition being treated.

Adderall XR is taken once daily.

  • The recommended dose is 5-40 mg daily administered in the morning.
  • The entire contents of the Adderall XR capsules may be sprinkled into applesauce and consumed immediately.

Administer amphetamines during waking hours and avoid late evening doses to avoid insomnia.

Which drugs or supplements interact with Adderall?

  • Amphetamines should not be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOIdrugs including:
    • phenelzine (Nardil),
    • tranylcypromine (Parnate), and
    • Zyvox.
  • Avoid using amphetamines within 14 days of using MAOI drugs.
  • Patients receiving antihypertensive medications may experience loss of blood pressure control with amphetamines.
  • Antacids may increase the absorption of amphetamine salts and increase their effectiveness and side effects.

Is Adderall safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • Do not use amphetamines 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.

What else should I know about Adderall?

What preparations of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are available?

  • Adderall tablets: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, and 30 mg.
  • Adderall XR capsules: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 mg.

How should I keep amphetamine and dextroamphetamine stored?

  • Tablets should be stored at room temperature, between 15 C and 30 C (59 F and 86 F).


What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Kids? Tests, Medication See Slideshow


Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a drug prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy. Review side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, and patient safety information before taking any medication.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/15/2021
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