What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription medication that contains two drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It belongs to a class of medications called stimulants. It’s most commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s also used to treat narcolepsy.

Adderall is considered a first-choice treatment option for ADHD. Studies show that it improves attention and focus, and reduces impulsive behaviors. Between 75 percent and 80 percent of children with ADHD will see improved symptoms with the use of stimulants such as Adderall.

Adderall is also effective for increasing daytime wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, although there is little related research available.

Adderall comes in two forms:

  • Adderall oral tablet
  • Adderall XR extended-release oral capsule

Is Adderall a controlled substance?

Yes, Adderall is a controlled substance. This means that it can cause psychological or physical dependence and has the potential for abuse and misuse.

The government has created special regulations that determine how controlled substances are prescribed and dispensed. These regulations also require that you get a new prescription from your doctor for each refill.

Generic Adderall

Adderall oral tablet and Adderall XR extended-release oral capsule are both available in generic forms. The generic name for the drug in both the tablet and the capsule is amphetamine/dextroamphetamine salts.

Generic drugs usually cost less than the brand-name version. In some cases, the brand-name drug and the generic version may be available in different forms and strengths.

Adderall ingredients

Adderall contains a mixture of different forms of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Specifically, these forms include amphetamine aspartate, amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, and dextroamphetamine sulfate

Adderall side effects

Adderall can cause mild or serious side effects. The following list contains some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Adderall. This list doesn’t include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of Adderall, or tips on how to deal with a troubling side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

More common side effects

The more common side effects of Adderall can include:

  • lack of appetite
  • dry mouth
  • trouble sleeping
  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • weight loss
  • anxiety
  • dizziness

These side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • heart problems including high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • impaired or delusional thinking
  • agitated or aggressive behavior
  • irritability
  • blurred vision
  • severe allergic reaction
  • muscle breakdown called rhabdomyolysis

Long-term effects

Adderall is safe to use long term when taken at doctor-recommended dosages. For many people, common side effects such as loss of appetite, dry mouth, or insomnia are reduced with continued use of the drug. For others, these side effects may continue.

Long-term use of Adderall or other stimulants may cause some changes in the brain, such as decreases in the amount of the chemical messenger dopamine. This seems more likely to happen in people who abuse Adderall in high doses.

When Adderall is misused or abused, long-term use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Inappropriate use can lead to many serious side effects, including:

  • severe insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • skin disorders
  • moodiness or irritability
  • symptoms of psychosis such as aggression and hallucinations
  • heart damage
  • anorexia and unwanted weight loss

Adderall high

When taken at typical doses for conditions such as ADHD, Adderall doesn’t usually cause a feeling of being high.

Some people who take Adderall may experience feelings of being energetic, focused, excited, or self-confident. Feelings of euphoria also sometimes occur. These effects are more likely when the medication is misused or abused.

Headache

Headache is one of the most common side effects of Adderall. In some studies, headache occurred in up to 26 percent of people who took Adderall XR. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Nausea

Nausea is a common side effect of Adderall. In some studies, nausea occurred in 5 percent to 8 percent of people taking Adderall XR. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Erectile dysfunction

Most men who take Adderall don’t experience erectile dysfunction, but some report being less interested in sex. If you experience this side effect and it doesn’t go away, talk with your doctor.

Men who abuse amphetamines such as Adderall can experience erectile dysfunction as well as increases or decreases in sexual desire.

Constipation

Constipation is a common side effect of Adderall. In some studies, constipation occurred in 2 percent to 4 percent of people who took Adderall XR. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Hair loss

Some people who take Adderall have reported hair loss. However, it’s not clear how often this occurs or if Adderall was the cause of this effect.

Psychosis

Symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations, agitation, or disordered thinking, are a rare side effect of Adderall. In some cases, these symptoms have occurred in people taking typical, recommended doses of Adderall.

Symptoms of psychosis are more likely to occur in people who have a history of psychosis before they start taking Adderall. They’re also more common in people who misuse or abuse Adderall.

If you have this side effect while taking Adderall, talk with your doctor right away. You may need to stop taking Adderall.

Dry mouth

Adderall XR commonly causes dry mouth in up to 35 percent of people who take it. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Sweating

Some people who take Adderall report increased sweating. This seems to occur in about 2 percent to 4 percent of people taking Adderall XR. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Insomnia

Insomnia, or trouble sleeping, is one of the most common side effects of Adderall. As much as 27 percent of people who take Adderall XR can have insomnia. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Chest pain

People with a healthy heart don’t usually have chest pain while taking Adderall. If you do, it might mean that you have a heart condition.

If you have chest pain after taking Adderall, call your doctor right away.

Fatigue

Fatigue may occur in 2 percent to 4 percent of people who take Adderall XR in commonly prescribed dosages. This side effect may decrease with continued use of the drug.

Fatigue may be more common in people who misuse or abuse Adderall, especially in higher doses. Also, people who have become dependent on Adderall can experience extreme fatigue if they stop taking the drug.

Side effects in children

Some children can have slightly slowed growth in height and weight while taking Adderall. This is usually temporary, and growth typically catches up over time. Your doctor will monitor your child’s growth during treatment with Adderall.

In some cases, if a child’s growth is slowed too much, the child’s doctor may stop their treatment with Adderall.

Adderall and your eyes

Adderall can have some effects on your eyes.

Blurred vision

Although rare, blurred vision or trouble focusing can occur in some people who take Adderall.

If you experience blurred vision that doesn’t go away with continued use of Adderall, talk with your doctor.

Effect on pupils

In some cases, Adderall can temporarily cause your pupils — the black centers of your eyes — to dilate (become bigger). For most people, this isn’t a problem. However, for people with glaucoma, this effect could worsen their condition. People with glaucoma shouldn’t take Adderall.

If you experience any changes in your vision that don’t go away with continued use of Adderall, talk with your doctor.

Adderall dosage

The Adderall dosage your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using Adderall to treat
  • your age
  • the form of Adderall you take
  • other medical conditions you may have

Typically, your doctor will start you on a low dosage and adjust it over time to reach the dosage that’s right for you. They’ll ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to suit your needs.

Forms and strengths

  • Immediate-release tablet: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg
  • Extended-release capsule: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg

Dosage for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Adderall tablet

  • Adults (ages 18 years and older)
    • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg once or twice daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased by 5 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when you first wake up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (ages 6–17 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg once or twice daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased by 5 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when your child first wakes up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (ages 3–5 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 2.5 mg once or twice daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased by 2.5 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when your child first wakes up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (ages 0–2 years)
    • Adderall tablet isn’t recommended for treating ADHD in children under the age of 3 years.

Adderall XR extended-release capsule

  • Adults (ages 18 years and older)
    • Typical starting dosage: 20 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased or decreased each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The medication should be taken when you first wake up.
  • Children (ages 13–17 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 10 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased to 20 mg once daily after the first week, if needed.
    • Note: The medication should be taken when your child first wakes up.
  • Children (6–12 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg or 10 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: This dosage may be increased by 5 mg or 10 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The medication should be taken when your child first wakes up.
  • Children (ages 0–5 years)
    • Adderall XR isn’t recommended for treating ADHD in children under the age of 6 years.

Dosage for narcolepsy

Adderall tablet

  • Adults (18 years and older)
    • Typical starting dosage: 10 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: The dosage may be increased by 10 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when you first wake up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (12–17 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 10 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: The dosage may be increased by 10 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when your child first wakes up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (6–11 years)
    • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg once daily.
    • Dosage increases: The dose may be increased by 5 mg each week until it has the desired effect.
    • Note: The first dose of the medication should be taken when your child first wakes up. Any additional doses should be taken every four to six hours.
  • Children (ages 0–5 years)
    • Adderall tablet isn’t recommended for treating narcolepsy in children under the age of 6 years.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose in the morning, take it as soon as you can. However, if it’s just a few hours until your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next one on schedule. When possible, avoid taking makeup doses in the late afternoon or evening because this can cause problems falling asleep at bedtime.

Never try to catch up by taking two doses at a time. This can cause dangerous side effects.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

You might need to use this drug long term. From time to time during your treatment, your doctor may check whether you need to keep taking it. They’ll do this by tapering you off the medication to see if your symptoms return. If symptoms do return, you may need to keep taking the medication.

Adderall withdrawal

Talk with your doctor before stopping this medication. If you stop taking it, the symptoms of your condition may return. You may also develop withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms

If you’ve been taking high doses of this medication and you stop taking it, you may have withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • tiredness
  • fatigue
  • depression

How to take Adderall

How you take Adderall depends on the form you’re using.

Timing

  • For Adderall tablets:
    • The tablets are usually taken one to three times daily. The first dose should be taken in the morning after first waking up. Any additional doses should be spread out and taken every four to six hours.
    • Try not to take Adderall tablets later in the evening. This can cause trouble falling asleep at bedtime.
  • For Adderall XR extended-release capsules:
    • The capsules are taken once daily. They should be taken in the morning after first waking up.
    • You shouldn’t take Adderall XR in the afternoon. This can cause trouble falling asleep at bedtime.<

Adderall on an empty stomach

  • Adderall tablets and Adderall XR extended-release capsules can be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Both forms can also be taken with food. Some people prefer to take them with food to help prevent stomach upset.

Handling

  • Adderall tablets can be split or crushed.
  • Adderall XR extended-release capsules shouldn’t be split, crushed, or chewed. If you have trouble swallowing, you can open the capsule and sprinkle the contents onto a spoonful of applesauce. Be sure to eat the applesauce right away.

Adderall uses

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs to treat certain conditions. Adderall has been approved to treat two conditions. However, Adderall is sometimes used for purposes that aren’t approved by the FDA.

Approved uses for Adderall

The FDA has approved Adderall to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

ADHD/ADD

Both forms of Adderall — Adderall tablet and Adderall XR extended-release capsule — are FDA-approved for adults and children to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Adderall can help reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness in people with ADHD.

Narcolepsy

Adderall tablet is also approved to treat narcolepsy. It can help reduce daytime sleepiness in people with this condition.

Off-label uses for Adderall

While these uses aren’t approved by the FDA, doctors may prescribe Adderall to treat other conditions besides ADHD and narcolepsy. This is called off-label use. It means a drug that’s approved to treat one condition is prescribed by a doctor to treat another condition that’s not approved.

Depression

Adderall isn’t an antidepressant, but it’s sometimes used off-label to treat depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments. It may also be used to treat depression in people who have both ADHD and depression.

Some people who take Adderall or similar stimulant medication along with antidepressant medication have improved depression symptoms.

However, taking stimulants with antidepressants can increase the risk of side effects. Talk with your doctor before combining Adderall and any antidepressant medication.

Anxiety

Adderall or similar stimulant medications are sometimes prescribed off-label for people with anxiety, especially for those who have both ADHD and anxiety. Some research suggests that combining stimulant medication with antidepressants might improve symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.

Bipolar disorder

Adderall and other stimulants are sometimes prescribed off-label for treating symptoms of depression in people with bipolar disorder. When used for this purpose, stimulants aren’t usually used by themselves, but are combined with other bipolar medications.

Talk with your doctor before combining Adderall with medications used for bipolar disorder.

Other uses that aren’t approved

People may sometimes misuse Adderall without their doctor’s recommendation or prescription. In some cases, this type of misuse of Adderall can lead to abuse of the drug. You should never use Adderall if it hasn’t been prescribed for you by your doctor.

Weight loss

Adderall can cause a loss of appetite. Because of this side effect, some people misuse Adderall as a weight loss aid.

Studying

Adderall is often misused by people without ADHD to increase focus, concentration, and endurance when studying. This occurs especially often with college students.

However, a recent study suggests that for people without ADHD, Adderall doesn’t improve thinking. In addition, it could worsen memory.

Uses in children

Adderall tablets are approved for treating ADHD in children ages 3 years and older. Adderall tablets are also approved for treating narcolepsy in children ages 6 years and older.

Adderall XR capsules are approved for treating ADHD in children ages 6 years and older.

Adderall alternatives

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor to learn more about other medications that may work well for you.

Alternatives for ADHD

Adderall belongs to a class of medications called stimulants. Drugs in this class are usually considered the first choice of medications for treating ADHD. Other stimulants that are options for treating ADHD include:

  • amphetamine (Adzenys ER, Adzenys XR-ODT, Dyanavel XR, Evekeo)
  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
  • dexmethylphenidate (Focalin, Focalin XR)
  • lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • methamphetamine (Desoxyn)
  • methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Metadate CD, Quillivant XR, Ritalin, others)

Some nonstimulant medications are also options for treating ADHD. These include:

  • atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • desipramine (Norpramin)
  • clonidine (Kapvay)
  • guanfacine (Intuniv)
  • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • valproic acid

Some people also use herbs and dietary supplements to treat ADHD. For most of these supplements, there is very little research showing that they work, or research findings are inconsistent. Examples of these supplements include:

  • iron
  • magnesium
  • melatonin
  • omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil
  • theanine
  • zinc

Be sure to talk with your doctor before trying any herb or dietary supplement for treating ADHD.

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