Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States.
The condition has been diagnosed in an estimated 6.1 million of children in America as of 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which means that about 10 percent of children are affected.
About three out of every four people who are diagnosed with ADHD in the United States receive treatment with either medication or behavioral therapy in order to control their symptoms.
If you have Adderall in your home from a previous prescription for your ADHD and are wondering about the safety of taking drugs past their expiration, here’s what you need to know.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication that is composed of two active ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Adderall in its instant release form in 1996, and the extended release alternative of the original medication was released in 2001 (Adderall XR).
Due to its high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is the highest level of control required for prescription drugs.
What is Adderall Used to Treat?
The FDA has approved Adderall for the treatment of ADHD in adults and children and narcolepsy in adults.
Adderall is most well known for its treatment of ADHD, a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in childhood and can cause hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, inattention, and other symptoms.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall contains four amphetamine salts and works by slowing down the rate at which dopamine and norepinephrine are absorbed in the brain.
This action increases the availability of these neurotransmitters, which increases brain activity.
As brain activity increases, concentration also improves, fidgeting and hyperactivity diminishes, and patients are able to focus for longer periods of time while simultaneously ignoring irrelevant outside stimuli.
Does Adderall Expire?
Like all prescription and over-the-counter medications, there is a drug expiration date listed on each bottle of Adderall that is sold.
When you fill your prescription at the pharmacy, there will be an expiration date printed on the label for your medication.
However, unlike the expiration date listed on your favorite food, expired Adderall does not become dangerous.
Instead, like many expired medications, Adderall simply begins to lose its effectiveness, which means that you may not experience the same effects of the medication when it is taken after the expiration date.
The expiration date printed on the label of a prescription medication is the final day that the full potency and safety of the medication is guaranteed by the drug manufacturer.
A study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) performed at the request of the military found that 90 percent of more than 100 drugs tested, including both prescription and over the counter medications, were still good to use even 15 years after the expiration date listed for the medication.
While the United States Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and most healthcare professionals officially recommend that drugs be thrown away once they reach their expiration date, most expired medicines retain the majority of their original potency long after the expiration date.
Still, this does not mean you should stockpile medications or expired prescriptions, even those stored in ideal conditions.
The exceptions to this include expired drugs like nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, which should not be used after the expiration date.
While your medication should be guaranteed until its expiration date, it’s still important to maintain proper storage conditions in order to prevent premature loss of potency.
You should always store medications like Adderall at room temperature to help maintain its potency, and the bottle cap should be kept tightly closed to keep moisture out, whether it’s in your medicine cabinet or on your bathroom counter.
How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?
Adderall is available in both an immediate release capsule and an extended release formula.
The presence of Adderall in your system can be detected by a blood test up to 46 hours after use and in a urine test for 48 to 72 hours after use.
However, in terms of how long patients feel the effects of the drug, the length of time varies.
Adults using Adderall for the treatment of ADHD are likely to find that the instant release form of the medication lasts for about four hours, depending on the dose taken.
When the extended-release form of Adderall is used, it typically lasts between seven and twelve hours.
The length of time that a patient feels the effects of Adderall can vary depending on the dose taken, the medical condition being treated, other medications that are used at the same time, and a number of other factors.
What Side Effects Are Associated With Adderall?
Central nervous system stimulants like Adderall can be associated with a long list of side effects.
Some of the side effects associated with Adderall do not require medical attention, while others can be potentially dangerous.
Common side effects that normally do not require medical attention include:
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Lack or loss of strength
- Stomach pain
Common serious side effects that require immediate medical attention include:
- Bladder pain
- Difficult, burning, or painful urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Lower back or side pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- Allergic reaction
Less common side effects that still require immediate medical attention include:
- Runny nose
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Sore throat
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches and pains
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
Does Adderall Come With Any Warnings for Use?
Adderall comes with two black box warnings from the FDA, which is the highest level of warning issued for prescription medications.
One black box warning is based on Adderall’s potential for abuse and addiction, which necessitates its classification as a Schedule II controlled substance.
In order to minimize your risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to Adderall, only patients who are prescribed the medication should use the drug, and the medication should be taken exactly as prescribed.
Adderall works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.
When levels of these neurotransmitters increase, people are more able to concentrate and less likely to respond inappropriately to insignificant outside stimuli.
While it is possible for people with ADHD to become dependent on medications like Adderall in order to carry out daily tasks more efficiently, Adderall abuse is most common among people without a prescription who take the drug to improve their focus while studying for a test or improve their performance at work.
When there is no medical need to take Adderall or the drug is taken for an extended period of time or at higher than prescribed doses, it is common for people to develop a dependence on Adderall or an addiction to it.
Some people will require the use of a treatment program depending on the severity of their dependence on the drug.
Common signs of an Adderall addiction include:
- Needing larger doses to achieve the desired effect
- Not being able to work without taking Adderall
- Feeling unable to cut back on substance use
- Expending significant time and money to obtain and use Adderall
- Not feeling alert without Adderall
The second black box warning assigned to Adderall is associated with the potential of the drug to cause serious health issues, including damage to the heart and cardiovascular system.
These issues are particularly common in people who abuse the medication for an extended period of time.
People with a history of heart problems or who are considered at risk of experience heart problems should discuss their medical history with their doctor prior to use.
Long term Adderall abuse can result in the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Heart disease
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Feeling jittery or on edge
- Panic attacks
- Trouble breathing
People who suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome may find that the use of Adderall has a tendency to increase the occurrence of tics.
People with bipolar disorder should use caution when taking Adderall, as the drug has the potential to magnify the intensity of a manic episode.
Adderall and other prescription drugs are commonly labeled with an expiration date on their prescription bottle.
The expiration date is the last date that the manufacturer guarantees the safety and effectiveness of the medication.
However, studies conducted by the FDA show that most medications retain the vast majority of their effectiveness for years after their supposed shelf life as long as they are stored properly.
When filling your next prescription for Adderall, don’t forget to use a pharmacy discount card to help save money on the cost of your prescription.
Research, Studies and Sources:
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Chris is one of the Co-Founders of Pharmacists.org. An entrepreneur at heart, Chris has been building and writing in consumer health for over 10 years. In addition to Pharmacists.org, Chris and his Acme Health LLC Brand Team own and operate Diabetic.org and the USA Rx Pharmacy Discount Card powered by Pharmacists.org.
Chris has a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation and is a proud member of the American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA), the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the Council of Science Editors, the Author’s Guild, and the Editorial Freelance Association (EFA).
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