You almost certainly know someone afflicted with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States.
An estimated 6.1 million children in America have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the majority of people with an ADHD diagnosis (approximately 75 percent) receive either medical or behavioral treatment or both in order to manage their condition, this disorder has long lasting effects for many people.
While the majority of people are diagnosed with ADHD as children, ADHD can also affect adults.
Prescription medications like Adderall can provide relief from symptoms of ADHD, but how long does Adderall stay in your system?
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication that is made up of two main ingredients: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
Both of these active ingredients belong to a class of drugs called central nervous system stimulants.
The first form of Adderall, an instant-release tablet, was released in 1996, and the extended release alternative of the original medication was released in 2001.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for drug abuse and addiction, especially with long-term use.
What is Adderall Used to Treat?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, the active ingredient in Adderall, for the treatment of ADHD in adults and children and narcolepsy in adults.
Most people are familiar with Adderall for its treatment of ADHD, which is estimated to impact approximately 10 percent of children in the United States.
Concerta, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are other drugs that are popular for the treatment of ADHD.
Attention Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood and is considered a common neurodevelopmental disorder.
Some of the most common signs of ADHD include:
- Difficult controlling impulsive behaviors
- Difficulty getting along with others
- Forgetting or losing things regularly
- Squirming or fidgeting
- Talking excessively
- Making careless mistakes
- Difficulty paying attention
- Difficulty resisting temptation
ADHD can present itself in three different ways: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, predominantly inattentive (previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD), and combined presentation.
It is possible for a patient’s presentation to change throughout their lifetime.
Although most people are diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, the condition often lasts into adulthood, and some people are diagnosed for the first time as adults.
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by hallucinations, sudden loss of muscle tone, sleep paralysis, excessive daytime sleepiness, and changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Although narcolepsy is often characterized by pop culture as someone suddenly falling asleep while standing up, this is a relatively uncommon characteristic of the disorder.
People with narcolepsy most often experience an overwhelming feeling of daytime drowsiness.
Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, medications like Adderall can help to manage the symptoms.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall contains four amphetamine salts and influences the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system.
Adderall slows down the rate at which dopamine is reabsorbed by the brain, which helps to increase dopamine levels in the brain.
As a result, brain activity increases, which improves concentration and allows people to focus for extended periods of time while also ignoring irrelevant outside stimuli.
What Risks Are Associated With Adderall Use?
Although there are many benefits associated with Adderall, as listed above, taking the medication also poses some risks.
Risks associated with Adderall include:
- People with high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, vascular disease, or coronary artery disease may not be able to use Adderall safely.
- Children are more susceptible to side effects of Adderall, including weight loss, and their growth may be stunted by use of the medication.
- Patients with a history of depression or mental illness may experience new or worsening psychosis when using the medication.
- Adderall can cause blood circulation issues that cause discoloration, pain, or numbness, in the extremities.
- Adderall should only be taken by pregnant women when the benefits exceed the risks. Women who are pregnant while taking Adderall are more likely to give birth prematurely, and the infants may suffer from a low birth weight or withdrawal symptoms.
- Senior citizens are more likely to experience side effects from Adderall and are more likely to experience trouble sleeping, weight loss, and chest pain .
- Women who are nursing should not take Adderall, as the medication can pass through breast milk.
How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?
The length of time that Adderall stays in your system depends on which form of the drug you take, as Adderall is available in both immediate-release capsule and extended-release formulas.
Although Adderall 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, the actual length of time that Adderall is effective varies.
When used to treat ADHD in adults, the instant release form of the medication typically starts at a dose of five mg taken orally one or two times per day and lasts for four hours or less.
Dosages may increase in 5 mg at the discretion of the prescribing healthcare professional, with a maximum dose of 40 mg per day.
When the extended-release form of Adderall is used, it is typically taken orally in a 20 mg dose once per day and lasts between seven and twelve hours.
Always store adderall and other drugs at room temperature to help maintain their potency.
What Side Effects Are Associated With Adderall?
Numerous side effects are associated with Adderall, some of which require medical attention.
Common serious side effects that require immediate medical attention include:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Bladder pain
- Difficult, burning, or painful urination
- Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- Lower back or side pain
- Shortness of breath
- Allergic reaction
Less common side effects that still require immediate medical attention include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches and pains
- Runny nose
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
Other side effects associated with Adderall usually do not require medical attention.
As patients adapt to the medication, these side effects generally become less noticeable.
However, if your symptoms continue or worsen, seek medical attention. Side effects that normally do not require medical attention include:
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Lack or loss of strength
- Stomach pain
Do Any Other Drugs Interact With Adderall?
Prescription stimulant medications like adderall interact with several different types of drugs, so make sure that you notify your doctor or pharmacist about any prescription drugs, over the counter medications (especially antacids), vitamins, supplements, and herbs that you are taking.
Drugs that are known to interact with Adderall include:
- Medications that raise your heart rate or increase your blood pressure, such as cough and cold medications or diet pills
- MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors, which can cause a serious and possibly fatal drug interaction
- Lisdexamfetamine, which works in a similar manner to Adderall
- Antidepressants, including SSRIs and SNRIs, which can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome or toxicity
Does Adderall Come With Any Warnings for Use?
Schedule II controlled substances like Adderall are considered highly addictive, so they should only be used in the prescribed quantities and by the patients who are prescribed the medications to avoid substance abuse.
Adderall works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system; changes to these neurotransmitters impact how we concentrate and respond to outside stimuli.
People with ADHD may become dependent on medications like Adderall to allow them to concentrate and focus, but the medication is also frequently abused by people, particularly college students, without a diagnosis of ADHD that use Adderall or similar medications to improve their focus while studying for a test or improve their performance at work.
When taken without a medical need or for an extended period of time, it is common for people to develop a dependence on Adderall or an addiction to it, and may end up needing to take part in a treatment program if the dependence is too severe.
Common signs of an Adderall addiction include:
- Needing larger doses to achieve the desired effect
- Expending significant time and money to obtain and use Adderall
- Not feeling alert without Adderall
- Not being able to work without taking Adderall
- Feeling unable to cut back on substance use
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Feeling jittery or on edge
- Panic attacks
- Heart disease
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble breathing
Additionally, those with Tourette’s Syndrome should be aware that the effects of adderall may increase the occurrence of tics, and those with a history of heart attack or heart problems in general should consult with their doctor before starting adderall.
Adderall may also worsen the intensity of a manic episode for those with bipolar disorder.
Are There Any Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Adderall?
The body adjusts to higher levels of dopamine in the brain that result from the use of Adderall, so many people experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping use of the medication or lowering their dose.
When dopamine levels in the brain drop, our bodies adjust and may experience withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Stomach aches or cramping
- Difficulty sleeping
- Depression, irritability, mood changes, and other mental health challenges
The length of time that withdrawal symptoms will last varies depending on your body’s dependence on the medication.
The best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms is to follow medical advice from your doctor when stopping use of Adderall. Your doctor may recommend gradually lowering your dose over time.
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