Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6.1 million children in America were diagnosed with the disease as of 2016.
Approximately 75 percent of those with a diagnosis of ADHD receive either medical or behavioral treatment or both in order to manage their condition.
However, ADHD does not just affect children; many children continue to suffer from the condition into adulthood, and some people are diagnosed with ADHD for the first time as adults.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication composed of two main ingredients, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine.
Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine belong to a class of medications called central nervous system stimulants. Adderall was first released in 1996 in an instant-release tablet, and 2001 saw the introduction of Adderall XR, which offered an extended-release alternative to the original medication.
Due to its high potential for abuse and addiction, Adderall is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II controlled substance.
What Is Adderall Used to Treat?
The amphetamine-dextroamphetamine in Adderall is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADHD in adults and children and narcolepsy in adults.
It is best known for its treatment of ADHD, which is estimated to impact approximately 10 percent of children in the United States.
Some other drugs that may help treat ADHD include Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Concerta.
Attention Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually first diagnosed during childhood.
Many children who suffer from ADHD exhibit some or all of the following signs:
- Difficulty paying attention
- Difficult controlling impulsive behaviors
- Squirming or fidgeting
- Talking excessively
- Difficulty getting along with others
- Forgetting or losing things regularly
- Making careless mistakes
- Difficulty resisting temptation
ADHD has three presentations, including predominantly inattentive (previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, and combined presentation.
A patient’s presentation and symptoms may change over time. ADHD often lasts into adulthood and is sometimes diagnosed for the first time in adulthood.
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle tone, sleep paralysis, changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and hallucinations.
While many people think of someone suddenly falling asleep while standing up or something similar when they think of narcolepsy, this is a relatively uncommon characteristic of the disorder.
Instead, people with narcolepsy often feel an overwhelming sense of daytime drowsiness.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, but there are medications that can help to manage the symptoms, including Adderall.
How Does Adderall Work?
Dopamine levels in the brain are increased by the medication because Adderall slows down the speed at which dopamine is reabsorbed by the brain.
This in turn helps speed up your brain activity, allowing you to concentrate more easily, focus for longer periods of time, and ignore irrelevant outside stimuli.
How Much Does Adderall Cost?
Since the release of the generic form of the medication, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine, the price for Adderall has come down considerably.
Patients can expect to pay less than ten dollars for the extended-release version of the generic medication, while Adderall XR will cost approximately 230 dollars.
The prices for the instant-release versions of the generic and brand name forms of the medication are also less than ten dollars and approximately 230 dollars, respectively.
Patients can save money on their Adderall prescriptions by using pharmacy discount card programs like Pharmacists.org to receive discounts on all brand name and generic FDA-approved medications at participating pharmacies.
The generic version of Adderall is also covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare.
What Are the Benefits of Adderall?
Although there are some serious drawbacks to using Adderall, the medication also has many benefits. Adderall is considered a first line of treatment medication for ADHD in adults and children, and it is also effective for the treatment of narcolepsy.
The ADHD medication helps people pay attention, remain focused for longer periods of time, organize themselves more efficiently, improve listening comprehension, and control behavioral issues.
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:
- Adderall can cause psychosis to worsen or can cause new psychosis, particularly in patients with a history of depression or mental illness.
- Adderall can cause blood circulation issues that cause numbness, pain, or discoloration in your extremities.
- People with glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, heart disease, vascular disease, or coronary artery disease may not be able to use Adderall safely.
- Children are more sensitive to the side effects of Adderall, particularly weight loss, and the medication may slow their growth.
- Older adults are also more sensitive to the side effects of Adderall and are more likely to experience chest pain, trouble sleeping, or weight loss.
- Women who are pregnant should only take Adderall when the benefits exceed the risks, as infants born to mothers taking Adderall may be born prematurely and at a low birth weight or with withdrawal symptoms.
- Nursing mothers should not take Adderall.
What Dose of Adderall Should I Take?
Adderall is available in both instant-release and extended-release formulas.
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.
Dosages may increase in 5 mg at the discretion of the prescribing healthcare professional, with a maximum dose of 40 mg per day.
The instant-release form of the medication is typically taken upon waking up, with additional doses taken at intervals of four to six hours.
The extended-release form of Adderall is typically taken orally in a 20 mg dose once per day. Children taking Adderall for ADHD take doses that vary depending on their age and severity of their symptoms. Adult dosing of Adderall for narcolepsy includes taking a total of 10 mg of the instant-release form of the medication in divided doses throughout the day.
The dosage may be increased as needed to a maximum of 60 mg per day at the discretion of the prescribing healthcare provider.
What Side Effects Are Associated With Adderall?
Numerous side effects are associated with Adderall, some of which require medical attention.
Common side effects that require immediate medical attention include:
- Bladder pain
- Difficult, burning, or painful urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- Lower back or side pain
Less common side effects that require immediate medical attention include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches and pains
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
Other side effects associated with Adderall usually do not require medical attention.
These side effects typically fade over time as you get used to the medication.
However, if your symptoms continue or worsen, seek medical attention. Side effects that normally do not require medical attention include:
- Lack or loss of strength
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
Can Women Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding Use Adderall?
Adderall is generally not considered safe for use by women who are pregnant, but there may be some circumstances in which taking Adderall may be the best choice for the mother and baby.
Babies born to mothers taking Adderall during pregnancy are considered to be at higher risk of premature delivery, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms that can include agitation, dysphoria, and failure to thrive.
However, most studies on the effects of Adderall during pregnancy have been conducted on animals, so researchers are not exactly sure how the medication affects unborn babies.
In situations where the mother is unable to safely care for herself or her unborn child, taking Adderall while pregnant may be the best choice.
However, Adderall is not recommended for use by breastfeeding mothers, as the drug can pass through breast milk.
Babies who receive Adderall through breast milk may develop symptoms including loss of appetite, restlessness, insomnia, and failure to thrive. If you are taking Adderall and are planning to breastfeed, talk to your doctor about whether you should discontinue your medication or breastfeeding.
Do Any Other Drugs Interact With Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant that interacts with several other types of drugs, so it is important that you tell your doctor and pharmacist about all prescription drugs, over the counter medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbs that you are taking. Drugs that are known to interact with Adderall include:
- MAO inhibitors, which can cause a serious and possibly fatal drug interaction
- Medications that raise your heart rate or increase your blood pressure, such as cough and cold medications or diet pills
- Antidepressants, including SSRIs and SNRIs, which can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome or toxicity
- Lisdexamfetamine, which works in a similar manner to Adderall
Does Adderall Come With Any Warnings for Use?
Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance due to its highly addictive nature.
The stimulant increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system, which impacts how we pay attention and respond to outside stimuli.
People with ADHD may depend on medications like Adderall to improve their concentration and focus, but some people without a diagnosis of ADHD may try to obtain them from a friend with a prescription in order to improve their focus while studying for a test or during a stressful time at work.
When people take Adderall on a regular basis over a long period of time or when they take it without a medical need, the body can develop a dependency on the drug or an addiction to it. Common signs of an Adderall addiction include:
- Feeling unable to cut back on your use of the drug
- Needing larger doses to achieve the desired effect
- Not being able to work without taking Adderall
- Expending significant time and money to obtain and use Adderall
- Not feeling alert without Adderall
Adderall abuse over an extended period of time can cause significant health issues, including damage to the heart and cardiovascular system. The potential damage caused by long term Adderall abuse can include:
- Heart disease
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling jittery or on edge
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Trouble breathing
Are There Any Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Adderall?
Because Adderall works on neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine, your body adjusts to these increased levels of dopamine over time as you continue to take the medication.
When a person stops taking Adderall or does not take as much of the medication as they are accustomed to, the dopamine levels in the brain drop, and our bodies adjust.
People who have been taking Adderall for an extended period of time and stop suddenly, or those who have misused it, may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Depression, irritability, and mood changes
- Stomach aches or cramping
- Difficulty sleeping
Withdrawal symptoms can last for several days or weeks depending on your body’s dependence on the medication. In order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, make sure you get medical advice from your doctor about the safest way to stop using the drug. Your doctor may recommend gradually lowering your dose over time.
Is It Possible to Overdose on Adderall?
It is possible to overdose on Adderall, and it has happened before. Adderall overdoses can be potentially fatal.
Individuals who become dependent on the drug may find themselves taking more and more of the medication to produce the same calming effect.
Eventually, this can lead to overdose, which is one of the reasons it is so important to take Adderall only as prescribed. Adderall should not be taken without a prescription. Signs of an Adderall overdose include:
- Chest pain
- Fast breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Uncontrollable shaking
Owner, entrepreneur, and health enthusiast.
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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