What is Adderall?

Adderall (dextroamphetamine) is a commonly prescribed drug that was first synthesized in the 1920s. It was discovered by chemist Gordon Alles while he was trying to find a cure for other ailments. Although the initial formula wasn’t quite the drug it is today, it was an essential building block. Various forms were produced between 1930 and 1970, intended to be used as a mood booster or diet pill. Pharmaceutical executive, Roger Griggs, is responsible for the form of dextroamphetamine that is commonly prescribed today. 1

What is it Used to Treat?

Adderall, also known as Concerta, is used to treat mood disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and narcolepsy.

Drug Class

Dextroamphetamine is classified as a stimulant. In terms of drug classification, stimulants don’t necessarily affect energy levels, but rather they cause mind and body certain sensations. This includes both improved mood and focus.

Drug Schedule

Dextroamphetamine is a schedule 2 drug. Like other schedule 2 drugs, it poses a severe risk of dependency and long-term changes if not taken appropriately.

Other Similar Drugs

Ritalin vs. Adderall

The biggest difference between Ritalin and Adderall is the time it takes each drug to work and how long the drug stays in the system. Ritalin is the quicker acting of the two and takes approximately 30 minutes to kick in. The effects of Ritalin persist for 3-5 hours after each dose.

Comparatively, dextroamphetamine also kicks in around 30 minutes, but it can last for up to 12 hours. Times can vary based on dosage strength and individual health factors.2

Vyvanse vs. Adderall

Another alternative to dextroamphetamine is Vyvanse. The most significant difference between the two drugs is time. Vyvanse attaches to the brain, causing a longer-lasting, more consistent release. The effects of Vyvanse can be felt for up to 14 hours per dose, making its effects longer lasting than both dextroamphetamine and Ritalin.

Dexedrine vs Adderall

Dexedrine, in terms of both use and effects, is practically identical to Ritalin. Much like Ritalin, Dexedrine is a fast-acting drug, taking effect after around 30-45 minutes. An extended form of Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansule, is used to stretch the drug’s effects over 6 hours. Much like other dextroamphetamine alternatives, Dexedrine preference is a matter of time, age, and lifestyle.

Natural Alternatives to Adderall

It’s worth noting that, while there are natural alternatives to dextroamphetamine, none are necessarily as balanced as the drug itself and other pharmaceuticals. For example, Adderall is actually the precision combination of two drugs, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine.3 These drugs create a healthy chemical balance with set dosage amounts.4 Natural alternatives aren’t guaranteed to be as refined, but some of the alternatives include:

  • Amino Acids – Natural building block for cellular health.
  • Caffeine – Natural Stimulant with minimal negative side effects.
  • Natural Supplements – This includes vitamins, minerals, and naturally occurring chemicals.
  • Mindfulness – Mindfulness and other meditation practices can help one gain better control of their focus.

Who Abuses Adderall?

Adderall abuse most commonly affects 18 through 25-year-olds. Most dextroamphetamine abuse occurs from individuals gaining access to the drug through a friend or family member with a prescription.

Rates of Abuse

In terms of non-academic individuals such as those that already graduated college or those who never attended, Adderall abuse is most prevalent in women. 10.1% of women have admitted to dextroamphetamine misuse compared to 5.3% of men. While this number doesn’t reflect all individuals with dextroamphetamine dependency, it does serve to paint a numerical trend. Recent studies have shown that the non-prescribed use of Adderall has increased by over 60% percent.5


College students have the greatest risk for dextroamphetamine dependency. Collegiate men ages 18-25 exhibit higher rates of dextroamphetamine addiction compared to women. Approximately 14.6% of male collegiate are documented with Adderall dependency. The general medical consensus is that college students facing large workloads and financial stress are more likely to abuse Adderall.6

Eating Disorders

An earlier form of dextroamphetamine, named Obetrol, was marketed as a diet pill. This is because the chemical compound in both drugs suppresses hunger cravings. For this reason, dextroamphetamine is often abused in a bid to lose weight, potentially contributing to those suffering from an eating disorder.

Adderall Side Effects

Desired Effects

The primary desired effects of Adderall are to improve focus, stabilize mood, and suppress negative behavior.7

Common Side Effects

  • Headache – Caused by increased blood pressure and unhealthy chemical balances.
  • Discomfort – Dextroamphetamine can cause bloating and restlessness. This discomfort can also contribute to insomnia.
  • Diarrhea – Dextroamphetamine messes with several bodily functions. The gastrointestinal tract is one of them.
  • Bladder pain – The kidney and livers are constantly working to cleanse the body. Illicit drug use can overwork them and result in bladder infections and cramps.
  • Irregular heartbeat – As a stimulant, dextroamphetamine can cause severely interrupted heart rhythm.
  • Tiredness – Brought on by insomnia, discomfort, headaches, and more. The result of these symptoms is extremely low energy levels.
  • Loss of appetite – Dextroamphetamine suppresses appetite.
  • Insomnia – Dextroamphetamine disrupts sleep patterns and, in combination with its other side effects, can contribute to severe insomnia.

Long-Term Effects of Adderall Use

  • High Blood Pressure – Adderall abuse causes an increased heart rate. Over time, this leads to high blood pressure and/or irregular heart rhythm. The side effects of this condition include low energy levels, high risk of heart attacks and strokes, reduced cardio functions, headaches, and chest pain.
  • Dependency – As a schedule 2 drug, dextroamphetamine is addictive. Dependency on dextroamphetamine and other drugs causes drastic psychological changes, emotional instability, poor finances, and ruined interpersonal relationships.
  • Organ Failure – As a foreign substance, dextroamphetamine is filtered out of the body by the kidney and liver. Dextroamphetamine abuse can lead to an excess buildup in these organs. This buildup can reduce the kidney and liver’s performance, which in turn leads to organ shut down. In the event of organ failure, a person increases their risk of contracting serious illnesses.
  • Decreased Mental Stability – Adderall abuse has a profound effect on sleep patterns, emotions, and day-to-day life. These changes can contribute to declining mental performance. Additionally, should withdrawal become a factor, an individual may experience severe confusion and/or depression.

Adderall Overdose

Dextroamphetamine, as a stimulant, impacts heart rhythm when taken in access. Eventually, this leads to a heart attack or stroke. Adderall overdose symptoms include extreme confusion, incoherent speech, and severe jitters. The risk of overdose is increased when dextroamphetamine is mixed with other substances. Taking other drugs, even prescribed ones as intended, can cause a variety of side effects. Consult a doctor before combining medication.

Adderall Withdrawal

Adderall withdrawal is commonly characterized as feeling unfocused and experiencing mental fog. Additional Adderall withdrawal side effects include irritability, insomnia, drug cravings, and extreme tiredness. To be safe, dosages are typically decreased over an extended period to lessen the effects of withdrawal. However, in terms of addiction, treatment programs are more efficient.

How Long Does Adderall Last?

Testing for Adderall Use

Adderall can be detected in the hair, urine, or blood. While Dextroamphetamine is only active for a fraction of that time, it leaves behind metabolites. Metabolites are essentially the residue of recently ingested chemicals. These metabolites linger much longer than the active substance. Testing for dextroamphetamine is most common in rehabilitation environments where a patient is at a higher risk of overdose or relapse.

How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?

Adderall can stay in the body for up to 72 hours. This varies based on dosage and individual health factors. However, abuse causes excess dextroamphetamine to be detected for longer than 72 hours. Additionally, as a stimulant, it interacts with other drugs, making it extremely unsafe to combine with another substance.

Treatment for Adderall Addiction

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is an option for those going through Adderall withdrawal. Inpatient treatment provides 24/7 support for mental and physical needs. Care providers also help build an initial support system needed to overcome addiction. Inpatient treatments can include sober living homes, rehabilitation programs, and direct hospital care.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is an option for those who choose not to be away from home for an extended period and for individuals who complete inpatient treatments. Outpatient treatments include a long-term care plan, set check-ins, and continued treatment. Outpatient care can also include visiting a doctor and psychologist on a routine basis.


Therapies for dextroamphetamine dependency and general addiction include talk therapy, psychiatric help, and trauma counseling. Therapy can provide the coping tools needed to maintain sobriety and better process emotional addiction triggers.

Adderall, although widely prescribed, is highly addictive and dangerous. It’s best not to only take dextroamphetamine as intended and with a doctor’s orders.


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