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