Everything You Need to Know About Adderall

Answers to your most urgent questions about treating ADHD with the stimulant medication Adderall, and information about side effects, dosages, benefits and risks of treatment, and more.

A single Adderall pill on table used to treat ADHD symptoms
Photo by Chelsea Levin

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant containing a mixture of four different amphetamine salts — Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate — that is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Treating ADHD with Adderall was approved by the FDA in 1996.

How is Adderall taken?

Tablets are taken orally once or twice a day. Adderall IR is an immediate-release tablet that takes effect within 30 minutes to an hour of ingestion and lasts for around 4-5 hours, according to information provided by the drug’s manufacturer. Doses are available in 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg. (Generic equivalents are available in the same doses.)

What is Adderall XR?

Adderall XR is an extended-release tablet containing a combination of immediate and delayed-release beads of medication. The immediate-release beads take effect quickly, and the delayed-release beads take effect after 4-5 hours, usually around when the immediate-release beads wear off. Adderall XR doses are available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, and 30mg. (Generic equivalents are available in the same doses.)

Why would someone take Adderall instead of Ritalin?

Some patients feel that Adderall has less of a drop-off effect than Ritalin, which means fewer side effects as the medication wears off. Also, a dose of Adderall is typically longer lasting than a dose of Ritalin.

[Free Download: The Ultimate Guide to ADHD Medication]

Who should avoid taking Adderall?

Adderall has been approved for use in patients age 3 years and older. People with even mild cases of hypertension should avoid Adderall use. Amphetamines can cause mania in people with BPD.

People with a history of drug abuse need to use extreme caution when taking this medication.

What are the side effects of Adderall?

Common side effects include:

  • Suppressed appetite resulting in weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Stomachaches
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nervousness
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction in males
  • Tremor
  • Emotional problems, or restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Less common side effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Cough or hoarseness
  • Fever or chills
  • Unpleasant “metallic” taste
  • Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeats
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Talking more than usual
  • Mood changes
  • Numbness or tingling of skin
  • Numbness or pain in fingers and toes
  • Tremors or muscle twitches
  • Seeing things or exhibiting unusual behavior
  • Constipation

This is not a complete list of side effects and considerations. If you notice a possible adverse reaction, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

For more information about potential side effects, see the National Institute of Health’s Guide.

[10 ADHD Medication Mistakes Even Doctors Make]

Is Adderall habit-forming?

Adderall has a high potential for abuse and dependence, especially among people who do not have ADHD.

Adderall is a “Schedule II Stimulant.” What does that mean?

“Schedule II” is the classification used by the Drug Enforcement Agency to indicate drugs with a high potential for abuse.

Other Schedule II Drugs include Dexedrine, Ritalin, and cocaine, all of which have a high potential for abuse.

Is Adderall the right medication for my child?

The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis by a healthcare professional. Discuss your questions about medications with this person and come to a decision that works for you.

For more information, see the FDA Adderall Medication Guide.

More Information on Adderall and Other ADHD Medications:

Free Download: The Complete Guide to ADHD Medications
5 Rules for Treating Children with Stimulant Medications
Primer: The Stimulant Medications Used to Treat ADHD
Insurance Coverage for Adderall