Adderall XR: ADHD Medication
Adderall Generic Name: Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate
What is Adderall? Is Adderall a Narcotic?
Adderall XR is a once-daily, timed-release stimulant ADHD medication primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children ages 6-12, adolescents, and adults. It has not been studied in children under the age of 6. According to the FDA, Adderall XR is a federally controlled substance (“Schedule II Stimulant”) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. It is an amphetamine.
Stimulant medications like Adderall are typically the first choice to treat ADHD symptoms because they improve symptoms for 70-80% of people with ADHD.1 Adderall XR (Generic names: dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate) may improve focus for people with inattentive ADHD and decrease impulsivity and hyperactive behavior, two hallmark symptoms in patients with attention deficit. The benefits of Adderall XR are typically felt within an hour of taking the medication.
Adderall was first used to treat ADHD in 1937 and is well known for its efficacy and safety. The statistical calculation called Effect Size that measures how well a treatment works is very robust. Stimulants that treat ADHD are some of the most effective medications.
Originally, Adderall was developed to treat narcolepsy; it should not be used to treat tiredness or other sleep-related problems without a doctor’s specific instructions and prescription.
How Long Does Adderall Last? Adderall Dosages Explained
Adderall XR is taken orally, with or without food, once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results.
Adderall capsules should be swallowed whole with water or other liquids. If your child is unable to swallow the capsule, it can be opened and sprinkled over a spoonful of applesauce. Taken this way, the mixture should be swallowed whole without chewing, followed by a drink of water or other liquid. Capsules should never by crushed or chewed. As with all medications, follow your Adderall XR prescription instructions exactly.
Adderall capsules are available in the following dosages: 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg and 30mg. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day.
The optimal Adderall dosage varies patient by patient; is not determined by age, weight, or height, but rather by how a person metabolizes the medication. The following factors impact dosage:
- How much of the medication is absorbed into the blood stream and across the blood-brain barrier
- How much of the medication is absorbed into the blood stream from the intestines
- How acidic the GI tract is — high acidity from fruit juices can keep amphetamine from being absorbed while low acidity from taking an antacid can accelerate absorption
- How quickly the amphetamine is excrete in urine
Your doctor may adjust your daily dosage by 5mg increments until you or your child experiences the best response — that is, the lowest dosage at which you experience the greatest improvement in symptoms without side effects.
If you or your child exceeds the prescribed dosage, call your doctor or poison control, or seek emergency medical care.
Some patients report developing a tolerance to Adderall after long-term usage. If you notice that your dosage is no longer controlling your symptoms, talk to your doctor to plan a course of action.
What are the Side Effects of Adderall XR?
What does Adderall do to you? Most people taking Adderall XR do not experience any side effects. That said, the most common side effects of Adderall XR are as follows:
Children (ages 6 to 12):
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- emotional lability
Adolescents (ages 13 to 17):
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
- dry mouth
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- urinary tract infections
Adderall and Weight Loss
Adderall should not be taken off-label to help you lose weight. Weight loss is not an approved use for this medication.
Adderall and Eyesight
Changes in eyesight is another serious side effects of Adderall XR. Taking the medication may impair your or your teenager’s ability to drive, operate machinery, or perform other potentially dangerous tasks. This side effect usually wears off with time. If side effects are bothersome, or do not go away, talk to your doctor.
Adderall and Heart or Blood Pressure Related Problems
Report to your doctor any heart-related problems or a family history of heart and blood pressure problems. Patients with structural cardiac abnormalities and other serious heart problems have experienced sudden death, stroke, heart attack, and increased blood pressure while taking Adderall XR. Stimulants can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Physicians should monitor these vital signs closely during treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences warning signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Adderall XR.
Adderall and Mental Illness
Disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. The drug manufacturer of Adderall XR, Shire, recommends evaluating patients for bipolar disorder, tics, and Tourette’s syndrome prior to stimulant administration. Adderall XR may create new or exacerbate existing behavior problems, bipolar illness, or Tourette’s syndrome. It can cause psychotic or manic symptoms in children and teenagers. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences new or worsening mental health symptoms including hallucinations or sudden suspicions.
Adderall and Circulation Problems
Discuss circulation problems with your doctor before taking Adderall XR, which has been known to cause numbness, coolness, or pain in fingers or toes, including Raynaud’s phenomenon. Report to your doctor any new blood-flow problems, pain, skin color changes, or sensitivities to temperature while taking Adderall XR.
Adderall and Substance Abuse
Amphetamines like Adderall XR have a high potential for abuse and dependence, especially among people who do not have ADHD. It is a “Schedule II Stimulant,” a designation that the Drug Enforcement Agency uses for drugs with a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule II drugs include Dexedrine, Ritalin, and cocaine. People with a history of drug abuse should use caution when trying this medication. Taking the medication exactly as prescribed can reduce potential for abuse.
The above is not a complete list of potential side effects. If you notice any health changes not listed above, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
Who Can Take Adderall XR? Medication Precautions
You should not take Adderall XR if you have any of the following conditions:
- Advanced arteriosclerosis
- Symptomatic cardiovascular disease
- Moderate to severe hypertension
- Known hypersensitivity or idiosyncrasy to the sympathomimetic amines
- Agitated states
- History of drug abuse
- During or within the administration of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discuss the use of Adderall XR with your doctor. Animal studies indicate a potential risk of fetal harm; infants may be born prematurely, with low birth weight, have learning or motor deficits, or experience withdrawal. Adderall XR is passed through breastmilk, so it is recommended that mothers do not nurse while taking it.
The effects of Adderall XR on the elderly have not been studied.
Store Adderall XR in a secure place out of the reach of children, and at room temperature. Do not share your Adderall XR prescription with anyone, even another person with ADHD. Sharing prescription medication is illegal, and can cause harm.
Interactions Associated with Adderall XR
Before taking Adderall XR, discuss all other active prescription medications with your doctor. Adderall XR can have a dangerous, possibly fatal, interaction with antidepressants including MAOIs.
Exercise caution with medicines including anti-psychotics, lithium, narcotic pain medicines, seizure medications, blood thinners, blood pressure medications, stomach acid medications — like antacids —, and cold or allergy medicines that contain decongestants. Even over-the-counter medications may contain ingredients that raise or lower the level of the medication in your blood to a dangerous level.
Share a list of all vitamin or herbal supplements, and prescription and non-prescription medications you take with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription, and let all doctors and physicians know you are taking Adderall XR before having any surgery or laboratory tests. The above is not a complete list of all possible drug interactions.
View Article Sources
1Advokat, Claire, et al. “Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stimulant medications as cognitive enhancers.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7: 82. 29 May 2013. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00082