ADD Medication and Treatment Reviews

Adderall XR

Adderall XR is a once-daily, timed-release stimulant ADHD medication used to treat symptoms of ADHD / ADD in children & adults
Generic Name: Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate

Medically Reviewed by William Dodson, M.D., a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel

What is Adderall XR?

Adderall XR is a once-daily, timed-release, stimulant ADHD medication primarily is 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 (CII) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. It is an amphetamine.

Stimulant medications 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, the hallmark symptoms in patients with attention deficit. The benefits of Adderall XR go into effect within an hour after 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 Do You Use Adderall XR to Treat ADHD?

Before starting or refilling an Adderall XR prescription, have a conversation with your doctor, who has a holistic view of your or your child’s medical history, other diagnoses, and other prescriptions. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist before you begin taking the medication.

What Is the Dosage for Adderall XR?

As with all medications, follow your Adderall XR prescription instructions exactly. 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.

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.

Capsules are available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg and 30mg dosages. The time-release formulation is designed to maintain a steady level of medication in your body throughout the day.

The optimal 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.

During treatment, your doctor may periodically ask you to stop taking your Adderall XR so that he or she can monitor ADHD symptoms; check vital statistics including blood, heart, and blood pressure; or evaluate height and weight. If any problems are found, your doctor may recommend discontinuing treatment.

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 Side Effects are Associated with Adderall XR?

Most people taking this medication do not experience any of these side effects.

The most common side effects of Adderall XR are as follows:

Children (ages 6 to 12): Loss of appetite, insomnia, abdominal pain, emotional lability, vomiting, nervousness, nausea, and fever.

Adolescents (ages 13 to 17): Loss of appetite, insomnia, abdominal pain, weight loss, and nervousness.

Adults: Dry mouth, loss of appetite, insomnia, headache, weight loss, nausea, anxiety, agitation, dizziness, tachycardia, diarrhea, asthenia, and urinary tract infections.

Adderall should not be taken off-label to help you lose weight. Weight loss is not an approved use for this medication.

Other serious side effects include changes in eyesight. Taking Adderall XR 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.

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.

Also disclose to your physician all mental health issues including any family history of suicide, bipolar illness, tics, or depression. The drug manufacturer, 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.

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.

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.

What Precautions are Associated with Adderall XR?

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.

You should not take Adderall XR if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Advanced arteriosclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Symptomatic cardiovascular disease
  • Moderate to severe hypertension
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Known hypersensitivity or idiosyncrasy to the sympathomimetic amines
  • Glaucoma
  • 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.

What Interactions are 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.


1 Advokat, 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

More Information on Adderall XR and Other ADHD Medications:

Free Download: The Ultimate Guide to ADHD Medication
5 Rules for Treating Children with Stimulant Medications
Making the Switch: Trying a New ADHD Medication

24 Adderall XR Related Links

  1. I was diagnosed with ADD as a child in the later mid/late 80’s, but we really we only worked on the learning disability part. All of the other issues I had I thought were just me being awkward. I went to therapy for the first time in my late 30’s (okay fine, I just turned 39). about a year ago. I was rediagnosed with ADD and put on Adderall for the first time. I started with the quick release and didn’t like it, if I didn’t eat/drink enough I got nauseated and sick. I also didn’t like the way it made me feel physically. Then a friend of the family told me about the slow release, that lat’s 8 hours. That has been a dream in comparison and is really helping with my focus. A trick I also just learned recently, is to set my alarm to take it an hour before I actually plan to get up and this has helped with my morning break fog a lot! (even with going to bed after my work shift ends at 1 am and getting up with my two school age kids at 7/7:30). But being forgettful, I am able to remember this in the morning my putting my cell phone (alarm) inside a cup next to my bed.

  2. I am a 50 year old female, and 2 years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD. Which, was a relief for me because I was misdiagnosed as having anxiety & depression for many years. I was prescribed Adderol XR and my whole life changed for the better. I was finally sleeping at night. Then about 8 months ago, I was diagnosed with RLS. Thw problem I’m having is everything they prescribe me hypes me up. The Dr says it’s hard to treat someone “like me”. Medicine that’s suppose to relax my legs at night DO NOT work. Please, if anyone has dealt with this before, tell me how it got fixed. I’m at my wits end. Thank you in advance.

  3. My son is 9 will be 10 shortly. My son started on Tenex which I thought was a “sugar pill” has it helped none of his symptoms. He then tried Concerta which actually worked great for all his ADHD/ADD symptoms but he wasn’t gaining weight has he should. I didn’t want to try this drug as I felt it was kinda a last resort and I feel guilt having to give my child medicine even though he truly needs it. He now takes Adderall 10mg in the morning in 5 mg in the afternoon. It’s not the road I wish to have my son on but with out his medication there’s not much words to describe. I tried him not taking any medication it was unsuccessful. He occasionally or more than often has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. We do the most natural thing exercise (lots of that) and his doctor recommended Melatonin . Which he states is more effective if given around dinner time. This helps my child’s sleep but he still wakes during the night. Overall Adderall has helped my son in school and at home. I honestly have guilt of even having to give to him at such a young age to add I’ve been shamed numerous times ( by my sons old Pediatrician in which we have now switched) But I’ve also been supported. It’s not a easy decision to put your child on medication . If your struggling with guilt trust your prescribing doctor and the fact that no one knows your child as well as you do.

  4. Hi Cissy, I have had some RLS symptoms and I am a 28 year old male. My sisters have it worse. But I also take magnesium. Taking magnesium, while cutting sugar, has make my restless legs disappear almost completely. I take magnesium glycerinate before going to bed. I also spray a magnesium chloride brine on my legs and rub it around. This helps the leg muscles relax immensely. You have to eat less sugar, because sugar keeps you from absorbing minerals properly. Look up Richard Morley and the Root Cause Protocol, for more information on Magnesium. Muscle spams is actually listed as a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Google it. It could be that the medicine is contributing to this. I recently began Adderall again for the fourth time. However, I am looking for alternative ways of doing things.

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