ADHD Medication and Treatment Reviews

Adderall XR: ADHD Medication

Generic Name: Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate

What is Adderall XR? 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? 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.

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.

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.

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?

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
  • insomnia
  • abdominal pain
  • emotional lability
  • vomiting
  • nervousness
  • nausea
  • fever

Adolescents (ages 13 to 17):

  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • nervousness

Adults:

  • dry mouth
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • weight loss
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • dizziness
  • tachycardia
  • diarrhea
  • asthenia
  • 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
  • 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.

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.

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
2http://www.shirecontent.com/PI/PDFS/AdderallXR_USA_ENG.PDF
3http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm085819.pdf

More Information on Adderall XR and Other ADHD Medications

36 Adderall XR: ADHD Medication 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.

  5. I’ve been taking Adderall XR 30mg for about 10 years now. Concerta made me tired and lazy back in early high school. So out of nowhere my Doc prescribed me the noted medication and dosage above. I’m assuming my mother spoke to my Dr when she still had rights over me. 15-16 years old. So eventually I was on the XR30. At first it did nothing. Didn’t feel a difference. Handed it to my buddies who apparently could feel the effect. Then I stopped taking adderall at about 20-22 years old. I landed a job that payed well and needed my all out focus. So I started making appointments again with my Dr. same dose. I know depend on this. I’m 27. I take 2-3 a day. 4-5 hours in between. But I get fevers. Headaches at the posterior region of my head, which clearly is a headache caused by hypertension. Slight tremors, nothing serious. I’m overall healthy. Always have been. No family history of any serious cardiac or mental issues. So sudden cardiac arrest or stroke shouldn’t be a worry. But the stage I’m at I’m not sure. I feel like it could and would happen. But then again there’s meth heads out there still crawling around, right? I’ve notice my side effects, and I’ve read that they are considered serious and should be evaluated immediately. But I’ve never had any serious outcomes. So I stick to my doses that make it work best for me. Fevers, pins and needles (rarely), minor tremors, increased heart rate (which is a common effect). Hypertension headaches. I’m writing this because it’s clear. I’m dependent. And the dose I take for 4 years now works best. But can anyone help me out with my constant worry? How at risk am I to suddenly going into cardiac arrest, or suffer from a stroke? My body is definitely used to the doses. With the side effects almost natural. No medical history. BP is stable. heart rate is normal with no arrhythmia’s, palpitations, or circulation issues. Do I keep my dose the same and live on knowing it truly is help myself as far as priorities and lifestyle. Or should I back out and try to focus without the drug. Sorry for the length of this. It’s all true. And it’s a question I had to ask.

  6. I’m 27 & have been prescribed to Adderall XR for a little over a decade, I was on Vyvanse & Focalin from 19 to 20 until I could get back on Adderall XR as the other 2 did not work. I did really well on Adderall XR 30mg twice a day in the morning for my ADD. In the last 6mon though I lost my brand name & was forced to take the generic which has done nothing but make me severely nauseous & I’m tired all day long but unfortunately I was told to tough it out because it’s the generic or Vyvanse which I’ve already been on Vyvanse & it did nothing but skyrocket my metabolism making me underweight so I guess I’m “toughing” it out but I really wish I could have my brand name back I really did the best with it with focus, energy, really minor side effects if any when on the brand name for majority of the time over a decade. I’ve had 2 generics so far, one is a completely orange capsule (still same dose of 2 30mg every morning) & that generic wasn’t so bad & was close to the feeling I got with the brand name which I refer to as “pure” feeling which only means without a bunch of negative side effects, but then there’s the generic that I have right now that looks like the brand name capsules just only different markings on it & that one makes me nauseous, tired, & just not good but I apparently can’t even request a specific generic soo sucks to be me haha

  7. Adderall worked like a charm for the first year and a half of my undergrad. My grades were improving, I was invited to phi alpha honor society and overall was more satisfied with my school performance. After a while, I developed really intense feelings of what I thought was anxiety but my doctor diagnosed me with depression. As soon as I felt the really intense feelings I quit Adderall immediately and a couple of months later I was put on anti-depressants. I am not sure if it was just timing but I believe that Adderall gave my anxiety, made me lash out at times, and become a real a$$hole sometimes. I am glad I did it because I have never been better at school but I hated the side effects. Dry mouth, shakiness, insomnia, and jitteriness were just some of the short term side effects I got.

  8. I forgot to mention… ADDERALL GAVE ME THE WORST ADULT ACNE EVER! I have several welts of hormonal acne all over my face. My doctor prescribed me an antibiotic to help with the acne but it made me vomit. So eventually had to quit taking the antibiotics.

  9. I was diagnosed with inattentive ADD when I was 53. Ritalin titrated had no positive effect, even at 40 mg. But Adderall 10 mg did. Over the years, my doctor increased the amount, finally putting me on Adderall XR 30 mg because the short-term form was VERY short-term in my case. However, in the summer of 2019, a urine test showed my amphetamine levels were dangerously high. At the same time, the effectiveness of the Adderall XR had been decreasing so that I got no more than two hours of control with each dose. My doctor took me off of it altogether.

  10. (This is about Adderall that is not XR, but the regular Adderall page redirects here.)

    Adderall was one of the first ADHD medications I tried as an adult. I took it as a generic (Amphetamine Salts 10 MG Tab, once daily). I did not have good results. I didn’t notice any obvious improvement in my ADHD symptoms. I did, however, wind up having panic attacks much more frequently and severely than was normal for me. The panic attacks improved once I went off of Adderall.

    Lately my doctor has been suggesting I try it out again–I keep having to remind her how poorly that went the first time.

  11. I am taking Adderal XR and I feel tired and sleepy no energy but I do focus.Should I tell my doctor? I dont want him to take me off because I can focus and not in a fog.?

    1. I would definietly talk with your doctor. It sounds like your dose might be too high, or that Adderall may not be the best medication for you.

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach, Podcaster & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  12. I noticed a disassociated/less emotional connection with others expeience in a teenager on Adderall XR and myself on Adderall. Neither of us take it anymore.

  13. My 8 yr old son has been on 5mg Adderall for about 9 months. We tried Focalin first and it made him crazy manic, more hyper! 10mg Adderall turns him into a sad zombie with no motivation or desire to do anything. So, we down to the 5mg and it definitely takes his edge away… He’s still active and is very busy, but he is manageable now. Interestingly, the 2 weeks we had him on the 10mg his teacher noticed a major positive improvement. We had stomach ache, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite on the 10mg as well, the only issue with the 5mg has been a mild reduction of appetite. We are going to try introducing the guanfacine just to see how he responds and maybe be another tool for us for 3rd grade if we need it.

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