Dextroamphetamine vs Adderall

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For patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, certain drugs that alter the concentrations of neurotransmitters in the brain can aid in managing symptoms. Dextroamphetamine and Adderall are two such medications commonly prescribed for these conditions. Both impact similar neurotransmitters but have slightly different compositions and effects on patients. Dextroamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant affecting levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, thus enhancing focus and attention while reducing impulsivity. On the other hand, Adderall is a combination drug consisting of four salts of amphetamine - including dextroamphetamine - providing a broader range effect on serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels.

What is Dextroamphetamine?

Dextroamphetamine (the generic name for Dexedrine) is a stimulant medication belonging to the amphetamine class, which was a revolutionary step forward from previous treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dextroamphetamine was first approved by the FDA in 1976. It works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, effectively enhancing concentration and focus while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity. It is prescribed extensively for both ADHD and narcolepsy.

On the other hand, Adderall contains two active ingredients: dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine. This combination has effects on both dopamine and norepinephrine but also includes influence on serotonin with minor consequences, resulting in it having potentially more side effects than dextroamphetamine alone which primarily influences only dopamine and norepinephrine.

What conditions is Dextroamphetamine approved to treat?

Dextroamphetamine is approved for the treatment of different medical conditions:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucination and in some cases episodes of cataplexy
  • As part of a comprehensive treatment program for obesity in individuals who have not been responsive to alternative weight loss strategies.

How does Dextroamphetamine help with these illnesses?

Dextroamphetamine functions as a central nervous system stimulant, primarily enhancing the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain. This increases activity in regions of the brain that regulate attention and behavior, thereby improving focus, alertness and controlling impulsive behaviors. Norepinephrine is involved in response to stress while dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviour. It's believed individuals with ADHD have lower levels of these neurotransmitters within their prefrontal cortex - an area associated with executive function such as decision making and social control. Hence, by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine concentrations, dextroamphetamine can mitigate symptoms related to ADHD.

On the other hand, Adderall is composed of four different amphetamine salts: dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, dextroamphetamine sulfate USP and amphetamine sulfate USP; it essentially has similar effects but may offer more consistent symptom management throughout the day due to its multifaceted composition.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name for a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It functions as a central nervous system stimulant, increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain by reducing their reabsorption. Adderall also mildly inhibits monoamine oxidase, which is responsible for the breakdown of these neurotransmitters. Approved by the FDA in 1996, Adderall has been effective in managing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Unlike pure dextroamphetamine medications, Adderall's combined mechanism enhances its efficacy while potentially offsetting some side effects associated with taking either component alone. The potential benefits on focus and alertness can be especially beneficial for patients who do not respond well to other ADHD treatments or those diagnosed with narcolepsy.

What conditions is Adderall approved to treat?

Adderall, a combination of amphetamine salts including dextroamphetamine, is approved by the FDA for two primary conditions:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy, which is an uncontrollable desire to sleep or sudden attacks of deep sleep.

How does Adderall help with these illnesses?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays vital roles in the brain's reward system, motivation, attention and regulation of body movements. As with norepinephrine, low levels of dopamine have been implicated in conditions like ADHD. Adderall functions by increasing the availability of dopamine in your brain, which can help to improve concentration, focus and reduce impulsivity often seen in individuals with ADHD. Its action on both amphetamine salts (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) allows for a broader range of effect compared to single-ingredient medications like dextroamphetamine alone. Since it affects more neurotransmitters than just dopamine alone, it is sometimes prescribed when a patient does not respond well to other stimulant medications or may be combined with non-stimulant drugs for better symptom control.

How effective are both Dextroamphetamine and Adderall?

Both dextroamphetamine and Adderall are effective stimulant medications primarily used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Dextroamphetamine was first approved by the FDA in the mid-1970s, whereas Adderall received approval more than two decades later, in 1996. The primary active ingredient in Adderall is amphetamine salts, which includes a 3:1 mixture of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine.

Several double-blind clinical trials have demonstrated comparable efficacy between dextroamphetamine and Adderall for managing symptoms of ADHD. Both drugs stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to increase attention span, improve focus, decrease impulsivity, and reduce hyperactive behavior. Side effects such as insomnia or reduced appetite were also similar across these studies.

A review from 2009 highlighted that both drugs show effectiveness within one week of treatment initiation for most patients with ADHD; however, individual responses can vary significantly due to genetic factors influencing metabolism rates. For some individuals—particularly those metabolizing these drugs slower—Adderall’s mixed formulation might offer a somewhat smoother effect over time compared to dextroamphetamine alone.

In terms of prescription prevalence among ADHD treatments available today, Adderall ranks higher than single-entity dextroamphetamine products because it offers flexibility with dosing options suitable for pediatric populations starting from age three onwards while still being well-tolerated in adults too.

As per a meta-analysis report published in 2017 comparing various stimulants for treating ADHD symptoms showed that although both agents are effective compared to placebo controls but neither stood out as superior when directly contrasted against each other or other amphetamines-based treatments available.

Finally yet importantly due their potential misuse/abuse liability associated with their psychostimulant properties they're classified as Schedule II controlled substances requiring strict monitoring during use especially among individuals having history substance abuse disorders or prone developing them including adolescents/young adults who may be tempted towards its recreational use often referred as "study drug" amongst students striving enhancing academic performances which is strongly discouraged considering severe health risks associated non-medical/illicit uses this class compounds thereby emphasizing crucial role prescribers ensuring responsible dispensing practices educational efforts alerting public regarding same.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Dextroamphetamine typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Dextroamphetamine range from 5-40 mg/day, with studies suggesting that a starting dose of 5 mg/day is usually sufficient for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. Children aged six and older may be started on 2.5 mg/day. In both populations, dosage can be increased every week if there is no response. However, the daily dosage should not exceed 40 mg per day under any circumstances to avoid potential severe side effects.

At what dose is Adderall typically prescribed?

Adderall treatment is typically initiated at a dose of 5-10 mg per day for children aged six and older and can be gradually increased by an additional 5-10 mg per week depending on the patient's response. The daily dosage may then be divided into two doses, given approximately 4 -6 hours apart. For adults with ADHD, the starting dose is usually between 5mg to 20mg taken twice daily, with intervals of at least four hours in between. Maximum dosage generally does not exceed a total of 40 mg/day; however, this limit may be tested if there is no significant improvement in symptoms after several weeks of treatment while adjusting the dosages under medical supervision.

What are the most common side effects for Dextroamphetamine?

Some of the most common side effects of Dextroamphetamine and Adderall include:

  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (Insomnia)
  • Dry mouth, unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite (Anorexia), weight loss
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Restlessness, jitteriness
  • Stomach pain, nausea
  • Sweating
    Decreased libido (sex drive) is also a possible side effect. More serious potential side effects are rapid breathing, chest pain, hallucinations or paranoia. Always seek immediate medical help if you experience any severe reactions.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Dextroamphetamine?

When comparing dextroamphetamine to Adderall, it's important to note that both medications have the potential for serious side effects. These might include:

  • Increased thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Signs of an allergic reaction that could be severe: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in your face or throat
  • Visual disturbances like blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, seeing halos around lights
  • Cardiovascular issues such as fast or pounding heartbeats, a fluttering sensation in your chest, shortness of breath and sudden dizziness (feeling like you might pass out)
  • Symptoms indicating low sodium levels in the body - headache, confusion, slurred speech; severe weakness; vomiting; loss of coordination and feeling unsteady
  • Extreme nervous system reactions - very stiff (rigid) muscles; high fever; sweating; confusion; fast or uneven heartbeats; tremors and feeling like you might pass out.

If any signs indicative of serotonin syndrome occur: agitation; hallucinations; fever sweating shivering rapid heart rate muscle stiffness twitching loss of coordination nausea vomiting diarrhea seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Adderall?

Adderall, a combination of amphetamine salts that includes dextroamphetamine, can cause several side effects. These may include:

  • Dry mouth or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Sweating and possible tremors
  • Difficulty urinating or an increased need to urinate.

As with any medication, it's crucial to monitor these symptoms and discuss them with your healthcare provider if they persist or worsen over time.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Adderall?

While Adderall is generally safe for use under medical supervision, there are instances where it can lead to serious side effects. Some of the concerning signs that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Signs of severe allergic reaction or skin reaction: such as hives, itching, fever, swollen glands, difficulty breathing and swelling in your face or throat
  • Signs of mental health issues like new or worsening behavior and thought problems or new psychotic symptoms (hearing voices, believing things that are not true)
  • Seizure (convulsions)
  • Vision changes such as blurred vision
  • Fast heartbeat; a rapid increase in heart rate could be dangerous for some individuals.
  • Circulation problems including numbness, pain, cold feeling in the hands or feet and unexplained wounds Remember to consult with healthcare professionals before starting any medication regimen.

Contraindications for Dextroamphetamine and Adderall?

Both Dextroamphetamine and Adderall, along with most other stimulant medications, may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or agitation in some people. If you notice your anxiety worsening, or an increase in agitated behavior, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Dextroamphetamine or Adderall can be taken if you are taking, or have been taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (MAOIs). Always tell your physician which medications you are taking; MAOIs will require a period of about 2 weeks to clear from the system before it's safe to begin treatment with Dextroamphetamine and Adderall. This is necessary to prevent dangerous interactions such as hypertensive crisis.

How much do Dextroamphetamine and Adderall cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 60 tablets of Adderall (20 mg) hovers around $380, which works out to approximately $13-$26/day depending on your dose.
  • The cost for 30 tablets of Dextroamphetamine (10 mg) averages about $85, translating to roughly $2.83/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Adderall, Dextroamphetamine is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Cost should not be the singular consideration in determining which drug is right for you as each one has unique benefits and drawbacks.

For generic versions of dextroamphetamine and Adderall costs are significantly lower:

  • Generic dextroamphetamine (10 mg tablets) can be bought in packs from 30 capsules upwards with approximate costs ranging from $0.50 to $1.70 per day depending upon dosages between 5mg or even up to 60mg daily.
  • Generic Adderall varies greatly based on manufacturer; however, it typically starts at around $0.80/day for smaller packs and can drop as low as about $0.40/day if buying larger quantities upfront.

Remember that prices may vary based on location, pharmacy choice, insurance coverage among other factors.

Popularity of Dextroamphetamine and Adderall

Dextroamphetamine, under brand names such as Dexedrine and Dextrostat, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 400,000 people in the US in 2020. It accounted for just over 2% of prescriptions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications in the US. However, it has been decreasing slightly but steadily in prevalence since around 2013.

On the other hand, Adderall (which is a combination of four different amphetamines including dextroamphetamine) was prescribed to approximately 16 million people in the USA during that same year. This accounts for about a third of all ADHD medication prescriptions and makes it one of the most commonly used drugs within this category. The use of Adderall has also remained relatively steady over the last decade with only minor fluctuations.


Both dextroamphetamine and Adderall have well-established histories of use in managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. These medications are backed by numerous clinical studies showing their efficacy over placebo treatments. Both drugs work by increasing the concentrations of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, although they do this through slightly different mechanisms.

Adderall is a combination drug containing both amphetamine salts (dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate), while dextroamphetamine is a single active ingredient medication. As such, these medications may be prescribed under different circumstances: for instance - depending on patient's individual response to treatment.

Both drugs are available in generic form which provides significant cost savings especially for patients who must pay out-of-pocket. The effects of both dextroamphetamine and Adderall can take some time to become noticeable after starting treatment.

The side effect profiles between the two drugs are similar; both being generally well-tolerated but with possible side effects including insomnia, decreased appetite or weight loss among others. Patients taking either medication should closely monitor any changes in behavior or mood swings especially when initiating therapy or changing doses; seeking medical help immediately if symptoms worsen or new symptoms emerge like increased heart rate, hallucinations or unusual thoughts/behaviors.