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Dexedrine vs. Adderall: Two Treatments for ADHD

ADHD Treatment

deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition common in childhood and
adolescence, although it can last into adulthood. ADHD and attention deficit disorder
(ADD) used to be considered separate conditions. Now, the term ADHD includes
ADD. The symptoms of ADHD include:

  • hyperactivity and impulsive
  • difficulty maintaining
    attention or focus
  • easily distracted by
    external stimuli
  • a combination of impulsive
    behavior and inattention

behavior training, and education can be effective for many people with ADHD. However,
treating ADHD often includes the use of medications. Before turning to
these medications, the
FDA recommends that you be checked
for heart disease since these drugs can have
fatal effects in patients with heart problems.

Similarities and Differences

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (brand name: Adderall) and
dextroamphetamine (brand name: Dexedrine) are both central nervous system
stimulants. They’re approved for the treatment of ADHD and also for narcolepsy
(a neurological condition marked by severe daytime drowsiness). These drugs are
more stimulating than methylphenidate (brand name: Ritalin), which is often the
first drug your doctor might give you.

Why They’re Prescribed

When prescribed and used properly, both medications can help
people with ADHD focus more effectively. Because they contain amphetamines, both
drugs are sometimes abused. Over time, use of the drugs may lead to dependence.

The drugs work in two ways. They make neurotransmitters last
longer in the parts of the brain that control attention and alertness, and they
also increase the concentration of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are
chemicals that send signals from one brain cell to another. By making these
areas more active, the drugs can help a person focus their attention. Surprisingly,
stimulants can help calm a person with ADHD.

Forms and Dosing

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) and
dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) are usually taken in tablet form once a day. However,
they may also be taken twice (or even three times) a day, depending on how a
person responds to the medication. Both drugs are FDA approved to treat ADHD in
adults and children aged 3 and older.

If your doctor prescribes dextroamphetamine, the starting
dose will often be between 2.5 mg and 5 mg per day. The dose may need to be
adjusted gradually, as your doctor monitors how well the drug is working. Adult
doses range from 5 mg to 60 mg per day. Children may be given doses ranging
from 2.5 mg to 40 mg per day. There are several strengths and an extended release
form, so the dose can be individualized.

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine is also started at a low
dose, usually 5 mg and may be gradually adjusted by your doctor. The maximum
daily dose is 40 mg to 60 mg per day. Children are often started at 2.5 mg a
day, and gradually increased to a maximum of 40 mg per day. There are several
strengths and also an extended release form, which makes it easier for your
doctor to find the right dose for you.

You will need a written prescription from your doctor, to
obtain either drug.


Both drugs are available in generic forms, which are less
expensive than brand name medications. Ask your doctor and talk to your
pharmacist about taking the generic form.

Side Effects of Each

The potential side effects of both drugs are similar. They
both may raise blood pressure. The increase is usually minor, but if you’ve
been diagnosed with a heart condition or hypertension, discuss the risks and
benefits of these medications with your doctor.

The two medications may also cause:

  • diarrhea or constipation
  • urinary symptoms such as burning while urinating
  • palpitations or irregular heartbeats
  • dry mouth
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • reduced growth (in children)
  • insomnia
  • changes in libido and impotence

In rare cases, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) use
may result in alopecia, which is hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the

Warnings and Interactions

People taking either medication should take the lowest dose
possible, in order to avoid a possible overdose.

Although rare, both drugs can cause peripheral vasculopathy,
which is a problem with blood vessels of the fingers, hands, legs, and feet. If
your fingers start to feel numb or cold, or if unusual wounds appear on your
fingers or toes, consult a doctor immediately.

If you have psychiatric illness or a seizure disorder, these
drugs may make it worse. Tell your doctor about your medical history before
taking a stimulant drug.

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) may cause motor
tics or changes in speech similar to Tourette syndrome. Changing the dosage or changing
to a different medication may alleviate some of these problems.

Both medications are often abused, and if these drugs are
taken for a long time, you can become dependent on them. These drugs are not
appropriate to take if you have a history of substance abuse. Keep both
medications in a secure location in your home.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There haven’t been extensive studies conducted on how either
drug affects pregnant women and their babies. However, there are concerns that
amphetamines, even used at prescribed levels, may pose risks to a developing
fetus, such as lower birth weight or premature birth. There is also a risk of
behavioral problems in childhood. Nursing mothers should not take these drugs. Amphetamines
can pass through breast milk and have toxic effects on infants.

Drug Holidays

If you take a stimulant drug, you can experience side
effects that can include loss of appetite and weight loss. Children can also experience
reduced growth. Your doctor may prescribe a “drug holiday,” which is a
deliberate break in treatment for a specific amount of time and purpose, such
as identifying side effects. For example, your doctor may prescribe a drug
holiday for your child during the summer when school is not in session. Everyone
who takes stimulant drugs should be periodically re-evaluated, to see if the
drug is still effective and needed.

Potential Drug Interactions

Amphetamines in both medications may interact negatively
with several other medications.

These drugs can interfere with the action of anti-seizure
medications, like ethosuximide, phenobarbital, or phenytoin. The drugs may
block the sedative effects of antihistamines in allergy medications. Antihypertensive drugs may be less effective
at lowering blood pressure if you take either drug. There is also a risk of
complications if you take these ADHD medications and certain antidepressant or
antipsychotic drugs.

If you take either of these stimulant drugs with multivitamins,
iron, or fluoride, the drug levels may drop and they may not work as well.

If you take antacids, certain antibiotics, MAO inhibitors,
or proton pump inhibitors with either drug, the drug level may be increased.

If you’re prescribed either drug, be sure to tell your
doctor and pharmacist about all the other drugs and over-the-counter products
you currently take. Ask your health providers about warnings and side effects.

Which One Is Best?

The effectiveness and safety profiles of both drugs are relatively
similar. But, because each person responds differently to a medication, you may
find that your attention is better with one medication compared to the other. Your
doctor may try you on one medication, and then the other, to determine which
one is most effective.

You may also have side effects with one drug that you don’t
have with the other. You should know within several days of starting a new
medication whether it’s effective and how well you tolerate the side effects.

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) is
more widely prescribed than dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), but that doesn’t
mean you wouldn’t do just as well or better on dextroamphetamine. Make sure
your doctor has your complete medical history so they can make an informed
recommendation. Don’t hesitate to ask for a different drug or a different dose,
if you’re not happy with the first one you try.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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