A Comprehensive Comparison

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is categorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a neurodevelopmental disorder, most commonly seen in children, but also sometimes diagnosed later in life in adults. Treatment for this disorder includes behavioral therapy, along with medication.

Over the past few decades, the two most commonly prescribed drugs that have been given to help manage the symptoms of ADHD are Dexedrine (the brand name of the medication dextroamphetamine), and Adderall (a medication made from a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine).

These medications are similar in many ways but also have some key differences that it is important to understand, especially if you are considering these medications for ADHD treatment or narcolepsy treatment. In the following article, we will do a medication comparison exploring the similarities, effects, and addiction potential of these medications.

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Understanding ADHD and Its Treatments

adderall vs dexedrine

As mentioned above, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. That means that there may be some parts of the brain that did not develop in a typical way. The National Institute of Health says that these types of conditions are characterized by behavior impairment, communication issues, and some cognitive issues.

When it comes to ADHD, the issues usually begin to reveal themselves in early childhood. Children will begin showing ADHD symptoms like:

  • Daydreaming or not paying attention
  • Squirming, fidgeting, and talking a lot
  • Losing things and being forgetful
  • Having difficulty staying organized
  • Taking unnecessary risks and making careless mistakes (acting without thinking about the consequences)
  • Having a hard time resisting temptation
  • Finding it difficult to take turns
  • Having a hard time getting along with other kids

In adults, this disorder can lead to unstable relationships with others, low self-esteem, and poor performance at work and school. It might be more difficult to diagnose an adult with ADHD as they will have to develop coping mechanisms to get through their daily life.

Today, experts try to identify those with ADHD early, so that treatment like behavioral therapy and ADHD medication can begin as soon as possible, helping young people manage their symptoms. Treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety, conduct disorders, or depression will also be provided, as these issues tend to exist together.

Although the reasons behind ADHD development are not completely known, it can be tied to genetic factors, along with risk factors like brain injuries, issues during pregnancy, and exposure to environmental risks like lead while in utero.

It has become common these days for people to watch online videos and diagnose themselves with ADHD, but it really can only be diagnosed by a doctor. If you believe you may have this disorder, it is a good idea to speak with a medical professional about it. Do not begin using amphetamine drugs on your own to try to treat the symptoms, as this can be dangerous, lead to addiction, and have other very serious health consequences. Treatment for ADHD takes a lot more than medications and requires professional therapy, along with consistent monitoring by your doctor.

What is Dexedrine?

Dexedrine (and the generic version of the medication, dextroamphetamine) is used to treat both narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It was first approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976 but has slowly fallen out of favor as the years have gone on.

When a person begins to take Dexedrine for ADHD, they will notice an improvement in their focus and concentration, as their impulsive behavior and hyperactivity levels wane. In this way, Dexedrine benefits the individual, allowing them to perform better at work or school, focus better on the task at hand, avoid procrastination, and maintain healthier relationships with other people.

It is a stimulant drug that stimulates the nervous system, causing its user to feel more attentive, alert, and energetic because it opens up the airways, raises the heart rate, and brings the body’s sugar levels up. It also raises the low dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, so that users can stay focused on tasks, pay attention, and better stay in control over their behaviors. It is also prescribed to people who have narcolepsy because it makes people more alert and awake during the daytime.

Like any medication, there are pros and cons to taking this medication. Because Dexedrine uses chemicals that stimulate an increase in adrenaline and dopamine, potential Dexedrine side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, fast heartbeat, insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite, tremors, upset stomach, and weight loss.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is another type of central nervous system stimulant that was approved by the FDA in 1996 for sleep disorders like narcolepsy, and ADHD. Because it uses a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, it may be more effective than Dexedrine for a wider variety of subtypes of ADHD.

Adderall benefits its users, as it can help them to focus, stay in control, and stay organized so they can get things done without becoming distracted or overwhelmed. Although it is a stimulant, when used by the people who need it, it produces a calming sensation, reducing the everyday anxiety people with ADHD experience.

Some potential Adderall side effects seen by users of this medication include rapid heartbeat, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, nervousness and mood swings, headache, stomach ache, dry mouth, and decreased appetite leading to weight loss.

Adderall raises the dopamine levels of people with these disorders, helping to reduce symptoms like hyperactive behavior and low attention span. It is important to use this medication as prescribed and avoid alcohol or drug use, to reduce health risks and dangerous side effects.

The Dexedrine vs Adderall Showdown

These two medications are very similar in a variety of ways. They both contain dextroamphetamine (although Adderall also incorporates amphetamine). They are both central nervous system stimulants, and they have both been approved by the FDA for use in treating ADHD and narcolepsy.

Both medications have been used for decades, with high efficacy, meaning that they work well and are very effective in ADHD symptom management. There are different dosages, along with quick-release or extended-release versions, each of which has its pros and cons that can be discussed with your doctor.

Taking either of these medications causes side effects that may include stomach issues, dry mouth, fast heart rate or irregular heartbeat, weight loss, insomnia, and in rare cases may cause hair loss on the scalp or other parts of the body.

Adderall may have more serious side effects than Dexedrine, potentially causing circulation problems, new or worsening mental health issues, slow growth rate in children, and serious cardiovascular issues.

Patient experiences vary, but generally speaking, as long as these medications are prescribed by a medical professional, and are monitored closely, they are safe to use in most individuals. Drug holidays may be arranged to help identify any side effects and to re-evaluate whether the drug is still as effective as it was when it was prescribed.

Clinical Studies on Dexedrine and Adderall

Amphetamine stimulant drugs are very commonly prescribed and have been proven effective in the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents, but more recently they are being prescribed as long-term maintenance treatments in adults. The effects of this type of extended adult exposure to amphetamines are being looked into in Dexedrine research and Adderall research.  

In 2021, the NIH posted findings saying that 78.1% of youth who are taking Dexedrine show improvements at their first follow-up visit. The CDC has recommended that, along with Behavioral Therapy, both types of stimulant drugs are highly effective and fast-acting, helping between 70% to 80% of the people who use them.

When it comes to safety, experts are caught in a dilemma, because, as posted in the article Adderall and Cardiovascular Risk on the NIH website, it works very well, but has been known to cause heart issues, especially when the patient is doing strenuous exercise, is dehydrated, or has a family history of cardiac risk factors. 

There is also a high risk of developing a tolerance which can lead to abuse and addiction over time. The same risks are present in those taking Dexedrine. In 2015, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review estimated that around 17% of college students had been misusing Adderall, and a study done by Ohio State University said that one in six students was abusing prescription stimulants. A 2021 study supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found amphetamines like Adderall were misused by 4% of young adults, a disturbing and dangerous trend that must stop.

Patient Experiences and Reviews: Dexedrine vs Adderall

Adderall is more often prescribed in treating ADHD symptoms, because it is less “strong”, with less powerful amphetamine combined with the active ingredient dextroamphetamine. A common issue that patients who take the long-acting, commonly prescribed Adderall XR experience is that it works well in the mornings, but by the end of the day has begun to wear off. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe a short-acting secondary medication to take in the afternoon or evening to combat this effect.

Some people with inattentive ADHD and people who have comorbid anxiety disorder tend to like dextroamphetamine better, helping them to socialize and focus better on their everyday lives, with fewer side effects than Adderall and other medications caused.

Of course, you cannot simply go by patient reviews when choosing a medication, because everybody has unique Dexedrine experiences and Adderall experiences, depending on individual factors like whether they are getting the right type of behavioral therapy, their overall lifestyle choices, and whether they have another comorbidity like a mental health disorder or a physical health problem.

Guidance on Choosing Between Dexedrine and Adderall

When you first receive your ADHD diagnosis, it can be difficult to know what the best course of action is. In general, you will likely want to begin therapy with a behavioral therapist who understands the disorder, and who is experienced in treating people who have ADHD.

As far as medication goes, the most important factor when choosing ADHD medication is what your healthcare provider says. They will be able to guide you in choosing the right medication to suit your needs, depending on factors like symptom severity, medication interactions, and whether you have co-occurring mental or physical health issues to consider. Your doctor will know best.

Potential Risks and Misuse: Dexedrine and Adderall

Stimulant medications have a high potential for abuse because they give the users feelings of energy as “pleasure chemicals” in the brain like dopamine are activated. Some people may use these drugs when they don’t need them so they can stay up later, study longer, or lose weight.

These medications are thus classified as Schedule II drugs in the US. The DEA defines Schedule II drugs as having “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Misusing amphetamines is not safe, because the brain quickly adjusts to this higher level of dopamine being artificially produced and stops creating it naturally. After days or weeks, people who misuse these medications will find that they feel like they need to use them just to feel normal, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have any more of the drug in their system, feeling tired, foggy-headed, or “low”, which results in compulsive drug use and leads to drug addiction.

  • Some common signs of stimulant abuse and addiction are:
  • Showing signs of aggression or mania
  • Feeling exhausted, disoriented, or having memory issues
  • Withdrawal symptoms like irritability, fatigue, body aches, difficulty concentrating, sleep issues, mental health issues, or feeling like you can’t function right when you try to cut back
  • Running out of your prescription early, using other people’s prescriptions, or purchasing these medications on the street
  • Urges, cravings, and compulsions to take the drug
  • Poor performance at work or school, and losing interest in your normal activities and hobbies
  • Continuing to misuse the drug even when you notice it is causing health problems, relationship issues, and other serious life problems

Some of the more serious potential risks of abusing stimulants include short- and long-term effects like:

  • Nervousness, agitation, and anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Circulation problems
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Manic or aggressive behavior
  • Hallucinations, delusional thoughts, and psychosis
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Heart attack, heart disease, and abnormal heart rhythm
  • Stroke
  • Circulation issues
  • Malnutrition
  • Changes to vision, including blurry vision.
  • Seizures.

Even if you take these medications and then go out dancing or play sports, you risk raising your heart rate to dangerous levels.

Because Dexedrine and Adderall have addictive qualities, they can only be obtained legally by getting a prescription from a doctor. They should never be purchased from a friend or a drug dealer, and you should never try to quit using these medications cold turkey without medical supervision from your healthcare provider.

If you believe you may have a substance use disorder related to Adderall or Dexedrine abuse, there are resources for help you can access, like:

  • Speaking to your doctor about your options
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your concerns
  • Search for treatment centers and resources near you online
  • Attend a local support group meeting to find peers who understand you
  • Calling a rehabilitation center that specializes in drug addiction

If you have an addiction to substances like Dexedrine or Adderall, getting high-quality care in a medically supervised detoxification and rehabilitation program will ensure you stay healthy. You may be prescribed short-term prescriptions that can help you stay comfortable and get some rest, as your brain chemistry resets, and your body detoxes.

Detox is only the first step to recovery from addiction. Moving directly into a personalized, integrative addiction treatment program with inpatient or outpatient therapy, health care, groups, and relapse prevention programming will give you the best chance at staying sober long-term. A dual diagnosis treatment program will incorporate ADHD and other mental health treatments into your plan, so you have all the tools and skills you need to take control over your life.

Last Thoughts on Dexedrine vs Adderall

Not everybody who has ADHD needs to take the strongest doses of medications, but most people who have shown the symptoms of this disorder will live a higher quality of life when their symptoms are managed through an integrated combination of behavioral therapy, community/family support, and meds.  

If you believe you may have ADHD, or that you would benefit from taking medications of any kind, it is important to seek professional medical advice. Even if your friend or family member is fine taking a certain medication, you may have unique health conditions or other issues that could cause dangerous complications. Each person’s prescriptions and dosages need to be customized to best suit their unique needs.

If you feel like drugs are taking over your life or that you cannot get through the day without them, you may need professional medical advice and care. At the White Sands Treatment Center, our team of doctors, nurses, addiction experts, and caring staff provide professional care through the full spectrum of substance use disorder treatment, including medical detox, dual diagnosis treatment, inpatient rehab, outpatient programs, and aftercare.

Our facilities are comfortable and safe, and you will have all the help, education, therapy, and medical care you need to overcome addiction as you get ADHD treatment. Please call us today at (877) 959-2623 if you would like to learn more about our detox and rehabilitation services, our luxury accommodation, or the types of treatment we offer. We look forward to speaking with you.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.