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Combination of
Clinical data
Trade namesAdderall, Adderall XR
Licence dataUS Daily Med:link
Pregnancy cat.C (US)
Legal statusSchedule I (CA) Schedule II (US)
Dependence liabilityHigh
Routes(Medical) Oral, (Recreational) Oral, Insufflated, Intravenous
CAS number51-64-9 YesY 300-62-9
ATC codeN06BA02 N06BA01
PubChemCID 5826
ChemSpider13852819 YesY
KEGGD03740 YesY
 N (what is this?)  (verify)
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Combination of
Clinical data
Trade namesAdderall, Adderall XR
Licence dataUS Daily Med:link
Pregnancy cat.C (US)
Legal statusSchedule I (CA) Schedule II (US)
Dependence liabilityHigh
Routes(Medical) Oral, (Recreational) Oral, Insufflated, Intravenous
CAS number51-64-9 YesY 300-62-9
ATC codeN06BA02 N06BA01
PubChemCID 5826
ChemSpider13852819 YesY
KEGGD03740 YesY
 N (what is this?)  (verify)

Adderall is a brand name psychostimulant drug. It belongs to the phenethylamine and amphetamine chemical classes. Adderall is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.[1] It is commercially available and legal only in the United States. Adderall is a combination of four amphetamine salts (racemic amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, racemic amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharide, and dextroamphetamine sulfate). It works as a reuptake inhibitor for dopamine and norepinephrine.[2] It is available in two formulations: IR (Instant Release) and XR (Extended Release). The immediate release formulation is indicated for use in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy,[3] while the XR formulation is approved for use only with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[2]

Important side effects of therapeutic dextroamphetamine include stunted growth in young people and occasionally a psychosis can occur at therapeutic doses during chronic therapy as a treatment emergent side effect.[4] When abused at high doses the risk of experiencing side effects and their severity increases.

Like other stimulant drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, Adderall directly affects the mesolimbic reward pathway in the brain. Amphetamine salt preparations are considered to have high abuse potential, and it is classified as Schedule II by the US DEA. With the Safe Streets and Communities Act in Canada, Adderall has been reclassified from Schedule III to Schedule I.[5]


Medical uses

Adderall is indicated for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It has been used to treat obesity, but The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists does not recommend this use.[1]

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Adderall has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reportedly presents minimal side-effects. Depending on dosage, and ignoring potential side effects from on-going use or "addiction," the beneficial effects of stimulant medications can last several hours, allowing improved performance throughout the day.[6] Compared to the similar medication methylphenidate (sold under the brand name Ritalin and others), studies have suggested that Adderall is slightly more potent and has a longer period of efficacy, especially at lower doses.[7] For those who experience adverse side-effects to Ritalin or for whom Ritalin has become ineffective, Adderall is often recommended as a substitute.[8][9] A typical adult dosing is between 30–40 mg for Adderall XR.[10]


Apart from the FDA-approved indications for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, Adderall has also been used off-label to manage cases of treatment-resistant depression, exogenous obesity, and alternate sleep cycle disorders.[11]

Dosing and administration

Adderall is marketed as either an immediate-release tablet Adderall, or an extended-release capsule Adderall XR.[3]

Adderall XR utilizes the Microtrol extended-release delivery system, incorporating two types of beads. The first dissolves immediately, releasing half of the medication, while the second type dissolves slowly, releasing the remaining medication four hours later. Maximum plasma concentration is achieved in seven hours, compared to instant-release Adderall, which reaches maximum plasma concentration within three hours. As a result of its high bioavailability, Adderall XR's effectiveness is not altered by food absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. However, mean plasma concentration is prolonged by 2.5 hours (using a 900-calorie standard high-fat meal as the control). Medications that alter urinary pH will cause variations in the amount and method of excretion, and usage should be monitored when taken concurrently with Adderall.[12]

Manufacturer's claims of instant release have been disputed. A US patent granted for Adderall[13] was a pharmaceutical composition patent listing a rapid immediate-release oral dosage form. No claim of increased or smooth drug delivery was made. A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study conducted among 35 children ages 5–12 indicated that patients behaved similarly to those having taken other immediate-release amphetamines. The authors found that sustained-release dexamphetamine (the main isomeric-amphetamine component of Adderall) had a longer duration of action, however D-amphetamine was less effective in the first few hours.[14]

Adverse effects

Some Adderall side effects include dizziness, nervousness, headache and weight loss, as well as faster heartbeat combined with lower blood pressure. In addition, note reports, taking too much Adderall medicine initially, could make attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms worse. Studies of long-term use of Adderall and methylphenidate in children have shown a temporary decrease in growth rate that does not affect final adult height.[15] Stimulant medications also decrease appetite in some people, leading to weight loss, and this effect is more common with mixed amphetamine salts than methylphenidate[15] or atomoxetine. Changes in vision have been reported with both Adderall and methylphenidate.[2][16] Women who are pregnant should avoid taking Adderall, especially during early pregnancy. Studies on rats show long-term neurological and behavioral changes resulting from prenatal and early postnatal exposure to amphetamines.[2] As noted above, other potential side effects in adults include insomnia, headaches, increased muscle tension, irritability, and anxiety.[17]

Contraindications, interactions, and precautions

The following provides only general guidelines and is not comprehensive. Please refer to a more comprehensive list for further information regarding co-administration of amphetamine with other substances.


FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Adderall will harm a developing embryo or fetus. It could cause premature birth, low birth weight, or withdrawal symptoms in a newborn if the mother takes this medication during pregnancy.[19]

Government warnings

On February 9, 2005, Health Canada suspended all sales of Adderall XR after data collected by manufacturer Shire Pharmaceuticals linked the drug to 12 sudden deaths in American children.[20] Further research found data suggesting use of Adderall resulted in an increased risk of cardiac defect and it is known that amphetamine class drugs like Adderall present a marked increase in heart rate and blood pressure.[21] Although more than 37 million prescriptions for Adderall were filled during the four years prior, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could find no increased risk of sudden death among Adderall users.[20][22] In August 2005, Health Canada followed the committee report of three independent physicians and lifted the ban on Adderall XR.[23][24] Given that persons with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky or dangerous behavior, it has been suggested that stimulant medications for persons with ADHD may actually result in lower incidence of premature death.[25] The use of Adderall is generally not advised in those persons with pre-existing cardiac or mental illnesses. It is also not advised in persons who have a history of drug abuse.[3] Although FDA safety advisors voted 8 to 7 to issue a black box warning, the FDA's pediatric advisory committee refused to give the drug its most severe black box warning in March 2006.[26] A Black Box Warning regarding amphetamine abuse potential is in place, however. In September 2008, Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence urged physicians not to prescribe Adderall or similar drugs to children under 5, and to exhaustively consider other approaches to behavioral modification before prescribing such drugs to children 5 and up.[27]

Prolonged use

Prolonged high doses of amphetamines followed by an abrupt cessation can result in extreme fatigue, insomnia, irritability, weight gain, and mental depression. Chronic abuse of amphetamines can result in the manifestation of amphetamine psychosis;[2] occasionally this psychosis can occur at therapeutic doses during chronic therapy as a treatment emergent side effect.[4]


Adderall's effects are similar to other CNS stimulants of the same class and preparation. (See amphetamine for details.)

Urinary and stomach pH levels can have a strong effect on DL-amphetamine excretion and absorption.[28] An acidic stomach and GI pH will decrease the absorption of Adderall,[12] and acidic urine levels will decrease the reabsorption of the drug through the renal system.[29] Co-administration of acidic substances (e.g., citric acid) causes decreased renal reabsorption of DL-amphetamine; whereas, alkaline agents (e.g., antacids) may cause a marked increase in renal tubular reabsorption. The increased reabsorption can increase the retention of amphetamines, with potential to result in dangerously high serum levels.[29]

Adderall XR

Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) 20 mg XR

Adderall XR consists of the following amphetamine compounds in equal proportions: dextroamphetamine saccharate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, racemic amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, and racemic amphetamine sulfate.[2] Breakdown rates are affected by many factors including urinary and stomach pH,[12][28] weight, sex, other medications being taken, and age. Alkalinity increases bioavailability, while acidity causes the drug to be excreted more quickly. Manufacturers claim that the mixture of salts in Adderall XR makes its effects smoother (that is, makes softer highs and lows).[30] The mixture of salts and their ratios are as follows:


"The mean elimination half-life for d-amphetamine is 10 hours in adults; 11 hours in adolescents aged 13–17 years and weighing less than or equal to 75 kg/165 lbs; and 9 hours in children aged 6 to 12 years. For the l-amphetamine, the mean elimination half-life in adults is 13 hours; 13 to 14 hours in adolescents; and 11 hours in children aged 6 to 12 years. On a mg/kg body weight basis children have a higher clearance than adolescents or adults."[31](p2)

Generic forms

Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) 30 mg IR

Both Adderall IR and Adderall XR are available in generic forms.[32][33][34] Adderall IR is available as a generic drug, while Adderall XR is available as an authorized generic.[35][36] Authorized generics are still manufactured by the brand name manufacturer but marketed and sold by a different company. Authorized generics are exactly the same as the brand name product both in active and inactive ingredients. They go through exactly the same brand manufacturing line, but different labels are put on at the end of the manufacturing process. On June 25, 2012 Actavis received approval from the USFDA to start manufacturing and distributing generic extended-release formulations of all available strengths.[37]

Mechanism of action

With respect to central stimulant actions, the S(+) isomer (i.e., dextroamphetamine) is several times more potent than its R(-)enantiomer (i.e., levoamphetamine); this is not necessarily the case with other actions produced by amphetamine, in particular those produced in the periphery such as cardiovascular actions.[38] Dextroamphetamine induces more euphoria, whereas levoamphetamine induces more depression. The overall greater potency of the dextro form to central actions suggests that this form may have a higher potential for abuse.[39]

Adderall’s inclusion of levoamphetamine provides the pharmaceutical with a quicker onset and longer clinical effect compared to pharmaceuticals formulated exclusively of dextroamphetamine.[40] Although it seems the human brain has a preference for dextroamphetamine over levoamphetamine, it has been reported that certain children have a better clinical response to levoamphetamine.[41] Amphetamines are believed to exert their effects by binding to the monoamine transporters and increasing extracellular levels of the biogenic amines dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin[citation needed] .

It is hypothesized that D-amphetamine acts primarily on the dopaminergic (DA) systems, while L-amphetamine is comparatively norepinephrinergic (NE)[citation needed]. The primary reinforcing and behavioral-stimulant effects of amphetamine, however, are linked to enhanced dopaminergic activity, primarily in the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Amphetamine binds to the dopamine transporter (DAT) and blocks the transporter's ability to clear DA from the synaptic space. In addition, amphetamine is transported into the cell, which leads to dopamine efflux (DA is transported out of the cell and into the synaptic space via reverse transport of the DAT).

Amphetamine also possesses the ability to inhibit the enzymes monoamine oxidase-A and -B (MAO-A and MAO-B) in high doses[citation needed]. MAO-A is responsible for the breakdown of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. MAO-B is responsible for breaking down dopamine (more potently than MAO-A) and phenylethylamine (PEA), which has actions similar to those of amphetamine itself, and is thought to be involved in feelings of lust, confidence, obsession, and sexuality. Some of the first antidepressants successfully marketed are, in fact, monoamine oxidase inhibitors. However, MAO inhibition seen with amphetamine is not substantial enough in duration and quantity to entail the need for a tyramine-limited diet, unlike the more potent and long-lived MAO-inhibiting antidepressants.

Amphetamine's ability to cause the inhibition of MAO results in the accumulation of monoamines: Amphetamine directly stimulates the release of these neurochemicals, resulting in a potent elevation in monoamine neurotransmission. In sum, the effect of amphetamines is to increase neurotransmitter availability in the synapse, by both releasing more neurotransmitters and prolonging their availability in the synapse by slowing their removal.

Performance-enhancing use

In addition to treatment of juveniles with ADHD, Adderall is sometimes prescribed for children who are not doing well in school but who don't have ADHD. These are often children from economically-deprived backgrounds for whom alternatives such as therapy or tutoring is not available.[42]

Adderall is widely used as a "study drug" at many universities,[43] due to Adderall's reported ability to help focus energy and concentration to a much higher level than normal.[citation needed] It enables the user to focus and stay awake. Stories of students writing papers continuously for an unusually long time or "cramming" all night for an exam with no loss of energy or concentration are common.[43] College campuses known to be highly competitive or have a high rate of binge drinking had up to 25% of students use an ADHD medication within one year, a survey of students at 119 colleges across the country concluded.[citation needed]

Adderall use as an academic advantage has become increasingly common amongst college students. Illegal Adderall use is highest among students from the northeastern region of the United States and students from colleges with more competitive admission standards.[44] Students with ADHD sell Adderall on college campuses for anywhere from $5 to $25 a pill depending on the time of the academic year.[45] The legal consequences for selling Adderall include prison time because it is classified as a controlled substance.[46] It is often difficult to catch illegal Adderall sales because the pills are “easily concealed, odorless, and can be perceived as prescribed drugs” Of these sales, 62% of buyers report using Adderall for concentration and study help.[47]

Many athletic organizations have restricted the usage of Adderall by athletes. The NCAA has banned the use of Adderall for its collegiate athletes without a prescription and adequate records of evaluation and diagnosis of ADHD.[48] Nevada State Athletic Commission has also banned athletes in the state from using Adderall. Tim Credeur was removed from a UFC fight on the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 7 because of a positive drug test due to his use of it. In the National Football League, New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley served a four-game suspension when the 2009 NFL regular season began because he tested positive for the banned stimulant. The Arizona Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick received a four-game suspension as a result of using Adderall.[49]

The New York Giants running back Andre Brown (American football) faced a four-game suspension for violating NFL's performance-enhancing substance ban. Brown said: “It was something that I've been on since I've been in the league, which was Adderall. I just forgot to fill out some paperwork and that was it.” [50] Brown eventually won an appeal, and had his suspension lifted.[51] Another Giants player, Tyler Sash, was suspended for four games by the NFL in July 2012 after testing positive for Adderall four months earlier. The safety said in a statement that he took the drug legally and "under a doctor's care for an anxiety condition" to help him with public speaking.[52] The New York Giants safety Will Hill (American football) was charged a four-game suspension for violating NFL's performance-enhancing substance ban. Hill said: “"I received a doctor's prescription for Adderall prior to signing with the Giants[53] Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. Talib released a statement saying his suspension was a result of testing positive for Adderall: "Around the beginning of training camp, I made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription,".[54]

Recreational use

Adderall, as an amphetamine product, is used recreationally for its euphoric and stimulant properties.[55] Prescription amphetamines are often obtained by those with a prescription and diverted and sold to those who do not have a prescription.[56] As a Schedule II drug, Adderall is considered to have a high potential for misuse and a high liability for dependence.[57][58] Amphetamine has the potential to cause withdrawal (mainly psychological) symptoms when ceasing use.[59]

Detection of use

Amphetamine is frequently measured in hair, oral fluid, sweat, or urine as part of a drug abuse testing program. Techniques such as immunoassay may cross-react with a number of sympathomimetics drugs, so chromatographic methods specific for amphetamine should be employed to prevent false-positive results. Chiral techniques may be employed to help distinguish the source of the drug, whether obtained legally (by prescription) or illegally or possibly as a result of formation from a prodrug such as lisdexamfetamine or selegiline. Chiral separation can be used to differentiate Adderall use from use of another prescription form of amphetamine or from use of illicit amphetamine, since Adderall is unique in having a 3:1 mixture of the d- and l-isomers.[60][61][62]


Adderall is available as an instant-release (IR) and an extended-release (XR) drug. Adderall instant-release is manufactured today by Teva and Barr Pharmaceuticals. Shire Pharmaceuticals, the creator of Adderall IR, no longer produces it. However, Shire does continue to manufacture the extended-release version of Adderall ("Adderall XR"). Shire introduced the Adderall brand in 1996 in the form of a multi-dose, instant-release tablet derived from an original formula of the weight management drug Obetrol. In 2006, Shire agreed to sell rights to the Adderall name for this instant-release medication to Duramed Pharmaceuticals[63] DuraMed Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Teva Pharmaceuticals in 2008 when Teva completed its acquisition of Barr Pharmaceuticals (including Barr's Duramed division).[64] Therefore, following its acquisition of Duramed, Teva is in the somewhat unusual position of manufacturing both a generic formulation of Adderall instant-release (under its Barr Division) as well as "brand name" Adderall (under its DuraMed division.)

Reflecting the change in manufacturers from Shire Pharmaceuticals to Teva's DuraMed Pharmaceuticals, the "imprint" on Adderall instant-release tablets has changed. One side of the instant-release tablets now bears the DuraMed Pharmaceuticals imprint, a lowercase letter "d" over a lowercase letter "p". This is a change from the previous uppercase "AD" imprint on the tablets.

The active ingredients of Adderall include a combination of dextroamphetamine and racemic DL-amphetamine salts.[65] In 2001, Shire introduced an extended-release preparation of these ingredients in a variety of dosages under the brand name "Adderall XR," on which Shire retains exclusive patent rights until the patent expires, expected in 2018.[66] However, due to issues with Shire's inability to evergreen (extend the patent life by obtaining either a new FDA indication or application of other patent life) the patent for Adderall XR, the drug has become available in a generic form.[67] In 2009, Barr and Shire reached a settlement agreement permitting Barr to offer a generic form of the drug beginning April 1, 2009.[68]

Legal status


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