Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), is a mental disorder most common in children, which causes symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and inattentiveness. Diagnoses of ADHD have noticeably risen since the 1990's. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.6 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. The exact cause of ADHD is not completely understood, though researchers have noted that patients with this disorder have lower levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine in their brain. As more medications are produced to counteract this rather widespread mental disorder, it can be hard to tell which medication is right for you or your child. Here we will compare two of the more prominent medications used to treat ADHD: dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and dextroamphetamine with amphetamine (Adderall). We will outline the the effectiveness of each drug, dosage, any potential side effects, as well as groups who should avoid stimulant drugs such as these.

Adderall and Dexedrine are both central nervous system stimulants. They’re approved for the treatment of ADHD, and when used properly, both have been proven to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Because both contain amphetamines, they are more likely to be abused than their non-stimulant counterparts.

Both Adderall and Dexedrine work by increasing the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. They also make those neurotransmitters last longer in the parts of the brain that control attention and alertness. By stimulating these areas in the brain, symptoms of ADHD can be reduced.

Both Dexedrine and Adderall are usually taken once a day in their extended release forms. Immediate release forms may also be taken two to three times daily, depending on how a patient reacts to the medication. The starting dose for Dexedrine is often between 2.5 mg and 5 mg per day. The dose may need to be adjusted gradually, as your doctor monitors that the drug is working well. This ensures you are taking the lowest possible dose to cure your symptoms. 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 of immediate release Dexedrine and an extended release form, so the dose can be individualized. The starting dose for Adderall is usually 5 mg and may be gradually adjusted by your doctor to ensure you are taking the lowest dose effective for your symptoms. The maximum daily dose is 40 mg to 60 mg per day. Children are often started at 2.5 mg a day, and are gradually increased to a maximum of 40 mg per day.

Both brand name Adderall and Dexedrine are available in generic form for a much lower cost. If you cannot afford the brand name drugs, consult your doctor and pharmacist and see if the generic versions are right for you.

Side Effects
As both drugs are stimulants of the same class, they have similar side effects. Both Dexedrine and Adderall may raise blood pressure. It is usually not to a dangerous degree, but if you have been diagnosed with a heart condition, best to consult your doctor before beginning either of these medications. Common side effects associated with the use of stimulant drugs such as these are loss of appetite, weight loss, reduced growth in children, changes in libido, insomnia, impotence, dry mouth, irregular heartbeats, diarrhea, constipation, and in some cases, urinary symptoms. In rare cases, Adderall may cause alopecia, a condition which results in hair loss on the scalp or other parts of the body.

Although rare, both drugs may cause serious conditions and interactions. If you have psychiatric illness or a seizure disorder, these drugs may make it worse. Tell your doctor about your medical use and history before taking a stimulant drug. If your fingers start to feel numb or cold, or if unusual wounds appear on your fingers or toes, consult a doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of a rare but serious condition. These amphetamine stimulants may cause motor tics or changes in speech that mimic those of Tourette syndrome. Lowering your dosage or changing medications may alleviate these problems.

Both medications are often abused, and long term use can lead to dependency. It is therefore important that you take the drugs only as prescribed under the supervision of a health care professional.

There are concerns that amphetamines, even used at prescribed levels, may pose risks to developing fetuses or infants. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not recommended to take stimulant drugs such as these. Babies may be born having withdrawals, or begin to have behavioral problems when exposed to breast milk that has these medicines in it.

If you take a stimulant drug, your doctor may prescribe a "drug holiday", that is, a time in which you go off of the drug to check it's efficacy and side effects. An example of this would be a child being taken off their medications for the summer break. Everyone who takes stimulant drugs needs a periodic re-evaluation to see if the drug is still effective and needed.


Both these amphetamine-containing medications may interact negatively with other medications. These drugs can interfere with the action of anti-seizure medications or block the sedative effects of antihistamines in some allergy medications.There is also risk of interaction with anti-hypertension medication, making it less effective at lowering the blood pressure. There is also risk of complications if you take these stimulant medications and certain antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs.

Those taking antacids, certain antibiotics, MAO inhibitors, or proton pump inhibitors with either drug may experience an increase in the drug level.

Taking either of these drugs with MAO inhibitors, fluoride, or iron may lead to a weakening of the drug levels of the ADHD medication. They may not work as well if this is the case.

If you've been prescribed either Adderall or Dexedrine, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the other drugs, supplements, and over-the-counter products you currently take. Get informed about warnings and side effects.

Dexedrine and Adderall are very similar drugs. Each person responds differently to these medications. You may notice you have side effects with one drug and not the other. Working with your doctor, you might try one medication, and then the other, to determine which one is most effective. Make sure your doctor has your complete medical history so they can make an informed recommendation. Get informed as to the potential side effects and interactions, and don't be afraid to change your prescription if you are unhappy.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Wu graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Currently, he holds a PhD and is an MD candidate (KSOM, USC) in integrative biology and disease. He is also an experienced writer and editor for many prestigious web pages. Brian values the ability of all ages to learn from the power of stories. His mission is to write about health conditions, educational topics and life situations in an entertaining way in order to help children understand their own life conditions and daily circumstances.