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Comparing Dexedrine and Adderall: How Are the Different?

Adderall and Dexedrine are two of the most commonly prescribed medications for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both are stimulant drugs containing dextroamphetamine or d-amphetamine.

The main difference between them is that Adderall also contains l-amphetamine in a ratio of 3:1 dextroamphetamine to amphetamine. This makes Adderall potentially more potent than Dexedrine. Adderall contains a mixture of amphetamine salts, while Dexedrine contains only dextroamphetamine. 

Both are powerful stimulants that come in immediate-release and extended-release formulations (Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule).

Adderall and Dexedrine can both be effective in managing ADHD by improving concentration and focus abilities. They also both have a high potential for abuse and can be addictive.

Adderall and Dexedrine are both approved by the FDA to treat ADHD in people ages 3 and older.

Understanding the Differences Between Adderall and Dexedrine

The combination of amphetamine salts in Adderall makes it a powerful and potent stimulant medication. Since Adderall contains mixed amphetamine salts and Dexedrine contains only dextroamphetamine, Adderall can be considered to be more powerful than Dexedrine.

Both Adderall and Dexedrine are FDA-approved for children as young as three years old in their immediate-release formulations, but the extended-release forms are not approved for children under the age of six. Dexedrine Spansule is not recommended for people over the age of 16 either.

Both Adderall and Dexedrine are immediate-release medications and are available in tablet form. Dexedrine is also available as a solution. Extended-release Adderall and Dexedrine are prescribed as capsules. 

Dosage may be different for the two medications, as 25 percent of Adderall is an additional amphetamine salt that Dexedrine does not have. Small changes in dosage may be more apparent with Adderall than Dexedrine.

Adderall and Dexedrine can interact on an individual in variable ways, so one may work better for one person than the other. Dosage should be adjusted as needed.

The use of both medications should be closely supervised by a medical professional. 


Dexedrine is the brand-name medication containing dextroamphetamine sulfate. Dexedrine usually takes effect in about 30 minutes to an hour after ingesting it. The immediate-release form generally peaks in about three hours, while Dexedrine Spansule peaks in around eight hours.

The half-life for Dexedrine is around 12 hours, and the drug is metabolized in the liver. Dosage for Dexedrine ranges from 2.5 mg tablets up to 30 mg for immediate-release forms, and 5 mg, 10 mg, and 15 mg capsules are available in the extended-release form.

Dexedrine is dosed twice a day for the immediate-release form and once per day for the extended-release form.


Adderall is the brand-name medication containing both dextroamphetamine and l-amphetamine salts in a ratio of 3:1 d-amphetamine to l-amphetamine. Marketed as both an immediate-release and extended-release medication, Adderall has a similar mechanism, peak action, and half-life to Dexedrine.

Adderall immediate-release tablets are available in 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg strengths. Extended-release capsules are available in similar strengths.

As with Dexedrine, Adderall is generally given once in the morning and once at night in its immediate-release form and once per day in the extended-release form.

The Science Behind the Similarities of Dexedrine and Adderall

Adderall and Dexedrine are considered very similar medications that interact on the brain and body in much of the same way.

Since Adderall contains the same main ingredient as Dexedrine, with the addition of another amphetamine salt, the effects and side effects are similar.

Stimulants serve to increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. They also work to increase attention, focus, and concentration, and to manage impulsivity and hyperactivity as a result of ADHD.

The exact mechanisms of amphetamines are not precisely known; however, the journal Brain and Behavior postulates that ADHD stimulant medications may be effective due to their interaction with dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is one of the brain’s chemical messengers involved in the reward pathway, which also helps to regulate emotions, motivation, impulse control, movement, sleep, memory, and learning functions.

ADHD can make a person feel restless, have trouble paying attention, and experience difficulties with impulse control. Stimulant drugs like Dexedrine and Adderall can help to manage these symptoms.

Potential Dangers of Dexedrine and Adderall

Both Adderall and Dexedrine are metabolized in the liver, which can cause liver damage, especially in a person with hepatic impairment.

Due to the stimulant nature of the medications, there is an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular issues while using them. Toxic overdose can also occur when too much of either is taken, which can be fatal.

Dexedrine and Adderall are mind-altering medications, which can increase the odds for psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, mania, and panic attacks. A person might also experience increased aggression, hostility, violent behaviors, mood swings, and impaired cognition.

Side effects of both drugs can include the following:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Twitching
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Slowed growth in children
  • Seizures
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased blood pressure

Abuse and Addiction

Adderall and Dexedrine are also both very habit-forming with a high potential for abuse, drug dependence, and addiction. As such, they are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Over 1.5 million people in the United States were currently abusing stimulants at the time of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Stimulants can cause a euphoric high when abused. ADHD medications are commonly misused as “study drugs” to help people stay awake and focus to get ahead at school or work.

Adderall and Dexedrine are both drugs that are considered highly addictive, as regular use can lead to tolerance and dependence. When the brain gets used to stimulants interacting with its brain chemistry, it can be harder to stop taking them. Difficult withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings can occur when the drugs process out of the bloodstream.

Addiction occurs when drug use becomes compulsive. Despite attempts and a desire to stop using them, a person is unable to abstain.

Both Dexedrine and Adderall can be safe and effective when treating ADHD under the supervision and direction of a medical professional. Misuse of either of these medications is dangerous and has many negative consequences.


(April 2018). How are Dexedrine and Adderall Different? Medical News Today. Retrieved February 2019 from

Stimulant Equivalency Table. Matt Swenson, MD. Retrieved February 2019 from

(March 2007). Dexedrine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from

(March 2007). Adderall. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from

(September 2012). Prescription Stimulants in Individuals With and Without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Misuse, Cognitive Impact, and Adverse Effects. Brain and Behavior. Retrieved February 2019 from

(2017). Drugs of Abuse a DEA Resource Guide. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from

(September 2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from

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