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What is Adderall? | Chemistry, Use Cases, Dosage & Side Effects

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Adderall is a medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It works by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating focus and alertness. This medication can be incredibly helpful for those with ADHD or narcolepsy, but it also comes with potential side effects and risks. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a look at Adderall’s chemistry, use cases, dosage, and side effects. Let’s get started! 

Adderall High-Level Fact Sheet

Firstly, we will start by discussing Adderall’s chemical composition, legal status in the United States, and clinical data. We will delve into the details of its active ingredients, how it is being regulated by US law, and its identifiers.

Adderall Chemical Composition

Adderall is a combination of four different amphetamine compounds… amphetamine aspartate monohydrate (25%), amphetamine sulfate (25%), dextroamphetamine saccharate (25%), and dextroamphetamine sulfate (25%).

These compounds stimulate the brain to produce hormones, such as adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help control emotions and regulate physical activities like breathing and heart rate. 

These amphetamine salts also help with the release of serotonin into the brain, which helps to reduce stress levels and increase motivation.

Adderall Legal Status 

Although its benefits outweigh potential side effects for many users, it is still considered a controlled substance in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug, along with opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl. This means that strict control measures are in place to avoid potential misuse. 

As with most controlled substances, Adderall can only be acquired through a prescription from an authorized healthcare provider. Hoarding or using it without regular professional supervision is illegal and can have serious consequences.

Adderall Clinical Data

Adderall is a combination of two stimulant medications, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine that work together to increase focus and reduce hyperactivity in those with ADHD. 

Adderall is available in three strengths: 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg tablets. This medication can also be found under the trade names Adzenys XR-ODT, Dyanavel XR, Evekeo, ProCentra, Vyvanse, Mydayis, and Zenzedi. 

Some common street names for Adderall are speed, beans, beanies, black beauties, and uppers.

It belongs to the drug class known as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants which interact with specific receptors in the brain to help improve concentration and impulse control. 

Adderall Use Cases:

Over the years there have been numerous cases of individuals abusing Adderall for various reasons ranging from studying or working longer hours to attempting to lose weight or experience a “high.” Its use cases vary depending on the purpose and goals of the individual using it. 

Let’s take a look at a few of them:


Adderall is often prescribed to individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD and narcolepsy (a neurological disorder characterized by extreme daytime sleepiness). Its primary purpose is to help improve their ability to concentrate and focus on tasks for extended periods of time.

This can help individuals become more organized and productive in school or work settings by allowing them to complete their tasks more efficiently. Adderall has also been known to reduce impulsive behavior in patients who suffer from ADHD or similar disorders, allowing them to better control their actions and emotions. 

Performance Enhancement:

Many athletes across various platforms take small dosages of the drug during competitions or practices in order to boost their physical or mental performance levels temporarily. 

Students also commonly utilize this method when studying for exams or completing work-related projects; they believe that consuming small amounts of Adderall can increase their alertness and concentration levels which leads to better results later on. 

It should be noted however that long-term usage of this drug can lead to addiction as well as other negative symptoms such as insomnia or restlessness even after ceasing its consumption. 


Unfortunately, Adderall has been misused as a recreational drug due to its stimulating properties which are sought after by some users seeking a “high”. Taking high doses of the drug can result in heightened euphoria which is why it is sometimes abused for its euphoric effects rather than its intended medical uses. 

Some people also use Adderall to lose weight as it has been reported to suppress appetite.

Adderall dosages by form and strength:

It is available in two forms, Adderall tablets, and Adderall XR extended-release capsules, which are available in several different strengths. 

Tablets are available in 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg strengths; while extended-release capsules are available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 25 mg strengths. 

Dosage For ADHD

When taking Adderall tablets or capsules for ADHD treatment the recommended dosage depends on the age of the patient as well as their overall medical condition.

  • 18+ years… 10-30 mg per day divided into two or three doses throughout the day. 
  • Under 18 years… 5-10 mg per day depending on body weight and severity of symptoms.

Dosage For Narcolepsy

For treating narcolepsy patients aged 6-17 years are usually prescribed a starting dose of 10 mg once daily in the morning which can be increased by 10 mg at weekly intervals until an optimal response is seen with a maximum dosage of 30 mg per day for adolescents. 

For adults, it’s recommended to start with 20 mg taken either once or twice daily with gradual increases up to 60 mg per day if needed based on individual tolerance and response. 

Overall dosages should always be determined by a doctor after considering all factors including the patient’s age, specific medical condition as well as potential side effects, and safety concerns. 

Patients should never adjust their own dosages without consulting a doctor first nor take more than prescribed as this could result in serious medical complications due to Adderall overdoses such as irregular heartbeat, seizures, or even heart failure in rare cases.

Adderall Side Effects:

Adderall can be an effective treatment for ADHD but like all medications, it comes with its own set of side effects and risks. 

Common Side Effects on Adderall:

The most common side effects associated with using Adderall include:

decreased appetite

  • Weight Loss
  • Dry Mouth 
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches 
  • Stomachaches 

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Adderall, contact your doctor immediately as they may be signs that the dosage needs to be adjusted or that you are having an adverse reaction to the medication. 

Serious Side Effects on Adderall: 

Aside from the common side effects noted above, there are some more serious side effects associated with taking Adderall. These include changes in vision or blurred vision, signs of an allergic reaction (hives and difficulty breathing), chest pain or shortness of breath, seizures or convulsions, muscle twitches or tics, hallucinations, and hearing voices that do not exist. 

Adderall Long-Term Effects:

Long-term use of Adderall may also lead to a number of negative consequences. These are

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Increased Risk For Substance Use Disorders
  • Increased Feelings Of Depression Or Anxiety
  • Kidney Problems
  • Cardiac Complications
  • Increased Risk For Liver Problems
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness 
  • Psychosis 

Adderall Addiction: 

Adderall addiction is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States. This prescription drug, meant to help increase attentiveness and productivity, is often abused in high school and college campuses as a way to gain an academic edge. 

Adderall usage can be categorized as an addiction if one or more of these conditions are met:

  • Using more than the prescribed dose
  • Using for a longer period than prescribed
  • Using more frequently than prescribed

Adderall addiction can have devastating physical and psychological consequences in those who become dependent on it for subject focus or studying for exams. It has been linked to sleep deprivation, and increased risk of developing physical and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, cognitive deficits, and psychotic behavior. 

In addition to the physical harm that may result from abuse of this drug, addiction can tear apart relationships with family and friends as people struggle to cope with the behavior changes that come along with addiction.

Adderall abuse can also lead to financial hardship due to the high cost associated with acquiring the drug illegally. Those who suffer from addiction may also find it difficult to focus on their education or job performance, resulting in poorer academic and professional outcomes. 

Those who are addicted should seek professional help immediately in order to treat Adderall addiction and manage any long-term problems associated with it.

Seeking treatment for Adderall addiction is important since it can be managed through various evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), medication-based interventions, support groups, and individual counseling. 

Types of Drug Treatment for Adderall Addiction

To date, science hasn’t been able to develop an approved medication to treat Adderall addiction. Instead, the treatment for Adderall addiction revolves around helping a patient through the detoxification process.

The main philosophy is to slowly decrease the dosage over time until the patient no longer needs it to function normally. This process is called tapering and has been proven effective in treating Adderall abuse.

Since the detox process can be extremely stressful and painful for most patients, that is why doctors recommend going to an inpatient or intensive outpatient rehab facility. At such facilities, patients have access to comprehensive medical care and supervision to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms.

One of the most important things to remember while trying to overcome Adderall addiction is to never go cold turkey i.e. trying to quit it at once, as the severe withdrawal from it can have life-threatening consequences or in some cases can be fatal.

In addition to these medical therapies, doctors may also recommend psychotherapy or CBT to identify the root cause of addiction as well as provide them with tools to cope with the cravings they may experience while in recovery. 

With this approach patients are able to successfully break free from their Adderall addiction with greater safety and improved chances for long-term freedom from the drug.

Adderall Withdrawal:  

Adderall withdrawal can be a challenging experience for those who are addicted to the drug. Normally it is used to treat neurological disorders but unfortunately, sometimes can be used as a recreational substance due to its energizing effects as a “quick fix” for productivity or relaxation. 

Unfortunately, many users become dependent on Adderall after regular use and may struggle with withdrawal when discontinuing or reducing the use of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall can vary from person to person depending on how long it has been taken and in what doses. 

Common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include fatigue, cravings, depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches and pains, insomnia, vivid dreaming or nightmares, lack of appetite, and decreased libido.

Physical symptoms such as nausea tend to occur within 48 hours of last taking Adderall but psychological symptoms such as cravings may not occur until days later. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can last for 5 weeks after discontinuation. 

It is important for those struggling with addiction to seek professional help when discontinuing the use of the drug since untreated withdrawal can lead to dangerous medical complications such as seizures or suicidal thoughts. 

Medically supervised detoxification programs provide access to medical professionals that can monitor health and provide necessary treatment during the process of withdrawal in order to ensure safety throughout recovery. 

Commonly Seen Adderall Drug Combinations: 

Some commonly used Adderall drug combinations are:


One of the most commonly seen Adderall drug combinations is a mix of Adderall and Ritalin. This combination is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as these two drugs work in different ways to control the symptoms associated with this condition. Adderall gives users a boost in energy, alertness, and focus, while Ritalin helps relax and calm them down. Together, they can help an individual with ADHD stay focused on the task and have more control over their emotions and behavior. 

Adderall + Zoloft

Another common combination with Adderall is Adderall + Zoloft. This is often prescribed to individuals who suffer from both ADHD and depression. The stimulant properties of Adderall help reduce hyperactivity, while Zoloft acts as an antidepressant to reduce anxiousness or sadness. Taking this combination can help those suffering from both conditions maintain focus and concentration while alleviating any negative emotional states. 

Adderall + Prozac

Adderall + Prozac is another frequently prescribed combination for individuals struggling with ADHD who also suffer from anxiety or mood disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Prozac helps regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which can alleviate feelings of worry or agitation that are sometimes associated with ADHD, while Adderall improves focus and concentration so tasks can be completed more efficiently. 

Adderall Facts and Statistics:

Adderall has become increasingly popular among college students as a “study drug” or “smart pill” due to its ability to improve concentration and focus. However, there are many potential side effects associated with misusing this powerful medication.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 11% of Americans aged 18-25 reported using prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons between 2016 and 2017. 

In 2018, there were more than 63 million prescriptions for Adderall written in the United States alone. This number has been steadily increasing in recent years – in 2012, there were around 50 million prescriptions written. 

The prevalence of Adderall misuse is especially high among college students, with 20% reporting misuse according to a study from 2018. Additionally, nearly 1 in 5 college students have admitted to purchasing Adderall without a prescription or sharing their own prescriptions with others for academic benefit. 

Adderall History and Cultural Impact: 

Adderall was first sold by the pharmaceutical company Richwood Pharmaceuticals in 1996 and has since become one of the most commonly prescribed psychoactive medications in the United States. 

The drug gained mainstream notoriety in 2005 when it made headlines for being the performance-enhancing drug of choice for high school and college students who were looking to increase their academic performance. 

This sparked a debate about whether or not Adderall should be considered a dangerous street drug, or simply a helpful tool for students with legitimate medical needs. 

Throughout its history, Adderall has been connected to numerous famous cases and personalities. For example, in 2012, the National Football League suspended a record number of players because of drug-related suspensions especially, Adderall abuse.

Similarly, singer Britney Spears famously blamed her erratic behavior during her 2007 breakdown on Adderall addiction. More recently, actor Shia LaBeouf was arrested in 2017 after an altercation at a Broadway performance; it later emerged that he had been taking Adderall before the incident took place. 

Adderall also had a major impact on popular culture. Famous movies such as Limitless (2011) have portrayed Adderall use in a positive light which has contributed to its popularity among young adults looking for short-term performance benefits. 

On the other hand, movies like Requiem for A Dream portray the physical, emotional, and social devastation that comes with using drugs. These films helped bring to light the devastating issue of Adderall abuse that can start from something as simple as trying to lose weight or maintaining focus while working. 

In addition to its presence in popular culture, Adderall has had an impact on public health policies across the United States too; prompting healthcare agencies like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue warnings about using non-prescribed stimulants such as ‘study drugs’ among college students due to their potential dangers of addiction or withdrawal symptoms when used without medical supervision or guidance from qualified professionals. 

Adderall Identifiers 

Here is a list of identifiers you can use to gain information about the drug safety and standards of Adderall.

Identifier Name Identifier ID
CAS Number 300-62-9 check 51-64-9
PubChem CID 3007
DrugBank DB00182 
ChemSpider 13852819 
KEGG D11624 
CHEBI 2679
ChEMBL 405

Bottom Line: Adderall in the United States 

It is quite evident that Adderall use has increased multifold in the United States over the recent years. Though it is mostly taken for non-medical reasons, it cannot be denied that a large section of the population does abuse this medication. 

The improper and recreational use of Adderall can have several short-term as well as long-term side effects which may even lead to death in severe cases. Banning the drug is not a solution as it has been proven to help patients with ADHD retain their focus and enhance performance. 

Hence, it becomes imperative to increase public awareness about the proper usage of this drug and the risks associated with its unsupervised usage.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.