By Tammy Preston, MS

Brand Names: Adderall®, Adderall XR®

Generic Name: amphetamine (am-FET-uh-meen) with dextroamphetamine (dex-trow-am-FET-uh-meen)

Manufacturer: Shire Pharmaceuticals

Adderall® for Adults

Adderall® is a medication that must be prescribed by a doctor and is the brand name for a combination of amphetamine salts that function as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, and have been FDA approved for the treatment of both childhood and adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy in adults.

Adderall® is now available in generic versions. Generic Adderall® is offered by Ranbaxy, Sandoz, and Teva Pharmaceutical.

What Is Adderall XR®?

Adderall® is now available in an extended release version that lasts for 24 hours, called Adderall XR® (an abbreviation for eXtended Release). Adderall XR® is an extended-release version of the drug that only needs to be taken once daily and is only indicated for childhood and adult ADHD, not narcolepsy. The XR formulation is still patented, meaning that it will not be available in generic form until at least 2019.

How Adderall® Works

Although it is not known exactly how Adderall® works, it is believed to increase the flow of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that carry the signal between neurons (cells of the nervous system). This can result in an increase in a person’s ability to focus over extended periods of time.

Adderall® and Adderall XR® Dose

Adderall® is an oral mediation available in capsule form. The individual dosages for both Adderall® and Adderall XR® range from 5 – 30 milligrams (mg).

Time for Adderall® to take Effect

Although the time required for Adderall® to take effect may be different for each individual, instant-release drugs in this class generally take 1 – 3 hours. The amount of instant release Adderall® in the bloodstream peaks at about 3 hours. Adderall XR® lasts 24 hours, with the dose peaking about 8 hours after it is taken.

Is Adderall® and Adderall XR® Effective for Adult ADHD?

Adderall® has been used to treat ADHD in both children and adults for many years. In 2004, the Harvard investigators involved in analysis of Adderall XR® Phase III trials in adults concluded that the drug significantly improved subjects’ ability to maintain focus, concentrate, and pay attention for longer periods of time [1].

What is the Effect of Adderall® for Adult ADHD on Sports Performance?

Stimulants used in Adderall® have been shown to improve sports performance, particularly maximum heart rates and time to exhaustion during exercise.

Adderall® and Adderall XR® Minor Side Effects
Adderall® and Aderall XR® are generally considered safe and effective for adults. Common side effects are similar to those typically associated with the use of stimulants, and include:
· Dry mouth
· Loss of appetite
· Difficulty falling asleep
· Weight loss

Adderall® and Adderall XR® Precautions
Addiction & Abuse
Studies have been done to address concern that use of stimulant medications may lead to later drug dependency and abuse. Although untreated adult ADHD has been linked to an increased risk of substance abuse later in life [2], the likelihood of future drug abuse disorder is actually decreased when adult ADHD is properly treated [3].

Still, because Adderall® and Aderall XR® are amphetamines and stimulants, there is the potential for abuse. So this medication is not recommended for people who have a history of drug abuse.

Cardiac Precautions
Adderall® and other amphetamines may not be right for you if you have a history of heart problems, such as hardened arteries (arteriosclerosis), heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or any other pre-existing cardiac condition.

Other Precautions
The drug is also not recommended for people with overactive thyroid, glaucoma, epilepsy and seizure disorders, severe anxiety or agitation and those who have taken MAO inhibitors within the past two weeks. Before taking Adderall® or Aderall XR®, be sure to tell your doctor if you have any of these problems.

Pregnancy Category C
Like all other adult ADHD medications, Adderall® and Aderall XR® are considered “category C” medications, which means that although no human studies have been done, based on animal studies it is thought that they may be harmful to an unborn baby.

This drug can also pass into breast milk and may be harmful to your baby if you nurse. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while you are being treated for adult ADHD.

Total Treatment of Adult Attention Hyperactivity Disorder
Adderall®, Aderall XR®, or any medication used to treat Adult ADHD, should be used as a part of a total treatment program. Comprehensive treatment of the adult ADHD often includes education, support groups, regular doctor appointments and therapy or counseling.

Adderall Withdrawal
If you stop taking Adderall, you may well end up with withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms are worse the longer you have been taking Adderall and the higher the dose you were taking. The main withdrawal symptom is extreme fatigue. Other withdrawal symptoms include negative mood, ranging from lack of motivation to depression. Symptoms can last from a few days to a few months.

Adderall Shortages
There is currently a shortage of Adderall in the United States. Adderall has been added to the official FDA drug shortages list. Many people with adult ADHD have, unfortunately, shown up at their local pharmacy to find that the pharmacy is out of stock. The reason for the shortage is that the DEA sets quotas for how much of various drug ingredients can be manufactured each year. As a result, not enough has been produced to meet the growing demand for Adderall.

Anecdotally, we have heard that pharmacies in ethnic neighborhoods are more likely to have Adderall in stock, in case you are having trouble finding it near you.

Share Your Experiences!
What have your experiences with Adderall been? Let us know about any successes or problems you’ve had taking Adderall for adult ADHD in the comments.

1. Biederman, J, M.D. (2004) Long-Term Safety and Efficacy of Mixed Amphetamine Salts Extended-Release for Adult ADHD. APA Presentation # 106
2. Richardson. (2005) When Too Much Isn’t Enough, Ending The Destructive Cycle of AD/HD and Addictive Behavior, Pinon Press
3. Wilens, et al. (2003) Does Stimulant Therapy of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Beget Later Substance Abuse? A Meta-analytic Review of the Literature, Pediatrics Vol. 111 (1).
4. Shire US Inc., Prescribing Information sheet for Adderall XR.


  1. I am supposed to be on Adderall, but it was too expensive so I was on Ritalin for awhile. I stopped taking it, because I didn’t like the side effects. I am on Cymbalta now for depression, and my Doctor says that Cymbalta and Ritalin don’t mix, so I haven’t bothered asking for Ambien, but I would like to try it if I was ever Rx. it.

  2. D Adams says:

    Being older there was no such thing as ADD when I was growing up. I heard about it but always thought it was about daydreamers who couldn’t so still. When my inability to stay on task and meet deadlines became an issue with my new job I mentioned it to my doc when I was in her office for foot pain. Am sôooo glad I did! Never in a million years did I think I had ADD. She prescribed Adderall and it has changed my life for the better by far. I can concentrate now and get things done easier and faster. Have to drink more but I should have been taking in more water anyway. Filled first prescription at third pharmacy I went to that s frequented by elderly due to it’s close proximity to a retirement community.

  3. Currently I’m prescribed 30mg fast acting 2 times a day. I feel that the dose is still to weak what should I say to my doctor?

  4. Pleasant Surprise says:

    I’ve been taking Adderall for over one year: 10mg x 2/day. This has been a very positive experience which I hope will continue.

    This year, I will turn 64 years-old. Thanks to Adderall, I have crawled out of my ‘cave’ and resumed participating in LIFE! My ADD has improved, as has my general outlook on life.

    My ADD, which was treated with Ritalin for decades is much better, as is my general frame of mind.

    I monitor my blood pressure regularly and make certain I am in a healthy range: not hypertensive.

    Over the past year, I’ve lost 35 lbs of fat, reduced my BMI from a morbidly obese 35 to approx. 17. I go to the gym at least 5 days a week for cardio, stretch, and relatively light resistance training. (I’m NOT bragging, this is simply a fact….one that could reverse in a heartbeat….As a rule, I’m not a highly physical person….so this IS new).

    I credit Adderall with helping me design a healthy diet with no red meat and lots of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken breasts, organic brown rice, and fruits (THANK YOU, COSTCO!).

    While I recognize that at my age, I could drop dead at any minute, I’m actually enjoying what’s left of my life much more than before. I’ve begun listening to music (my life-long passion which I let go), going to movies, reading, gardening and, within reason, visiting with ‘friends’. House cleaning is still a challenge, but that’s because I’m more interested in something /anything else.

    My next goal is to paint my condo, but I’m not convinced I’ll be able to complete the job without some professional help.

    All-in-all, Adderall has been a ‘life-saver’….The ‘pros’ far outway the ‘cons’ (although, I haven’t experienced any ‘cons’).

    I’m not interested in abusing what works so well. I’m grateful to my MDs for their willingness to allow me to take this medication.

  5. I would never have any friends with out it

  6. Michael Smith says:

    Pleasant Surprise — what was your diagnosis that led to the adderall prescription?


  7. Pleasant Surprise says:

    Michael Smith – Why don’t you simply give me a call, then I can tell you all about it. :-)

    You see, your name is that of someone I know and would love to hear from.

    If you’re not the same Michael Smith, sorry.

    The diagnosis is ADD.

    All the same, be well.

  8. I’m just reaching 1.75 yrs. on Adderall. I want to reiterate how positive this treatment has been for me.

    I’m still dedicated to healthy living and enjoying dipping my toes back into LIFE.

    Occassionally, when I encounter an unpleasant situation, I notice my proclivity for grinding or spinning out of control in a very negative direction, happens more rapidly, but I am able to STOP the thought process and redirect my thinking before I get stuck in some sort of schema fabrication.

    I’ve taken a lot of personal inventory and when confronted with a situation I find intolerable, I now speak up, ask for explanation: confirm my understanding, then, if I feel betrayed, mistreated, etc., I address the person and/or situation head on.

    I try not to act hastily, although my mind may feel it’s already figured things out. I try to check my understanding of events before I speak, and once I’m certain of my understanding, I present my position.

    I’ve had to cut loose a long-term friend because of this new-found confidence. While I wish him the best, I can’t be there when he, once again, hits a dead-end. He’ll be fine without me. We’ll be fine without each other.

    I think this is due to my new outlook on life thanks to Adderall. I don’t see it as simply being a narcissist. The drug literally helps me define ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ (I don’t mean to sound self-righteous…I’m talking about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for ME).

    Over the past six months, I’ve been willing and able to do some travelling. The new sense of focus that Adderall gives me often decreases the mundane. Alas! I’m begining to see ‘colors’ again…taking an interest in the world around me.

    ‘Life’ no longer seems like a sad chore.

    Now, about painting my apartment? No progress to report, but I’m okay with that.

  9. Thanks for all of your contributions and feedback Pleasant Surprise!

  10. Administrator – Thank you for your effort in supporting this site. :-)

  11. Argh! Where do I start. I have a ncp as a dr who gave me lexapro and zanax for my issue. Heres my problem… I cant remember anything. Like literally 5 minutes ago I have to focus so hard on what happened. My mind races 900 mph at times and at times its blank but like its still spinning. Make any sense? Tried strattera. Failed a massive test in school. It made my mind stand still and my body was racing. I was also mean, very mean. Im a 33 yr old female btw. My two oldest kids 14 and 13 have adhd and so its assumed that I have it too. Ive worked so hard to get to where I am but no matterhow hard I study I cant remember what I have read.

  12. It truly depresses me that I cannot focus on anything from work to college. I’m really hoping aderol will help me.

  13. First, this drug has the potential to greatly help people, however, due to the risks involved, it may not be for everyone. Often I hear of people wanting to take adderall to lose weight, study for an exam, or party harder on the weekends. Trust me, folks. This is not a healthy way to lose extra lbs or become a weekend bar room hero. If taken properly, it can really help with a lot of areas in life though!

    I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, took this medication from early childhood throughout high school, and stopped using it for a few years because I joined the military. When I resumed taking the drug last year, I was instantly plagued with weight loss. Considering that I lost a ton of muscle mass in the process, this was not a good result for me. Make sure you follow the directions and take this medicine after eating a full meal! Running at a higher performance level with no ‘fuel’ is terrible for you. While you may not feel hungry, your body still needs food. For a few months I struggled with weight loss and it was awful. A healthy diet/exercise combo is what finally got me back on track. For those who are struggling with this same issue, the answer is simple. EAT!

    Also, cutting caffeine may be a good idea when taking this drug. I noticed that drinking a cup of coffee on this medication makes me feel as though I drank about 10. Cutting caffeine could also help with the sleep issue I am about to discuss below. Similar to the weight loss side effect, it also made me less thirsty, and my mouth was always dry. Giving caffeine the boot and replacing it with water helped me maintain a healthy hydration cycle too.

    My sleep schedule was the next area that took a jab once I began using Adderall again. On a side note; I can’t stress it enough, but this medication must be taken exactly as the doctor tells you to take it. Seriously, this stuff is no joke. If you take a dose too late in the afternoon, falling asleep may become a near impossible chore, when in reality it should be the relaxing point of your day. Getting yourself on the right dose of this stuff is the key to making it successfuly do it’s purpose.

    When I first came back on the drug, I was taking 2, 20mg XR tablets (1 in the morning, and 1 at lunch) a day. After fighting the sand man for a month, I decided this was not the dose for me and asked to have my afternoon dose switched to the instant release tablets instead. This greatly helped me get a normal sleep pattern again.

    People tend to have the stigma that because you have to see a doctor to change your dose, “it’s not worth the trip”, or “they will try putting me on a new drug instead like they did the last 20 times.” This is false! My doctor was actually happy that I came in, and was glad I was paying attention to the effects the drug had on me. We discussed the issues I was having and I was able to walk out that same day with my new dose.

    If taken in healthy doses, it can be effective. But if the sole purpose of taking this drug is to get you through a 12 hour work day and go fight crime throughout the night, this drug will/may, in time, completely burn you out. If this is your motive, you may want to explore other areas to improve your rest/work schedule before resorting to adderall. Not only that, but using it in an unhealthy way greatly increases your risk of abusing the drug. As stated above, this stuff is not a joke. Abusing it could seriously take a toll on your health and create more problems in the long term.

  14. ChrisCo: Excellent post. Thanks for explaining things so well.

  15. i am 28 years old and have been taking adderall for 4 years straight to help me with my job. I do not abuse the drug and only take it as i am prescribed. I started taking 30mg xr for the first two years, gained a tolerance and got prescribed another 15mg ir for the late afternoon. i was steady on that for 2 years, now i have switched jobs and my job now their is no need to have that much mental energy put into it. It is a lot more layed back job and i find myself trying to be too assertive and worrying when their is no need. So i have stopped the 15 ir in the afternoon and it has helped a lot, now i am going back to the dr. to see if i can lower my 30xr to 20xr because it still feels like too much sometimes.

    Moral of this: Do not take adderall for energy if you are tired, It only helps you focus.
    Once i realized the proper way to take it, i realized i don’t need as much as i thought. LESS IS MORE!

  16. ChrisCo, Branden and Pleasant… Do you recommend a good forum for us adults. Very apropos, I was diagnosed in “ADHD Awareness month” this October just a few weeks ago, with ADHD, though I had myself convinced that if I had anything it was ADD…my results spoke otherwise. Impulsive you say? I have to say yes!

    So, all three of you have great posts and sound like you have good heads on your shoulders. I am trying to find some good places to go to read, share and learn. I tripped on this post looking at whether I could take a caffeine pill with my Adderall 10mg xr. I was so exhausted, after getting a lot of sleep this weekend, and I am used to drinking a lot of diet coke and have read and heard it isn’t too acidic to take with my “xr” . If I have any I have it later in the afternoon. I have switched to flavored selter and water during most of the day.

    I am a neophyte at this with only taking it for my 5th day now. I am very tuned in to my body and trying to keep good logs for my Dr. So far I have not had the AH HA she suggested I would definitely feel, but I feel a little “something”, but very little. I know its a low dose and I go tomorrow to fill her in and get adjusted if she thinks it’s appropriate. She intimated that she might likely add an IR dose in the afternoon. Suspecting it was going to be a low dose for me based on where my ADHD has taken me etc.

    Thank you for sharing all of our positive and candid anecdotes. Please keep it up and if you know of any great forums where like minded people reside, please let me know.


  17. I have been taking Adderall XR for about two years. When my husband changed jobs recently, I found out that his medical insurance only covers the generic. I went ahead and filled it only to find out the hard way that the generic didn’t work for me. Not only was the generic ineffective, but I had withdrawals at the same time. Has anyone else had this experience?

  18. Hello Amy – Happy to hear from you. RE: Annonymous ADD forums – No, I don’t know of any, but truthfully, I haven’t looked very hard.

    Like you, I stumbled onto this site and have enjoyed reading all the encouraging posts.

    My life-long ADD struggle has been coupled with chronic depression ( a morbid sense of hopelessness ). This depression began responding positively to Zoloft approx. 18 yrs. ago in conjunction to the Ritalin I was already taking.

    There was some improvement, but over time, I felt like none of the pills were REALLY HELPING. The Ritalin had become more of an irritant than a psycho-stimulent. So, I stopped taking it approx. 6mos. to a year before I began taking Adderall.

    My “Ah-Ha Moment” happened virtually immediately. After years of obsessing over losing control of my body (weight gain through inertia from growing anhedonia) I joined a convenient gym and hired a personal trainer. These were drastic actions which were only made possible with the help of Adderall. Suddenly, I could justify the expense of a personal trainer and I seriously upgraded my eating habits thanks to his recommendations.

    It was as if ‘someone’ flipped a switch and off I went: keeping in mind that this too could pass and to take it one day at a time.

    1-1/2 yrs. later, I’m still on track.

    It’s great that you keep a journal. Not only does it help organize your thoughts, over time, it will show you where you are going, or want to be (huh?)….Whatever…keep it up.

    I always feel I need to point out that I am now retired and thereby free from so many of life’s daily distractions, hassels and personalities.

    If I were in a new job, I would hold off on the medication until I had a working knowledge of my job duties. There’s a fine line between being securely focused and being hyper alert. For me, it takes time for me to feel comfortable in a new job, friendship, social activity….I don’t want to confuse my mind with my intuition (again, HUH?).

    Having said that, Adderall is a great companion.

    Good luck and stay in touch. Cheers!

  19. I as just diagnosed with ADD at the age of 44. Its being 4 days taking Adderall 10mg in the morning and 10mg in the afternoon, I have all the side effects but I don’t feel any difference than before. Low dosage or should I give it more days to work.


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