Dextroamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that may be prescribed for symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The medication is prescribed as both a generic and branded product (e.g., Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi) and is available in oral solution, tablet, and extended-release capsule forms. The combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine is branded as Adderall, which is also used as an ADHD medication.1,2
Research shows that the number of people misusing these stimulants has dramatically increased over recent years.3 In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classified dextroamphetamine as a Schedule II stimulant, meaning that it has accepted medical use but also a high potential for abuse.3
What Are Some of the Effects?
The physical effects of prescription stimulants such as dextroamphetamine include:4
- Increased wakefulness.
- Suppressed appetite.
- Increased focus and attention.
- Feelings of euphoria.
When taken in larger doses or by routes other than prescribed (such as snorting or injecting), stimulants can lead to a spike in dopamine release, resulting in a disruption of normal brain cell signaling and a pronounced euphoria, which may increase the risk of addiction in some people.4
Side effects of dextroamphetamine may include:1
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Uncontrollable body shakes.
- Dry mouth.
- Changes in sex drive.
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Some side effects, when experienced, could indicate the need for immediate medical intervention. Such serious effects include:1
- Fast, pounding heartbeat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Abnormal body movements.
- Aggressive or hostile behavior.
- Feelings of paranoia.
- Changes in vision.
- Pain, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Unexplained lesions or wounds appearing on the fingers or toes.
Similar to other stimulant medications, it is possible to overdose on dextroamphetamine. An overdose may include some of the above symptoms and can also progress to loss of consciousness and coma.1
Signs of Abuse
Any misuse of dextroamphetamine, whether it is obtained via prescription or illicitly, can lead to compulsive substance abuse and addiction development. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), warning signs include:5
- Taking more dextroamphetamine than intended.
- An inability to quit or reduce dextroamphetamine use despite the desire to do so.
- Spending excessive amounts of time or energy around obtaining and using dextroamphetamine.
- Experiencing cravings for the drug.
- Continuing to use it in lieu of home, work, or school obligations.
- Using dextroamphetamine in physically hazardous situations.
- Experiencing a tolerance for the drug (needing more to achieve the desired effects).
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting back on or stopping the drug.
If you develop significant physiological Adderall dependence and attempt to suddenly quit the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include:5,6
- Dysphoric or depressed mood.
- Increased appetite.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- Vivid or unpleasant dreams.
- Poor concentration.
- Intensified drug cravings.
Stimulant withdrawal symptoms can occur within the first few days of abstinence and they can persist for as long as 3–4 weeks.6 While stimulant withdrawal is not inherently life-threatening, the symptoms can feel highly distressing and uncomfortable. And, if the person also abuses other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin), additional medical precautions may be necessary, since the combined withdrawal syndrome associated with these substances can be fatal if left untreated.6
Exhibiting or experiencing some of the above signs and symptoms within the last 12 months may indicate the presence of a substance use disorder. If you suspect that you or someone you love has developed a substance use disorder, addiction treatment can help.
Treatment for Dextroamphetamine Addiction
For most people, detox represents the first step toward achieving sustained sobriety. During the detox process, the body eliminates the dextroamphetamine and any other toxic substances from its system.6 As part of a detox program, a patient receives supervision and medical intervention, if needed, during the acute withdrawal period.
While it is possible to detox from stimulants on your own, it may not always be advisable, as certain medical and safety risks have been known to arise. For example, a very depressed patient may experience suicidal ideation during acute stimulant withdrawal; appropriate medical support would allow for monitoring of those symptoms as well as necessary intervention if needed.6 Such structure is also important for patients who may have other co-occurring mental disorders, preexisting physical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, or polysubstance use.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating stimulant withdrawal, but some patients may receive supportive medications such as sleeping aids for insomnia and antidepressants for significantly severe depressive symptoms, should they arise during withdrawal.6
Detox alone is not a substitute for comprehensive substance abuse treatment, though, since it does not adequately equip the patient with appropriate coping skills for managing the obstacles that often arise in recovery. However, most detox programs provide referrals for long-term addiction treatment. Some inpatient rehabilitation programs incorporate detox into the first part of the overall treatment plan.
Evidence-based treatment for stimulants such as dextroamphetamine may include:
- Contingency Management: Contingency management provides immediate reinforcement or punishing consequences when a targeted behavior occurs. It can work on a reward-based system where patients earn incentives for positive actions.7
- The Matrix Model: The Matrix Model integrates principles from motivational interviewing, psychoeducation, family therapy, and 12-step programs with the goal of providing consistency and structured expectations for each patient.7
- Behavioral Family/Couples Therapy: As many people with substance use disorders struggle with relationship problems, therapy can help support and improve the dynamics in the patient’s interpersonal relationships.7
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely applied psychotherapeutic approach for treating substance use disorders because it helps people identify maladaptive cognitive distortions and shift them into more realistic thoughts under the belief that more realistic thoughts will yield more adaptive behavior.8
For many, recovery represents a lifelong journey, and people often stay connected through support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or individual therapy to take care of their well-being.
If you or someone you love abuses or is addicted to dextroamphetamine, know that hope and healing is always available.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Dextroamphetamine.
- Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Fact Sheet- Amphetamines.
- Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain and Behavior, 2(5), 661–677.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders: Chapter 3- Approaches to Treatment.
- McHugh, R. K., Hearon, B. A., & Otto, M. W. (2010). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3), 511–525.