Adderall and Adderall XR (amphetamine / dextroamphetamine)

Medically Reviewed By Heather Bruce, PharmD

This drug has a boxed warning, the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Adderall and Adderall XR have a risk of misuse and dependence. (Misuse happens when a drug is taken differently from how it was prescribed. It’s also sometimes called abuse. Dependence happens when your body relies on a drug to feel as you usually do.) Misuse of Adderall and Adderall XR can cause serious side effects, some of which may be fatal.

Because of this risk, doctors typically will not prescribe Adderall and Adderall XR for people who’ve had drug dependence or alcohol use disorder. These conditions can increase the risk of dependence with Adderall and Adderall XR.

Before taking Adderall or Adderall XR, your doctor will discuss the risk of misuse and dependence with you. They’ll likely monitor your risk from time to time while you’re taking the drug.

To learn more, see the “ Adderall and Adderall XR: Side effects” section below.

About Adderall and Adderall XR

Adderall and Adderall XR are brand-name prescription medications. They’re approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following conditions.

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Doctors can prescribe Adderall for adults and children ages 3 years and older with ADHD. And they can prescribe Adderall XR for adults and children ages 6 years and older with this condition. ADHD causes trouble with certain behaviors, such as staying focused and controlling impulses.
  • Narcolepsy. Doctors can prescribe Adderall to treat narcolepsy in adults and children age 6 years and older. However, Adderall XR isn’t approved for this use. This condition is a sleep disorder that causes uncontrollable daytime sleepiness.

For more information about these conditions and how the drugs are used to treat them, see the “Adderall and Adderall XR: Uses” section below.

Adderall vs. Adderall XR

Adderall is available in two forms:

  • Adderall, which is the immediate-release (IR) form. IR means the drug is released into your body as soon as you take it.
  • Adderall XR, which is the extended-release (ER) form. ER means the drug is released slowly into your body over time.

To learn more about how the forms of Adderall and Adderall XR compare, see the “Adderall and Adderall XR: Dosage” section below.

Key points

The following table provides key facts about Adderall and Adderall XR.

Active drugs amphetamine/dextroamphetamine
Drug class central nervous system (CNS) stimulant
Forms • Adderall: IR oral tablet
• Adderall XR: ER oral capsule
Controlled substance schedule Schedule II*

* This means the drug has approved medical uses, but it also carries a risk for misuse. Higher drug schedules carry a higher risk for misuse.

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in taking this drug, search here to find a doctor who might prescribe it.

Availability, October 2022

There is currently a shortage of Adderall in the United States. Learn more here. (Current as of October 2022.)

Adderall and Adderall XR: Generic

Adderall and Adderall XR are brand-name medications. They contain the active drugs amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which also come in a generic form. A generic is an identical copy of the active drug found in a brand-name medication.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that generic drugs are as safe and effective as their original drug. Generics tend to be less expensive than brand-name drugs.

If you’d like to know about using the generic version of Adderall or Adderall XR, ask your doctor or pharmacist. They can tell you if the generic medication comes in forms and strengths recommended for your condition.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Side effects

As with most drugs, it’s possible to have side effects with Adderall and Adderall XR. These can include some mild side effects, but also some serious ones.

To learn more about Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may also provide information about managing certain side effects of this drug.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Adderall or Adderall XR, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild and serious side effects

Mild and serious side effects of Adderall and Adderall XR are listed in the table below. This table does not include all of Adderall and Adderall XR’s possible side effects.

Mild side effects* Serious side effects
dry mouth • agitation
nausea and loss of appetite • lack of blood flow to your fingers and toes, which could include Raynaud’s phenomenon
insomnia heart problems, such as heart palpitations, heart attack, stroke, and increases in heart rate or blood pressure
constipation or diarrhea allergic reaction
hair loss • mental health conditions, such as psychosis,† mania, anxiety, and depression
• sweating • risk of misuse
fatigue • risk of dependence
dizziness  
weight loss  
urinary tract infection (UTI)  
blurred vision  
headache  

* This is not a complete list of Adderall and Adderall XR’s mild side effects. To learn about other mild side effects of these drugs, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Or you can view the prescribing information for Adderall and Adderall XR.
† For more information about this side effect, see “Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects explained” below.
‡ Adderall and Adderall XR have a boxed warning for this risk. This is the most serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see “Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects explained” below.

Most times, mild side effects of a drug go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if any side effects become severe or don’t go away.

Serious side effects from Adderall and Adderall XR aren’t common, but they are possible. If you have serious side effects, call your doctor right away. However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects in children

Adderall is approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children ages 3 years and older. It’s also approved to treat narcolepsy in children ages 6 years and older. Adderall XR is approved to treat ADHD in children ages 6 years and older.

Many of Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects are expected to be the same in children as they are in adults.

Certain side effects of Adderall and Adderall XR in children haven’t been reported in adults.* Examples include:

Other side effects, such as nervousness and rapid mood changes, were rarely reported in adults. However, they were commonly reported in children.

In addition, Adderall and Adderall XR may cause delayed growth in children who take these medications long term. Doctors will typically monitor the height and weight of children taking Adderall or Adderall XR. They’ll compare these measurements with the usual growth rates for the child’s age. If a doctor finds signs of delayed growth, they may have the child stop taking Adderall or Adderall XR.

* Unlike Adderall XR, the manufacturer of Adderall hasn’t specified which side effects occurred in children compared with adults. However, both Adderall and Adderall XR contain the active ingredients amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. For this reason, the side effects of both forms are generally expected to be the same.

Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects explained

Below, you can find detailed information about some of Adderall and Adderall XR’s side effects. To learn more about other side effects of this medication, talk with your doctor. 

Risk of misuse and dependence

Adderall and Adderall XR have a boxed warning for the risk of misuse and dependence. This is a serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Misuse happens when a drug is taken differently from how it was prescribed. It’s also sometimes called abuse. Dependence happens when your body relies on a drug to feel as you usually do. Misuse of Adderall and Adderall XR can cause serious side effects, some of which may be fatal.

Misuse and dependence weren’t reported as side effects in clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, stimulant drugs are known to have this risk. (Adderall and Adderall XR are stimulant drugs.)  

Symptoms of misuse with Adderall and Adderall XR include:

Because of this risk, doctors typically will not prescribe Adderall and Adderall XR for people who’ve had drug dependence or alcohol use disorder. These conditions can increase the risk of dependence with Adderall and Adderall XR.

If you suddenly stop taking Adderall and Adderall XR after your body has become dependent on them, you may have withdrawal symptoms. Examples include increased appetite, fatigue, and unusual dreams.

What to do

Before prescribing Adderall or Adderall XR, your doctor will discuss the risk of misuse and dependence with you. They’ll likely monitor your risk from time to time while you’re taking the drug.

If you have symptoms of misuse with Adderall or Adderall XR, tell your doctor right away. They may prescribe a different medication for you. However, if you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

Do not stop taking Adderall or Adderall XR unless your doctor tells you it’s safe to do so. If your doctor feels it’s safe, they may reduce your dosage slowly over time. This will lower your risk of having withdrawal symptoms when Adderall or Adderall XR is stopped.

If you’re concerned about misuse and dependence with Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide

Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Headache

Headache was a common side effect in clinical studies of Adderall XR. It’s not known how common this side effect was in clinical studies of Adderall.

To find out how often this side effect occurred in clinical studies of Adderall XR, see the drug’s prescribing information.

What to do

If you have a severe, persistent, or bothersome headache with Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ways to help relieve your headache. For example, your doctor may recommend that you take ibuprofen (Advil) to manage this side effect.

Psychosis

In rare cases, Adderall and Adderall XR may cause new or worsened psychosis. To learn more about how often this side effect occurred in clinical studies, see the prescribing information for Adderall and Adderall XR.

Psychosis is a mental health condition. Symptoms of psychosis include:

  • delusions, which refers to believing things that aren’t real
  • hallucinations, which refers to seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there
  • disorganized behaviors or thoughts, which include behaviors that don’t fit well with a certain situation, such as laughing in response to a sad situation or wearing clothes that don’t match the weather

People who have a personal or family history of psychosis may have a higher risk of this side effect.

What to do

Before starting treatment with Adderall or Adderall XR, tell your doctor if you or a family member has a history of psychosis. They can advise whether it’s safe for you to take Adderall or Adderall XR.

If you have symptoms of psychosis while taking Adderall or Adderall XR, tell your doctor right away. They’ll likely have you stop taking the drug and will recommend ways to ease your symptoms.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Adderall or Adderall XR. A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible.

It’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical studies of Adderall. Allergic reaction wasn’t reported in clinical studies of Adderall XR. However, this side effect has been reported since Adderall XR became available for use.

Possible symptoms of mild and serious allergic reactions are listed in the table below.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms Serious allergic reaction symptoms
flushing • swelling under your skin, possibly in your hands, feet, lips, or eyelids
rash • swelling in your throat or mouth
• itching trouble breathing

If you have an allergic reaction to Adderall or Adderall XR, call your doctor right away. This is important to do because the reaction could become severe.

However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Alternatives

Doctors may prescribe drugs other than Adderall and Adderall XR for your condition. Certain drugs may work better for you than others.

Adderall and Adderall XR are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Here’s a summary of other drugs that doctors may prescribe for ADHD.

To learn more about alternatives to Adderall and Adderall XR, ask your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that could be prescribed for your condition.

Below are examples of alternative drugs your doctor may recommend. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about the treatment option that’s right for you.

Adderall and Adderall XR vs. Vyvanse

If you’d like to know more about how these drugs compare, see this article.

Adderall and Adderall XR vs. Ritalin

For information about the similarities and differences of these drugs, view this comparison.

Adderall and Adderall XR vs. Concerta

To learn about these medications, see the detailed breakdown called “Adderall vs. Concerta” in this article.

Adderall and Adderall XR vs. Modafinil

View the side-by-side comparison for “Adderall vs. Modafinil” in this article for information about these drugs.

Adderall and Adderall XR vs. methylphenidate

You can read about the similarities and differences in the “Adderall and methylphenidate” section of this article.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Dosage

Below, you’ll find dosages that are commonly recommended for Adderall and Adderall XR. However, you should take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll recommend the dosage that’s best for your needs.

Most often, doctors start by prescribing a low dosage of Adderall or Adderall XR. Then, they’ll change the dosage over time to an amount that’s right for the condition being treated. Doctors typically prescribe the smallest dosage that gives the desired outcome.

The dosage of Adderall or Adderall XR that your doctor prescribes will depend on factors such as:

  • whether you take Adderall or Adderall XR
  • your age
  • any health conditions you have
  • the condition you’re using Adderall or Adderall XR to treat and the severity of the condition
  • the side effects you may have

Adderall and Adderall XR’s forms and strengths

Adderall and Adderall XR are available as follows.

  • Forms:
    • Adderall: immediate-release (IR) oral tablet, which releases the drug into your body as soon as you take it
    • Adderall XR: extended-release (ER) oral capsule, which slowly releases the drug into your body over time
  • Strengths:
    • Adderall: 5 milligrams (mg), 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg
    • Adderall XR: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg

Adderall and Adderall XR’s recommended dosages

Recommended dosages for Adderall and Adderall XR in adults and children are described below.

Adult dosage

Both Adderall and Adderall XR are approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults.

Adderall’s recommended dosage for ADHD in adults is as follows.

  • Starting dosage: You’ll take 5 mg once or twice per day.
  • Maintenance dosage: Your doctor will prescribe a weekly increase from the starting dosage until it gives the desired outcome.

Check with your doctor about the maximum dosage of Adderall for ADHD in adults.

Adderall XR’s recommended dosage for ADHD in adults is as follows.

  • Starting dosage: You’ll take 20 mg once per day.
  • Maintenance dosage: Your doctor will prescribe a weekly increase from the starting dosage until it gives the desired outcome.
  • Maximum dosage: You’ll take 60 mg per day.

Adderall is also approved to treat narcolepsy in adults. However, Adderall XR is not approved for this purpose. Adderall’s recommended dosage for narcolepsy in adults is as follows:

  • Starting dosage: You’ll take 10 mg once per day.
  • Maintenance dosage: Your doctor will prescribe a weekly increase from the starting dosage until it gives the desired outcome. This may be given in divided daily doses, with the first or only dose taken in the morning.
  • Maximum dosage: You’ll take 60 mg per day.

Doctors may prescribe a different dosage of Adderall or Adderall XR depending on several factors, such as whether you have kidney problems. If you have questions about the dosage that’s right for you, talk with your doctor.

Child dosage

Adderall and Adderall XR are approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Adderall is approved for children ages 3 years and older, while Adderall XR is approved for children ages 6 years and older.

Adderall’s recommended dosage for ADHD in children is as follows.

Age range Adderall starting dosage
ages 6 to 17 years 5 mg once or twice per day
ages 3 to 5 years 2.5 mg once or twice per day
ages 2 years or younger not recommended

Adderall XR’s recommended dosage for ADHD in children is as follows.

Age range Adderall XR starting dosage
ages 13 to 17 years 10 mg once per day
ages 6 to 12 years 10 mg once per day
ages 5 years or younger not recommended

Adderall is also approved to treat narcolepsy in children ages 6 years and older. However, Adderall XR is not approved for this purpose. Adderall’s recommended dosage for narcolepsy in children is as follows.

Age range Adderall starting dosage
ages 12 to 17 years 10 mg once per day
ages 6 to 11 years 5 mg once per day
ages 5 years or younger not recommended

Doctors may adjust the dosage of Adderall or Adderall XR weekly until it reaches a maintenance dosage that gives the desired outcome. The maximum recommended dosage for children is 30 mg per day.

Doctors may also prescribe a different dosage depending on several factors, such as whether the child has kidney problems. If you have questions about the dosage that’s right for your child, talk with their doctor.

Dosage considerations

Below are some things to consider about Adderall and Adderall XR’s dosage.

  • Missing a dose. If you miss a dose of Adderall or Adderall XR in the morning, take it as soon as you remember. However, if possible, it may be best to avoid taking a missed dose in the afternoon or evening. Taking a dose at that time can increase your risk of insomnia at night. Also, it’s important that you do not take any extra doses to make up for a missed dose. Doing so could increase your risk of side effects. View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Length of treatment. Doctors typically prescribe Adderall or Adderall XR as a long-term treatment. You’ll likely take either drug long term if you and your doctor feel it’s safe and effective for your condition. However, in some cases, doctors may temporarily stop treatment with Adderall or Adderall XR. These short breaks can help prevent drug levels from building up in your body. Doing this can lower your risk of side effects. Doctors may also use these breaks to see if symptoms of your condition return or get worse. If symptoms come back or worsen, your doctor may have you restart Adderall or Adderall XR. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these medications.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Consuming alcohol during treatment

There aren’t any known interactions between alcohol and Adderall or Adderall XR. However, it may be safest to avoid drinking alcohol while you’re taking either drug.

This is because these medications and alcohol work in opposite ways. Adderall and Adderall XR stimulate (activate) your central nervous system, while alcohol depresses it (slows it down). So, drinking alcohol while taking these medications could make it hard to tell if Adderall or Adderall XR is working to treat your condition. Doing so could also make it hard to keep track of the amount of alcohol you’ve had.

If you have questions about consuming alcohol while taking Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Questions you may have

Here are some common questions about Adderall and Adderall XR and brief answers to them. If you’d like to know more about these topics, ask your doctor.

Is Adderall or Adderall XR used for weight loss, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or help with studying?

Adderall and Adderall XR aren’t currently approved to be used for weight loss, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or help with studying.

Weight loss is a common side effect of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, the drugs aren’t approved specifically as a weight loss treatment.

People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have trouble concentrating while studying. Adderall and Adderall XR are approved to treat ADHD. As a result, the drugs may be used for help with studying in people who have ADHD.

Some people without ADHD may take Adderall and Adderall XR to help increase their focus while studying. However, this isn’t an approved use for these medications.

Doctors sometimes prescribe Adderall and Adderall XR off-label for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for. If you’re interested in using Adderall or Adderall XR for these conditions, talk with your doctor. They can recommend the best treatment for your condition.

Are there long-term side effects of Adderall and Adderall XR?

Yes, Adderall and Adderall XR have possible long-term side effects.

Specifically, taking either Adderall or Adderall XR long term can lead to:

  • delayed growth in children*
  • heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy (thickened or enlarged heart muscle)
  • tolerance (a need to take a higher dose of a drug to get the same effect a lower dose gave)

These side effects weren’t reported in clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, stimulant drugs are known to have these risks. (Adderall and Adderall XR are stimulant drugs.)  

Due to these risks, doctors may have you stop taking Adderall and Adderall XR from time to time. These short breaks can help prevent drug levels from building up in your body. This, in turn, can lower your risk of long-term side effects. In this case, your doctor will tell you when to restart Adderall or Adderall XR treatment.

If you’re concerned about long-term side effects with Adderall and Adderall XR, talk with your doctor.

* For more information about this side effect, see “Adderall and Adderall XR: Side effects” above.

Can Adderall and Adderall XR make you feel ‘high’? What is their effect on the brain?

Yes, it’s possible that Adderall and Adderall XR could cause a “high” (euphoric) feeling. This side effect wasn’t reported in clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, euphoria has been reported since the drugs became available for use.

If you’re concerned about feeling high with Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can discuss your risk of this side effect.

Adderall and Adderall XR are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. They work by increasing the level of certain chemicals in the brain that increase attention and alertness. To learn more about the effect of Adderall and Adderall XR on the brain, see “Adderall and Adderall XR: How they work” below.

What are the ingredients in Adderall and Adderall XR?

Both Adderall and Adderall XR contain the same active ingredients: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall is the immediate-release (short-acting) form, while Adderall XR is the extended-release (long-acting) form.

In addition, Adderall and Adderall XR also contain inactive ingredients. These are ingredients in the drugs that do not affect how they work. Examples include ingredients that are added as preservatives or for coloring.

For a complete list of inactive ingredients, view the prescribing information for Adderall and Adderall XR.

Do Adderall and Adderall XR affect the eyes or pupils?

Yes, Adderall and Adderall XR may affect the eyes or pupils.

Eye side effects weren’t reported in clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, they have been reported since the drugs became available for use. Examples include blurry vision and dilated pupils. (When the pupils dilate, they widen and become larger.)  

Because dilated pupils could worsen glaucoma, doctors typically won’t prescribe Adderall or Adderall XR for people who have glaucoma. (With glaucoma, you have a buildup of fluid in the eye that can lead to vision loss.) If you have glaucoma, be sure to tell your doctor before taking these medications. They’ll likely recommend other treatment options for your condition.

If you’re concerned about eye side effects with Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor.

Are erectile dysfunction and chest pain possible side effects of Adderall and Adderall XR?

In rare cases, Adderall and Adderall XR may cause erectile dysfunction (ED) or chest pain. (ED is the inability to get or keep an erection.)

ED and chest pain weren’t reported in clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR. However, ED and heart problems have been reported since the drugs became available to the public.

Additionally, chest pain could be a symptom of heart problems. Examples of heart problems that may happen with Adderall and Adderall XR include:

If you have ED with Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ways to manage your condition.

If you have chest pain with Adderall or Adderall XR, call your doctor right away. They may give you blood tests to check for a more serious heart condition. However, if your symptoms seem severe or life threatening, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Withdrawal and dependence

Studies of Adderall and Adderall XR haven’t shown that these drugs actually cause dependence. (Dependence happens when your body relies on a drug to feel as you usually do.)

However, Adderall and Adderall XR carry a risk of misuse and dependence.* (Misuse happens when a drug is taken differently from how it was prescribed.)

People with a history of drug dependence or alcohol use disorder may have a higher risk of misuse and dependence with Adderall and Adderall XR.

Because of these risks, Adderall and Adderall XR are controlled substances. (Controlled substances have certain regulations that doctors must follow in order to prescribe them.)

To be specific, this drug is a Schedule II controlled substance. This means the drug has approved medical uses, but it also carries a risk for misuse. Higher drug schedules carry a higher risk for misuse.

* Adderall and Adderall XR have a boxed warning for this risk. This is the most serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see “Adderall and Adderall XR: Side effects” above.

Possible withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can happen if you suddenly stop taking Adderall or Adderall XR after your body has become dependent on either medication.

Examples of withdrawal symptoms include:

If you’re interested in quitting Adderall or Adderall XR, talk with your doctor first. If your doctor feels it’s safe for you to stop treatment, they may lower your dosage slowly over time. This will help reduce the risk of having withdrawal symptoms when Adderall or Adderall XR is stopped.

Adderall and Adderall XR: How they work

Adderall and Adderall XR are both approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall is also approved to treat narcolepsy.

To learn more about these conditions, see “Adderall and Adderall XR: Uses” below.

Adderall and Adderall XR belong to a class of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. They work by increasing the level of certain chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine. Having higher levels of these chemicals can improve attention and alertness. This is how Adderall and Adderall XR ease the symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy.

What is the half-life of Adderall and Adderall XR?

The half-life of Adderall is about 9 to 14 hours, while the half-life of Adderall XR is 10 to 13 hours. (A drug’s half-life is the time it takes for half of a drug’s dose to leave your body.)

How long do Adderall and Adderall XR take to start working?

Adderall and Adderall XR typically start working within a couple of hours of when you take your dose.

What is the duration of Adderall and Adderall XR?

The duration of each Adderall dose is about 4 to 6 hours. The duration of each Adderall XR dose is about 8 to 12 hours. This describes about how long each medication works in your body after you take a dose.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Uses

Prescription drugs, such as Adderall and Adderall XR, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain conditions. Doctors sometimes prescribe drugs off-label for other conditions. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Using Adderall and Adderall XR for ADHD

The FDA has approved Adderall and Adderall XR to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD was previously called attention deficit disorder (ADD).

For this use, doctors can prescribe Adderall for adults and children ages 3 years and older. They can prescribe Adderall XR for adults and children ages 6 years and older.

With ADHD, you have trouble paying attention, controlling your behaviors, or sitting still. Symptoms of ADHD can also include:

  • being easily distracted
  • fidgeting or squirming
  • talking excessively
  • lacking attention to detail
  • having disruptive behavior, such as interrupting conversations or having angry outbursts

Can you take Adderall or Adderall XR without having ADHD?

Doctors can also prescribe Adderall to treat narcolepsy, which is described directly below. Additionally, they may prescribe Adderall and Adderall XR for off-label purposes. In this case, a doctor prescribes a drug for a use that’s not FDA-approved.

If you’d like to know about taking either of these medications and you don’t have ADHD or narcolepsy, talk with your doctor.

Using Adderall for narcolepsy

The FDA has approved Adderall to treat narcolepsy in adults and children ages 6 years and older. Adderall XR is not approved for this purpose.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. With this condition, you continue to feel sleepy no matter how much rest you’ve had.

Narcolepsy can cause “sleep attacks” (falling asleep suddenly) that may happen in the middle of eating or talking. Other possible symptoms of narcolepsy include sleep paralysis and hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t really there).

Using Adderall and Adderall XR in children

Adderall is approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children ages 3 years and older. It’s also approved to treat narcolepsy in children ages 6 years and older.

Adderall XR is approved to treat ADHD in children ages 6 years and older. However, it’s not approved to treat narcolepsy in children.

For details about these conditions, see “Using Adderall and Adderall XR for ADHD” and “Using Adderall for narcolepsy” above.

Finding a healthcare professional for Adderall and Adderall XR

If you’re interested in taking Adderall or Adderall XR, you can find a doctor who might prescribe them by searching here. You can prepare for your appointment by visiting Healthgrades’ appointment guide for ADHD.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Price

As with other medications, the cost of Adderall and Adderall XR may vary. The drug’s price will depend on factors such as:

Cost considerations for Adderall and Adderall XR

Here’s a list of things to consider when looking into the cost of Adderall and Adderall XR.

  • Need for prior authorization. Before insurance coverage for Adderall and Adderall XR is approved, your insurance company may require prior authorization. In this case, your doctor and insurance company will communicate about your prescription for Adderall and Adderall XR. Then, the insurance company will decide if the drug will be covered. To find out if you need prior authorization for Adderall and Adderall XR, contact your insurance company.
  • Possible cost assistance options or coupons. Financial assistance to help lower the cost of Adderall and Adderall XR may be available. To learn more and see if you’re eligible for support, visit Medicine Assistance Tool or NeedyMeds. Also, check out this article to learn about ways to save on prescription drugs.
  • Use of a mail-order pharmacy. Adderall and Adderall XR may be dispensed through mail-order pharmacies. Getting your prescription through a mail-order pharmacy could lower its cost. It can also allow you to get the drug without leaving home. To find out more about this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.
  • Availability of a generic form. Adderall and Adderall XR come in a generic form called amphetamine/dextroamphetamine. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. Generics are typically less expensive than brand-name drugs. If your doctor prescribes Adderall and Adderall XR but you want to know about using amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, talk with your doctor about which option might be better for you. Also, check your insurance plan because it might cover just one form or the other.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Overdose

Serious effects can occur if you take more than the recommended dosage of Adderall or Adderall XR. Do not take more Adderall or Adderall XR than your doctor recommends. 

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms of Adderall or Adderall XR overdose may include:

Taking too much Adderall or Adderall XR could be fatal. To learn more about this risk, see this article. It’s extremely important to take these medications exactly as prescribed.

What to do in case of overdose

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much of this drug. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use their online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Interactions

Adderall and Adderall XR may interact with other medications and certain supplements. It isn’t known to interact with any foods.

Different interactions can cause different effects. Some interactions can interfere with a drug’s effectiveness. Others can increase a drug’s side effects or cause them to be severe.

If any of the interactions listed below might pertain to you, talk with your doctor. They can tell you what you need to do to avoid the interaction.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Expiration, storage, and disposal

Here’s some information about Adderall and Adderall XR’s expiration date, as well as how to store and dispose of the drug.

  • Expiration. Your pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on Adderall and Adderall XR’s bottle. This date is usually 1 year from the date the medication was dispensed to you. Expiration dates help ensure that a medication is effective during a period of time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that you avoid using expired drugs. If you have an unused medication and it’s past the drug’s expiration date, talk with your pharmacist. They can let you know whether you might still be able to use the medication.
  • Storage. Many factors determine how long a medication remains good to use. These factors include how and where you store the drug. Adderall tablets and Adderall XR capsules should be stored at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). Avoid storing them in areas where they could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms. The medication should be kept away from light in a tightly sealed container.
  • Disposal. It’s important to safely dispose of Adderall and Adderall XR if you no longer need to take them and have unused medication. Doing so helps prevent others, including children and pets, from accidentally taking the drug. It also helps avoid causing harm to the environment. Ask your pharmacist for information about disposing of Adderall and Adderall XR. Also, check out this page for several tips on safe medication disposal.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Taking while pregnant

It’s not known whether Adderall and Adderall XR are safe to take during pregnancy. There haven’t been enough clinical studies of Adderall and Adderall XR in pregnant people to know for sure.

However, there have been reports of side effects in infants born to people who took medications similar to Adderall and Adderall XR during pregnancy. These side effects include premature birth, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms. Examples of withdrawal symptoms include agitation and fatigue.

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, talk with your doctor before taking Adderall or Adderall XR. They can advise on the risks of taking either medication during pregnancy.

If you take Adderall or Adderall XR during pregnancy, consider enrolling in the National Pregnancy Registry for ADHD Medications. (These medications are prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). This registry collects information about the effects of ADHD medications when used during pregnancy. To learn more, call 866-961-2388. You can also visit the registry website or talk with your doctor.

Adderall and Adderall XR and birth control needs

Doctors aren’t sure whether it’s safe to take Adderall and Adderall XR during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while taking Adderall or Adderall XR if you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant. Your doctor can recommend whether you should use birth control with these medications.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Taking while breastfeeding

Doctors will typically recommend that you do not take Adderall or Adderall XR while you’re breastfeeding.

This is because Adderall and Adderall XR can pass into breast milk. These medications could cause side effects in a breastfed child.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor. They can suggest healthy ways to feed your child while you’re taking Adderall or Adderall XR.

Adderall and Adderall XR: How to take

Your doctor will recommend how you should take Adderall or Adderall XR. It’s important that you take either drug exactly as your doctor instructs.

Adderall comes as an immediate-release (IR) oral tablet. Adderall XR comes as an extended-release (ER) oral capsule. (IR means the drug is released into your body as soon as you take it. ER means the drug is released slowly into your body over time.)

You’ll take either drug by mouth.

Questions about taking Adderall and Adderall XR

Here’s a list of common questions related to taking Adderall and Adderall XR.

  • When should I take Adderall or Adderall XR? You’ll likely take Adderall or Adderall XR once per day. In some cases, you may take a second dose of Adderall 4 to 6 hours after the first. View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses of Adderall or Adderall XR. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Can I take Adderall or Adderall XR on an empty stomach? Yes, you can take Adderall or Adderall XR on an empty stomach. These medications can be taken with or without food.
  • Can Adderall and Adderall XR be chewed, split, or crushed? The manufacturer of Adderall hasn’t stated whether the tablets can be chewed, split, or crushed. If you have trouble swallowing Adderall tablets, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Adderall XR capsules, on the other hand, should not be chewed, split, or crushed. If you have trouble swallowing Adderall XR capsules, you can open them and sprinkle their contents onto a small amount of applesauce. You should eat the applesauce mixture right away. Don’t store it for later use. If any beads from inside the capsule remain in the applesauce mixture, they should not be chewed. Make sure to swallow the beads whole without chewing.
  • Is there a best time of day to take Adderall or Adderall XR? It’s best to take Adderall and Adderall XR in the morning. Taking these medications in the afternoon or evening can increase your risk of insomnia at night.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Precautions

This drug comes with several precautions.

FDA warning: Risk of misuse and dependence

This drug has a boxed warning, the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Risk of misuse and dependence. Adderall and Adderall XR have a risk of misuse and dependence. (Misuse happens when a drug is taken differently from how it was prescribed. It’s also sometimes called abuse. Dependence happens when your body relies on a drug to feel as you usually do.) Misuse of Adderall and Adderall XR can cause serious side effects, some of which may be fatal.

Because of this risk, doctors typically will not prescribe Adderall and Adderall XR for people who’ve had drug dependence or alcohol use disorder. These conditions can increase the risk of dependence with Adderall and Adderall XR.

Before taking Adderall or Adderall XR, your doctor will discuss the risk of misuse and dependence with you. They’ll likely monitor your risk from time to time while you’re taking the drug.

Other precautions

Tell your doctor about your health history before starting treatment with Adderall and Adderall XR. Your doctor may not recommend this medication if you have certain factors affecting your health or specific medical conditions.

These factors and conditions include those listed below.

  • Heart problems. If you or a family member has heart problems, talk with your doctor before taking Adderall or Adderall XR. Examples of heart conditions that might be of concern include coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythm. Adderall and Adderall XR can cause heart problems, including increased heart rate and blood pressure. You may have a higher risk of these side effects if you already have heart problems before taking either drug. Your doctor will recommend whether it’s safe for you to take Adderall or Adderall XR.
  • Problems with circulation. Adderall and Adderall XR can decrease blood flow to your fingers and toes. This can lead to conditions such as Raynaud’s phenomenon. If you already have circulation problems, Adderall or Adderall XR could worsen those problems. If you or a family member have problems with circulation, be sure to tell your doctor. They can determine whether either of these drug is right for you.
  • Seizures. Adderall and Adderall XR may increase the risk of seizures in people who’ve had them in the past. If you’ve had seizures, your doctor can recommend whether it’s safe for you to take Adderall or Adderall XR.
  • Tourette’s syndrome or tics. Adderall and Adderall XR may worsen tics related to Tourette’s syndrome. (Tics are uncontrollable and repetitive movements or behaviors.) If you have this condition, your doctor can advise whether either of these drugs is safe for you.
  • Glaucoma. Before starting Adderall or Adderall XR, tell your doctor if you have glaucoma. In rare cases, these drugs can cause your pupils to dilate (widen). And this side effect could worsen glaucoma. Doctors typically won’t prescribe Adderall or Adderall XR for people who have glaucoma. Talk with your doctor about other treatment options for your condition.
  • Mental health conditions, including psychosis and bipolar disorder. If you or a family member has mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or psychosis, tell your doctor before starting Adderall or Adderall XR. These drugs can increase your risk of mania (periods of high excitement and energy that are often related to bipolar disorder). They can also increase your risk of psychosis. Talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to take Adderall or Adderall XR.
  • Thyroid problems. Before taking Adderall and Adderall XR, tell your doctor if you have thyroid problems. The drugs can worsen certain symptoms of an overactive thyroid. Your doctor may prescribe a treatment other than Adderall or Adderall XR for you.
  • Allergic reaction. Your doctor will likely not prescribe Adderall or Adderall XR if you’ve had an allergic reaction to it or any of its ingredients. To find out about other treatment options, talk with your doctor.
  • Pregnancy. It isn’t known whether Adderall and Adderall XR are safe to use during pregnancy. If you’d like to learn more information about taking either of these drugs while pregnant, view the “Adderall and Adderall XR: Taking while pregnant” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. It may not be safe to breastfeed while taking Adderall and Adderall XR. If you’d like to learn more information about taking either of these drugs while breastfeeding, view the “Adderall and Adderall XR: Taking while breastfeeding” section above.

To learn more about effects of Adderall and Adderall XR that could be harmful, see the “Adderall and Adderall XR: Side effects” section above.

Adderall and Adderall XR: Questions for your doctor

If you have questions about Adderall and Adderall XR, talk with your doctor. They can help advise you on whether one of these drugs could be a good treatment option for you.

Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • Can I switch from Adderall to Adderall XR or vice versa?
  • Do I have a high risk of misuse or dependence with Adderall and Adderall XR?
  • Will I need to temporarily stop treatment with Adderall or Adderall XR to lower my risk of side effects?

Your doctor may also tell you about other treatment options for your condition. You may find this article helpful in learning about other drugs that treat ADHD. And check out our selection of videos on ADHD.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Medical Reviewer: Heather Bruce, PharmD
Last Review Date: 2022 Apr 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.