Dexedrine (Dextroamphetamine) – Oral

Warning:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a boxed warning for Dexedrine. Boxed warnings are the agency’s strongest warnings for serious and potentially life-threatening risks.

The boxed warning states:

Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse. The administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence and must be avoided.

Particular attention should be paid to the possibility of people obtaining amphetamines for non-therapeutic use or distribution to others, and the drugs should be prescribed or dispensed sparingly. misuse of amphetamines may cause serious cardiovascular failure leading to potential death.


What Is Dexedrine?

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) is an orally administered controlled medication (Schedule II) commonly used to treat the neurodevelopmental disorder attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the chronic sleep disorder narcolepsy. 

Dexedrine is in a class of medications called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and is approved for people 6 and older. 

CNS stimulants are a class of drugs that increase mental alertness and can decrease appetite. They are commonly used to treat mental health disorders such as ADHD and sleep disorders including narcolepsy.

CNS stimulants work directly on the CNS to increase the levels of hormones, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

Dextroamphetamine works by boosting the release of these hormones in the body, subsequently helping to improve focus while lowering hyperactivity.

Dexedrine is available as an extended-release (ER) 24-hour capsule.

Comparatively, dextroamphetamine sulfate, the active ingredient in Dexedrine, is available as a generic product in the form of an orally administered tablet.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Dextroamphetamine

Brand Name(s): Dexedrine

Drug Availability: Controlled prescription

Administration Route: Oral

Therapeutic Classification: CNS Stimulant

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: Schedule II

Active Ingredient: Dextroamphetamine sulfate

Dosage Form(s): ER capsule, tablet

What Is Dexedrine Used For?

The FDA approved Dexedrine as a Schedule II controlled medication to treat:

  • Attention deficit problems for individuals with hyperactivity 
  • Narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness)
  • People managing obesity caused by a problem with a part of the brain called the hypothalamus

For context, ADHD is a common behavioral condition that is diagnosed in childhood and can last into adulthood.

People with ADHD experience impulsivity, hyperactivity (excess movement and jitteriness), and inability to focus. ADHD is a chronic disorder known to impact a person in many aspects of their life, both personally and professionally.

In comparison, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that hinders the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles. Those with narcolepsy also experience fractured sleep which involves waking up throughout the night.

If not treated narcolepsy can impact cognitive function and can a person's day-to-day activities.

How to Take Dexedrine

Take Dexedrine every day once you wake up. Avoid taking it in the evening to reduce your chances of having insomnia (sleeplessness). The ER capsule is usually taken once a day with or without food.

Take Dexedrine at the same time each day with or without food.

Do not take it with fruit juice, other highly acidic foods, vitamin C, or medicines that make your digestive tract more acidic (e.g., guanethidine, reserpine, etc.). Doing so may cause a reduction in the levels of Dexedrine in your system.

Do not take it with alkalizing (drugs that work by raising pH in the blood or urine) medications (e.g., sodium bicarbonate, Diamox, a brand of acetazolamide).

Alkaline drugs may boost how Dexedrine works in your system. They also may increase the levels of the drug and can reduce how fast your body expels the drug from the bloodstream, potentially causing more side effects.

Do not open, break, chew, or crush the ER capsules. Swallow them whole.

Do not suddenly stop taking Dexedrine. Your healthcare provider may have to taper you off Dexedrine to avoid drug withdrawal symptoms.

Storage

Store Dexedrine at room temperature (about 68 to 77 degrees F) in a dry place away from light. Do not store it in your bathroom or other moist area.

Keep this drug away from children, pets, and other adults. You may need to store it in a locked box to prevent people from touching or taking it.

Discard all expired and unused drugs. Do not throw them down the sink, drain, or toilet. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the best ways to get rid of your medications.

There may be medication take-back programs in your area.

How Long Does Dexedrine Take to Work?

Dexedrine XR capsules peak in about eight hours from when you take them and work for about eight hours onward.

What Are the Side Effects of Dexedrine?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

While taking Dexedrine, some people may have little or no side effects. 

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience side effects that do not go away or that become troublesome.

Some common side effects associated with the use of Dexedrine include:

Dexedrine may cause peripheral vascular disease (when narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the limbs) or Raynaud's syndrome (decreased blood flow to the fingers). These symptoms are usually mild and reverse with lowering the dose or stopping the medication.

Severe Side Effects

The FDA has issued a boxed warning for Dexedrine. Boxed warnings are the agency’s strongest warnings for serious and potentially life-threatening risks.

The boxed warning states:

Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse. The administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence and must be avoided.

Particular attention should be paid to the possibility of people obtaining amphetamines for non-therapeutic use or distribution to others, and the drugs should be prescribed or dispensed sparingly. misuse of amphetamines may cause serious cardiovascular failure leading to potential death.

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency or if your symptoms feel life-threatening.

Serious side effects may include:

Although Dexedrine is used to keep you alert, it may cause you to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or different than your usual self.

Take caution doing anything that requires alertness, like driving or operating machinery while on this medicine or until you see how this drug affects you.

Long-Term Side Effects

While many people tolerate Dexedrine well, long-term or delayed side effects are possible.

The long-term use of Dexedrine is associated with:

Report Side Effects

Dexedrine may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Dexedrine Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
    • For oral dosage form (extended-release capsules):
      • Adults and children 6 years of age and older—At first, 5 milligrams (mg) 1 or 2 times a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children younger than 6 years of age—Use is not recommended.
    • For oral dosage form (tablets):
      • Adults and children 6 years of age and older—At first, 5 milligrams (mg) 1 or 2 times a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children 3 to 5 years of age—At first, 2.5 mg once a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children younger than 3 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
  • For narcolepsy:
    • For oral dosage forms (extended-release capsules or tablets):
      • Adults and children 12 years of age and older—At first, 10 milligrams (mg) once a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children 6 to 12 years of age—At first, 5 mg once a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
      • Children younger than 6 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

Potential users should note the following before starting treatment with Dexedrine:

Pregnancy: Babies born to people who use Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) or other amphetamines are more likely to be born premature or with low birth weight. They also may have withdrawal symptoms like agitation, anxiety, or lack of energy. Hence, this drug should only be used during pregnancy if the possible benefit is higher than the risk to the fetus.

Breastfeeding: Human milk may contain excreted amphetamines. Individuals that use amphetamines should avoid breastfeeding.

Children: Dexedrine should not be used in children younger than 6 years of age.

Missed Dose

Take the missed dose once you think of it. If it is too close to your next dose, skip the missed dose. Go back to your regular dosing frequency. Do not take extra doses or double the amount.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Dexedrine?

Overdose symptoms of Dexedrine may include hallucinations, tremors, tachypnea (fast breathing), hypertension (high blood pressure), hypotension (low blood pressure), heart rate problems, nausea, and vomiting.

Convulsions and coma may occur in a fatal overdose.

What Happens If I Overdose on Dexedrine?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Dexedrine, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Dexedrine, call 911 immediately.

Preucations

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your or your child's progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for any unwanted effects.

Do not use this medicine if you are using or have used an MAO inhibitor (MAOI), including isocarboxazid [Marplan®], linezolid [Zyvox®], phenelzine [Nardil®], selegiline [Eldepryl®], tranylcypromine [Parnate®]), within the past 14 days.

This medicine may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine.

This medicine may cause serious heart or blood vessel problems. This may be more likely in patients who have a family history of heart disease. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have chest pain, trouble breathing, or fainting while taking this medicine.

You or your child will also need to have your blood pressure and heart rate measured before starting this medicine and while you are using it. If you notice any change in your blood pressure, call your doctor right away. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.

This medicine may cause some people to feel a false sense of well-being or to become dizzy, lightheaded, or less alert than they are normally. It may also cause blurred vision or other vision problems. Do not drive or do anything else that could be dangerous until you or your child know how this medicine affects you.

Check with your doctor immediately if blurred vision, difficulty in reading, or any other change in vision occurs during or after treatment. Your doctor may want you or your child to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).

Tell your doctor right away if you or your family notices any unusual changes in behavior, such as an increase in aggression, hostility, agitation, irritability, or suicidal thinking or behaviors. Also tell your doctor if you or your child have hallucinations or any unusual thoughts, especially if they are new or getting worse quickly.

If you or your child have been using this medicine for a long time and you think you may have become mentally or physically dependent on it, check with your doctor. Some signs that you may be dependent on dextroamphetamine are:

  • A strong desire or need to continue taking the medicine.
  • A need to increase the dose to receive the effects of the medicine.
  • Withdrawal effects (for example, mental depression, nausea or vomiting, stomach cramps or pain, trembling, unusual tiredness or weakness) that occur after the medicine is stopped.

Symptoms of an overdose include: aggressive, angry, confusion, dark-colored urine, fever, muscle cramps, spasms, pains, or stiffness, panic state, restlessness, seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there, shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet, trembling or shaking of hands or feet. Call your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms.

This medicine may cause slow growth in children. If your child is using this medicine, the doctor will need to keep track of your child's height and weight to make sure that your child is growing properly.

This medicine may increase your risk of having seizures. This is more likely to occur in patients with a history of seizures or heart rhythm problems. Check with your doctor right away if this happens.

This medicine may cause Raynaud's phenomenon, which is a problem with blood circulation in the fingers or toes. Tell your doctor if you or your child have tingling or pain, a cold feeling, paleness, or skin color changes in the fingers or toes, especially when exposed to cold temperatures. Call your doctor right away if you have unexplained sores or ulcers on your fingers or toes.

Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have anxiety, restlessness, a fast heartbeat, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, twitching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or see or hear things that are not there. These may be symptoms of a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. Your risk may be higher if you also take certain other medicines that affect serotonin levels in your body.

If you or your child will be taking this medicine in large doses for a long time, do not stop taking it without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you or your child to gradually reduce the amount you are taking before stopping it completely.

Before you have any medical tests, tell the medical doctor in charge that you or your child are taking this medicine. The results of some tests may be affected by this medicine.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines, herbal (eg, St. John's wort) or vitamin supplements, and medicine for appetite control, asthma, colds, cough, hayfever, or sinus problems.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn't Take Dexedrine?

Dexedrine is not for everyone. Therefore, do not use Dexedrine if you:

  • Are allergic to amphetamines
  • Are allergic to dextroamphetamine or any part of its formulation
  • Are allergic to sympathomimetic drugs, such as Adrenaline (epinephrine) or phenylephrine
  • Have hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone)
  • Have a history of drug abuse
  • Have advanced arteriosclerosis (thick and hard artery walls)
  • Have moderate-to-severe hypertension
  • Have glaucoma (optic nerve damage)
  • Are in an agitated state
  • Have a severe or structural heart problem
  • Experience cardiac arrhythmias (heart rhythm issues)
  • Have Marfan syndrome (a genetic condition that affects connective tissues)

What Other Medications Interact With Dexedrine?

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs; a class of antidepressants) are used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and Parkinson's disease.

If you are on Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), avoid taking MAOIs.

Do not take Dexedrine during or within 14 days of stopping MAOI therapy. Taking MAOIs with Dexedrine may cause severe hypertension.

Commonly prescribed MAOIs include:

Also, stay away from the herb Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa). It may enhance the toxic side effects of this drug.

What Medications Are Similar?

Similar medications like Dexedrine used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy include:

This is a list of drugs also prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It is not a list of medicines recommended to take with Dexedrine. 

In fact, you should not take these drugs together unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does Dexedrine treat?

    Dexedrine is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

  • What should I do if I miss a dose of Dexedrine?

    Take the missed dose once you think of it. Skip the missed dose if it is too close to the next dose. Return to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take extra doses or double the amount.

  • How long does Dexedrine take to work?

    Dexedrine XR capsules peak in about eight hours from when you take them and work for about eight hours onward.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Dexedrine?

Dexedrine may affect your heart, blood pressure, and heart rate. Monitor your heart by checking your blood pressure routinely.

Try your local pharmacy if you do not have a blood pressure machine at home. Report any abnormal side effects and blood pressure readings to your healthcare provider.

If living with ADHD or narcolepsy becomes too challenging or continues to affect your daily living, talk to your healthcare provider. 

For support, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357).

Medial Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Queen Buyalos, PharmD
Queen Buyalos is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She takes pride in advocating for cancer prevention, overall health, and mental health education. Queen enjoys counseling and educating patients about drug therapy and translating complex ideas into simple language.