Dexedrine Addiction: What Is Dextroamphetamine Abuse?

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) has been abused for nearly as long as it has been on the market. A type of amphetamine, when abused, it can produce a high similar to that of meth. The FDA acknowledges it is highly addictive, but since it is still considered to have therapeutic properties, Dexedrine remains on the market.

What Is Dexedrine?

Dextroamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant in the amphetamine family. It is available in a generic form as well as under various brand names. These include the well-known Dexedrine, as well as lesser-known options, such as Zenzedi. Dextrostat is also a brand name version of the drug.
The medication can be found in the standard release as well as dextroamphetamine ER. The extended-release formula of the prescription stimulant is more commonly seen as it is harder to abuse, making it preferred by doctors.
Dexedrine’s chemical formula is C9H13N. Dextroamphetamine sulfate has had FDA approval since 1976 for use in adults and children over the age of six. However, it has been in existence since 1936. In the years since it has been used for treating a variety of conditions. Most notably, Dexedrine treats ADHD and narcolepsy.

Dexedrine Mechanism of Action

Dexedrine’s mechanism of action is similar to that of other drugs in its class, include methamphetamine. A signature of this drug class is having multiple mechanisms of action, which means that how dextroamphetamine works is somewhat complicated.
Dexedrine in all formulas has the same method of action. As such, Dexedrine ER and IR act the same on the body; the difference is just how long the effects last and how powerfully they are felt. One of the mechanisms of action Dexedrine has is the stimulation of alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors. This, in turn, increases the levels of monoamines, such as or norepinephrine and dopamine. The result is a stimulated central nervous system.
Dextroamphetamine also blocks the uptake of adrenergic and monoamines, which means the system becomes flooded with them. When taken according to the doctor’s directions, this helps the medication accomplish what it is intended to. When abused, it can cause the user to feel high.
Finally, dextroamphetamine inhibits monoamine oxidase. This is an enzyme that is present in the muscle tissue that causes the inactivation of monoamine neurotransmitters. This also ensures that the body has an excess of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine. All of this comes together to make Dexedrine pills a highly effective yet highly addictive medication.

Dexedrine Usage

Doctors can use Dexedrine to treat a variety of conditions. However, only a few of these applications are approved by the FDA. Anytime someone is taking dextroamphetamine off-label, they should be cautious, as it is possible that taking the medication is putting them at risk.

FDA-Approved Dexedrine Usage

In the past, Dexedrine was used for the treatment of many conditions with FDA approval. Now, Dexedrine is an ADHD and narcolepsy medication only. Even within this approved usage, since dextroamphetamine is so addictive, doctors are cautioned to look into alternative medicines whenever possible.

Off-Label Dexedrine Usage

dextroamphetamine capsulesOff-label use of amphetamines is incredibly common, despite the significant amount of literature cautioning against it. In the case of dextroamphetamine, medical professionals often feel comfortable prescribing it for non-FDA approved applications because, not all that long ago, the medication was accepted to treat them. For example, Dexedrine for depression was once FDA approved. Dexedrine for weight loss was similarly encouraged. As such, Dexedrine is used for these conditions, even if it shouldn’t be.

Recreational Dexedrine Usage

In addition to medical applications, the ADHD medication dextroamphetamine is often used recreationally. Sometimes this recreational use starts innocently enough; many being abusing it because they wanted it as a study drug. However, because dextroamphetamine produces a high, users quickly transition into using it to achieve a sense of euphoria.

Dextroamphetamine Side Effects

Dexedrine side effects are quite numerous, more so than many other prescription medications. Some of these are welcomed by users, such as Dexedrine weight loss. Others are highly concerning and even potentially fatal.

Common Dexedrine Side Effects

Common dextroamphetamine side effects are those that many users can expect to experience. However, that does not mean they are not concerning. Users experiencing any of these side effects should talk to their doctor about potentially using another medication to avoid these complications.

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling easily angered
  • Having a false sense of wellbeing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced hunger
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Hypersensitivity to the drug
  • Agitation
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Hives
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced energy
  • Rash
  • Tremors
  • Changes in the sense of taste
  • Changes in respiration
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weight loss

Rare Dexedrine Side Effects

Rare dextroamphetamine side effects range from the concerning to the life-threatening. If someone experiences these side effects of dextroamphetamine, they should speak to their doctor immediately or seek emergency treatment, depending on the circumstances.

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Painful erections
  • Giant hives
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Psychosis
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Seizures
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
  • Stroke
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • Motor tic disorder
  • Addiction
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Altered mental states
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Compulsive skin picking
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Depression
  • Loss of eye focus
  • Double vision
  • Dyskinesia
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Hair loss
  • Hypertalkativity
  • Numbness and tingling

Dexedrine Warnings and Precautions

Overall, the warnings and precautions for using Dexedrine are the same as those for other amphetamines. For example, in comparison with Ritalin, the risks are roughly the same. The primary warning associated with dextroamphetamine is that it is known to be habit-forming. Users should never take a dose larger than prescribed or take it longer than indicated by their doctor.

Overuse and abuse of Dexedrine can cause heart problems, which have the potential to be fatal. Alcohol and street drugs should be avoided when taking dextroamphetamine. Users should never stop the use of dextroamphetamine suddenly or on their own.

Anyone with allergies to dextroamphetamine, other amphetamines, or any ingredients in the medication should not take Dexedrine. Patients should inform their doctor of all medications they are currently taking, both prescription and over-the-counter, including herbal supplements, and should not start any new medicines without doctor approval.

Patients should disclose all medical conditions, including glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, and mental health concerns. Patients with a family history of heart conditions may not be able to take dextroamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine is contraindicated for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Dexedrine can cause impaired alertness and motor function. Users should not drive or operate heavy machinery until they adjust to the medication.

Dexedrine Dosing Instructions

Dexedrine dosing instructions are easy to understand. However, users should always take the Dexedrine dosage prescribed to them by their doctor, not base their doses on information found online.

Dextroamphetamine Dosage Instructions for Narcolepsy

Age Initial Dose Suggested Increases Maximum Daily Dose
6-12 years 5 mg daily, in one dose or divided doses 5 mg per week until the desired effect is achieved 40 mg
Over 12 years 10 mg daily, in one dose or divided doses 10 mg per week until the desired result is achieved 60 mg


Dextroamphetamine Dosage Instructions for ADHD

Age Initial Dose Suggested Increases Maximum Daily Dose
6-12 years 5 mg daily, in one dose or divided doses 5 mg per week until the desired effect is achieved 40 mg
Over 12 years 10 mg daily, in one dose or divided doses 10 mg per week until the desired result is achieved 40 mg


While the dextroamphetamine dosage for adults is not divided by age, many doctors will not prescribe large amounts of the drug to older adults due to the way it impacts the heart. If a patient takes Dexedrine for many years, they should check in with their doctor to see if they should reduce their dosage as they get older.

Dexedrine High

While most users take Dexedrine for good reasons, there are plenty who use it to achieve dextroamphetamine high. The Dexedrine high can be felt when taking the drug as prescribed, but most abusing it will take the medication in more significant amounts for greater euphoria. It’s is highly recommended to discuss the prescribed dosages with the doctor and stick to his recommendations to avoid negative consequences and Dexedrine abuse.

Ways Of Using Dexedrine For Recreational Purposes

There are multiple methods users employ to get high from Dexedrine. The most common way is to simply swallow the pills as one would when taking medicine for prescription purposes. How long dextroamphetamine takes to kick in when taken this way depends on the formula. Extended-release formulas will take a bit longer to achieve a high than instant release formulas. However, dextroamphetamine lasts longer when taken in the extended release formula.

Users report that snorting crushed pills is a standard method of consumption when abusing the medication. Snorting dextroamphetamine results in a faster and more potent high than swallowing the pills.

pipe for smoking drugsSome people attempt smoking dextroamphetamine. However, this does not work. Unlike street drugs, prescription amphetamines contain inactive ingredients that prevent the powder from burning in a way that creates smoke to inhale. However, it can be made into a liquid and injected.

Another way people abuse Dexedrine is to take it with alcohol and other drugs. This can intensify or balance out the effects of the drug.

What Dexedrine High Feels Like

The way the dextroamphetamine high feeling is experienced depends on how much is taken and what the user’s tolerance is. The high usually lasts about four hours, though that depends on the formula used. It is described as a sense of euphoria and extreme happiness, often with a side of paranoia, which is shared with stimulants. Users tend to feel more awake, energized, and excited about life.

However, many users describe it as having less of a tweaking effect and offering a lesser crash when coming down. As such, it is often preferred by amphetamine addicts working to hide their addiction without sacrificing their high.

Dextroamphetamine Overdose

Dextroamphetamine overdose is possible when the drug is being abused either by taking it in high amounts or combining it with other contraindicated substances. It is vital that the drug is only taken as prescribed to avoid an overdose on Dexedrine. Users who do abuse it should understand the signs to look for.

Symptoms of Dexedrine Overdose

  • Slow pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Problems breathing
  • Spike in body temperature
  • Agitated behavior
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Racing pulse
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic-like behavior display

How Much Dexedrine to Overdose

There is no specific dosage that will result in a Dexedrine overdose. The LD50 according to experiments on rats is 96.8 mg per kilogram of weight. For an adult weighing 70 kilos, that would mean needing 6,776 mg of dextroamphetamine for a lethal dose—which would be near impossible to gain access to, much less take in a single setting.

However, overdose can happen at a lower dose depending on the size and health of the user. Also, overdoses can be triggered by mixing medications, allowing for a lethal reaction without taking much of the drug at all. Because an overdose on dextroamphetamine is unpredictable, abuse of the substance should be avoided.

What to Do if Someone Overdoses on Dexedrine

The procedure for helping someone overdosing on Dexedrine is no different than helping anyone overdosing on other amphetamines or stimulants. For example, someone hurt from the abuse of lisdexamfetamine would need the same help. The steps to take are as follows:

  1. Start by asking the user what they took and how much they took.
  2. If possible, ask them if they have any known allergic reactions.
  3. From there, call emergency services.
  4. When speaking with emergency services, start by telling them the address and any markers to help them identify the location.
  5. Then, state that there is someone overdosing on amphetamines, as well as any other substance used.
  6. Clarify the current condition of the person overdosing.
  7. From there, go over any known allergic reactions.
  8. After that, give any other potentially relevant information. This can include the age, weight, height, blood type, and general health status of the user.
  9. Stay on the line with the dispatcher and relay any new information on the condition of the person overdosing.
  10. Follow any instructions given.
  11. Once the ambulance can be heard approaching, go outside and prepare to get their attention and get them to the person overdosing.

Despite conventional wisdom, those helping the person overdosing should not try to make them vomit or do things like put them in water. Both are incredibly dangerous.

Dexedrine Drug Interactions

Dexedrine interactions are when the medication is combined with other substances and an adverse or dangerous reaction results. Dexedrine interacts with numerous substances. In some cases, the interactions are moderate and more unpleasant than anything. However, in some cases, they are severe.

Severe Dexedrine Interactions

  • Beta Blockers: When combined with Dexedrine, the combination may counteract the activity of the beta-blockers.
  • Tramadol and Certain Other Pain Medications: Because these medications have seratonagenic properties, there is the risk of serotonin syndrome developing.
  • Urinary Alkalinizers: Concurrent use of amphetamines and urinary alkalinizers, such as acetazolamide and methazolamide, can cause increased renal tubular reabsorption of individual compounds.
  • Alkalinizing Agents: Concurrent use of amphetamines with urinary alkalinizing agents should be avoided whenever it is advisable. If they are needed, the dose of Dexedrine may need to be adjusted.
  • bowl with different pillsAngiotensin II Receptor Antagonists: Amphetamines can antihypertensive agents. Close monitoring of blood pressure is vital.
  • Antacids: Use of amphetamines with gastrointestinal alkalinizers, such as antacids (e.g., calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, sodium bicarbonate), should be avoided. An alkaline environment increases the absorption of amphetamines, making the risk of overdose much higher. Antacids act as urinary alkalinizers, which make it harder for the body to eliminate amphetamines.
  • Antipsychotics: Simultaneous use of antipsychotics and amphetamines should be avoided. Antipsychotics and amphetamines can counteract each other, rendering both medications ineffective.
  • Anticonvulsants: Amphetamines may lower the seizure threshold, resulting in a greater occurrence of episodes.
  • Antihypersensitivity Agents: Amphetamines counteract some antihypertensive agents. Close monitoring of blood pressure is be needed.
  • Drugs With Serotonergic Properties: Combining these with Dexedrine can cause serotonin syndrome. Caution should be used when combining amphetamines with other medicines that have serotonergic properties, such as buspirone.
  • Cardiac Glycosides: Combining cardiac glycosides with amphetamines can cause arrhythmias.
  • Cocaine: As both cocaine and Dexedrine are stimulants, the chances of overdose are severe.
  • CYP2D6 Inhibitors: The risk of amphetamine toxicity may be increased when using CYP2D6 inhibitors such as ritonavir.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): Due to the risk of serotonin syndrome, doctors should be cautious when administering serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) with amphetamines.
  • Sympathomimetics Dyphylline: Use of dyphylline with amphetamines may cause adverse effects, such as tremors, insomnia, seizures, or cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Ergot alkaloids: Amphetamines can increase blood pressure increasing the prolonged vasoconstriction caused by ergot alkaloids.
  • Ethanol Alcohol: Alcohol should not be consumed with Dexedrine. Consumption of alcohol while taking such dosage forms may result in a more rapid release.
  • Loop Diuretics: Amphetamines may counteract the activity of some antihypertensive agents, such as loop diuretics. Close monitoring of blood pressure is needed.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors: All amphetamines should be avoided in patients receiving MAOIs due to an increased risk of hypertensive crisis.
  • Nitrates: Use of nitrates with amphetamines can cause antagonism of the antianginal effects of nitrates and possibly precipitate tachycardia and severe hypotension.
  • Non-Ionic Contrast Media: Amphetamines should be discontinued at least 48 hours before myelography and should not be resumed for at least 24 hours after the procedure is completed.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: Amphetamines increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Close monitoring of blood pressure is required.
  • Serotonin-Receptor Agonists: Serotonin syndrome may occur when combining serotonin-receptor antagonists with amphetamines.
  • St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum: St. John’s Wort reduces the neuronal uptake of monoamines, which can cause significant issues if combined with amphetamines.
  • drug interactions conceptSuccinimides: Patients who are taking anticonvulsants should use amphetamines with great caution. Amphetamines decrease the seizure threshold, increasing the risk of seizures.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Both TCAs and amphetamines inhibit the reuptake of serotonin and amphetamines also increase central serotonin release, putting users of both at risk for serotonin syndrome.
  • Vasodilators: Dexedrine can antagonize the antihypertensive effects of vasodilators.
  • Vasopressors: Amphetamines may amplify the activity of other sympathomimetics, putting patients at risk of an overdose.

Moderate Dexedrine Interactions

  • Medications With Caffeine: Avoid excessive caffeine intake with any amphetamines.
  • Diabetes Medications: Loss of glycemic control when amphetamines are administered to patients taking antidiabetic agents.
  • Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin C: Combining amphetamines and gastrointestinal acidifying agents, such as ascorbic acid, vitamin C, can be problematic. Vitamin C lowers the absorption of amphetamines, resulting in reduced efficacy. Any foods high in vitamin C can cause problems.
  • Thiazides Chlorothiazide: Thiazides may increase blood levels, potentiating amphetamines.
  • Proton pump inhibitors: The use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) with dextroamphetamine therapy may alter the onset of effects due to the increase in gastric pH.
  • Sedating H1-blockers: Amphetamines can counteract the sedative properties of sedating H1-blockers.
  • Thiazide Diuretics: Thiazides may potentiate the actions of amphetamines by increasing blood levels. Thiazide diuretics may increase urinary pH, acting as a urinary alkalinizer, thus increasing the concentration of amphetamines in the body.
  • Thyroid hormones: Amphetamines should be used with caution in patients with thyrotoxicosis since these patients are unusually responsive to stimulants.

Dexedrine Abuse Risk Groups

Dextroamphetamine abuse can occur in any population. However, certain groups are at higher risk than others. Three populations have a higher likelihood of engaging in Dexedrine abuse.


Students frequently abuse amphetamines designed to treat ADHD by taking them without having a medical condition in the hopes of improving their studying abilities. Using any ADHD medication long-term without a medical reason is abuse and puts the user at an extreme risk of addiction. This is true of Dexedrine, long-term Adderall use, and more. On many high school and college campuses, students will encourage this use, putting this population at the greatest risk.

People Interested in Weight Loss

woman measuring her waistThe next highest risk population are those interested in weight loss. Amphetamines, including dextroamphetamine, are known for reducing appetite and speeding up metabolism, allowing for significant weightloss. Even if not taken in large amounts, this often leads to addiction.

Those With a History of Abuse

Finally, those with a history of substance abuse are more likely to abuse and become addicted to Dexedrine. While these individuals are more likely to choose other drugs, if they find a way to quickly obtain Dexedrine, it could easily become their drug of choice.

Dexedrine Addiction

Dextroamphetamine addiction can develop, and it can happen easier than many people realize. Anyone who takes the medication long-term, even as prescribed, can end up being physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. When it is abuse, addiction is significantly likely.

Physical Dexedrine Addiction

A physical Dexedrine addiction develops when the body craves the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is not present. Signs that the body is physically addicted to dextroamphetamine include:

  • Feeling a physical craving for the drug
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Insomnia, followed by hypersomnia
  • Intense and vivid drug-related dreams
  • Hunger
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Psychological Dexedrine Addiction

Psychological addiction to Dexedrine is all about thought processes. When someone is psychologically addicted to Dexedrine, they become preoccupied with the drug. When they have it, they constantly think about when they are going to use it and what it will be like. When they do not have it, they obsess over how they will get it. Soon, their lives start to revolve around the use of the drug.

Even if there is no physical addiction, psychological addiction means that the user has a severe problem and should look into options for treating an addiction to illicit substances.

Dexedrine Withdrawal And Detox

If someone has been abusing the drug, they will need to undergo Dexedrine withdrawal to get clean. Depending on the situation, they may also require Dexedrine detox. It is recommended that users seek out assistance from medication professionals as they go through the stages of drug detox and withdrawal for their safety.

Dexedrine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

Withdrawal symptoms when stopping Dexedrine use can be mild to severe. In most cases, they will not prove deadly, though it is always best to undergo withdrawal in a supervised setting. Dexedrine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Uneasiness
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • A lack of feelings of pleasure
  • Exhaustion
  • Vivid and upsetting dreams
  • The inability to sleep or a need to sleep excessively
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Poor eye contact
  • Pale skin
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations

The Dexedrine withdrawal process tends to follow a standard timeline, which is as follows:

Days 1 – 3
During these days, the symptoms of withdrawal tend to be at their most severe. Disturbed sleep patterns, depression, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue are strong and can make the user feel like they are losing their sanity. The user also tends to experience very intense cravings for dextroamphetamine at this time. Physical symptoms similar to the flu tend to manifest at this point, including nausea and diarrhea.
Days 4 – 7
At this point, the symptoms tend to decrease in their intensity. Usually, at this point, the cravings and fatigue are the strongest symptoms.
Days 8 – 14
At this time, appetite will have returned to normal and fatigue will be starting to wane. Cravings should be much weaker. This is the time when insomnia and unpleasant dreams are the strongest withdrawal symptoms.
Days 15 – 28
During these days, symptoms peter off until they are gone entirely.


Weaning off Dexedrine

tapering off drugsAnyone trying to get clean from the drug and avoid the worst of Dexedrine withdrawal symptoms should work with professionals to wean off the medication. There are tapering schedules that users can follow. However, it isn’t advisable to do this without medical supervision. There is a chance that there are complicating factors that require a customized tapering schedule. If someone wishes to stop using Dexedrine, they should seek medical guidance.

Dexedrine Detoxification

Dexedrine detoxification is when special treatments are used to help the person get the drug out of their system. Once again, there is a lot of information available online detailing ways to detoxify from Dexedrine and other amphetamines. Ultimately, the only safe detoxification options are those offered by licensed rehabilitation centers and medical practices. Those needing help should seek out these resources.

How Long Does Dexedrine Stay in the System?

For many people using Dexedrine illegally, a concern is how long it stays in the system. Because many people using it also are drug tested for work, sports programs, and other things, having it show up on a drug test could throw their entire life off track. The dextroamphetamine half-life is about 11 hours, but that does not mean drug tests will be clean after that time.

Timetable for Dexedrine Drug Test Detection

The exact amount of time the drug will remain detectable will vary from person to person based on everything from age to how much water they drink. However, there are rough estimates that can be used.

Urine Detectable up to two days
Blood Detectable up to two days
Saliva Detectable up to two days
Hair Detectable up to 90 days


There are numerous products available designed to help people flush their system of amphetamines faster, as well as guides that instruct users to do things like drink a lot of water and eat detoxifying foods. However, none of these are proven effective. The best way to ensure someone passes a drug test is not to use drugs.

Does Dexedrine Show on Standard Drug Tests?

Standard drug tests detect the presence of broad categories of drugs that are typically abused. This includes amphetamines, the drug class which Dexedrine belongs to. As a result, users can expect all standard drug tests to detect the presence of Dexedrine. If the user has a prescription, they should not have any repercussions for this, but if they do not, they can lose their job, scholarship, position on a sports team, or whatever is at stake with their testing.

Can One Get a False Positive With Dexedrine?

No, Dexedrine does not produce false positives. It does cause positives, but they are not incorrect. Dexedrine is an amphetamine, so when the positive result comes up, it means that the drug tests worked and noticed the presence of amphetamines in the test sample.

How Can Dexedrine Addiction Be Treated?

Dexedrine addiction treatment is available across the United States. Any rehab center that offers amphetamine abuse rehabilitation will be able to treat dextroamphetamine addiction as well. Users should take time to locate a center that meets their needs, whether that means offering luxury facilities or allowing children to live with the patient while they get better. There are thousands of rehab centers in the country, which means that finding the right one requires just a little bit of research. Everyone can find a drug treatment center that works for them.

Anyone who is abusing Dexedrine or has thought about it should seek help. Rehabilitation programs excel at helping people change their thought processes and underlying conditions that fuel addiction. With their help, it is possible to live a clean and healthy life.

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Published on: May 7th, 2019

Updated on: June 16th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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