Dextroamphetamine Side Effects, Warnings, and Addiction

Last Updated: July 6, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Dexedrine is the brand name of dextroamphetamine. It is a drug intended for the treatment of ADHD, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other conditions, but it has been a drug of abuse for nearly as long.

When abused, it can produce effects similar to meth, as it is also an amphetamine. It is known that the drug has a high addictive potential, even by the FDA, but the therapeutic importance for ADHD cannot be understated, which is why it remains available.

This article will discuss what is dextroamphetamine addiction, Dexedrine vs. Adderall, drug interactions, effects on health, and more.

What Is Dextroamphetamine?

What is dextroamphetamine? Dextroamphetamine is a CNS stimulant in the amphetamine family. It is available in a generic form as well as under various brand names. These include the Dexedrine, Zenzedi, or Dextrostat.

The medication can be found as immediate-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 for treatment of a disorder.

Uses

Doctors can use Dexedrine to treat ADHD or narcolepsy. Anytime someone takes dextroamphetamine off-label, they should be cautious, as it puts them at risk of adverse effects.

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.

Dextroamphetamine Side Effects

Dextroamphetamine side effects are quite numerous, more than many other prescription medications. Some of these are welcomed by users, such as weight loss. Others are highly concerning and even potentially fatal. Common dextroamphetamine side effects are those that many users can expect to experience. Users experiencing any of these side effects of dextroamphetamine should talk to their doctor about potentially using another medication to avoid these complications.

The Dextroamphetamine Side Effects Include:

  • 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
  • Headaches
  • Reduced energy
  • Tremors
  • Changes in the sense of taste
  • Urinary tract infections

Severe Dexedrine Side Effects

While the dextroamphetamine side effects above are primarily mild, some severe side effects can occur, though they are rare. For instance, there is a risk of amphetamine psychosis occurring. It typically happens at large dosages but can rarely occur within therapeutic use. The increased frequency of suicidal thoughts has also been reported as a rare side effect in those who use Dexedrine.

Dexedrine pills for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It should be noted that individuals with any cardiac disorder should avoid the use of this drug. There is the potential to cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and a heart attack. These can sometimes manifest as sudden death.

Dexedrine Warnings and Precautions

Overall, the warnings and precautions for using Dexedrine are the same as other amphetamines. 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 for longer than indicated.

Other Warnings Include:

  • Overuse and abuse of Dexedrine can cause heart problems, which can 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, 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 prescription medication.

Dexedrine Mechanism of Action

Dexedrine’s mechanism of action is similar to that of other amphetamine drugs, including methamphetamine. A signature of this 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. Dexedrine ER and IR act the same on the body; the difference is just the duration of effects and how powerfully they are felt. One of the mechanisms of action is the stimulation of alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors. It increases the levels of monoamines, such as 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 directions, this helps the medication accomplish its goal.

Finally, dextroamphetamine inhibits monoamine oxidase. This is an enzyme present in the muscle tissue that inactivates monoamine neurotransmitters. This also ensures an excess of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine. All this comes together to make Dexedrine a highly effective yet addictive medication.

Dexedrine vs. Adderall

Dexedrine and Adderall are very closely related drugs. When putting Dexedrine vs. Adderall, they have many similarities, for example indications for use or drug schedule. However, while both of these drugs may have their similarities, putting Dexedrine vs. Adderall will show that they also have numerous differences.

The Following Is the Comparison Of Dexedrine vs. Adderall:

Dexedrine Adderall
Schedule II II
Ingredients dextroamphetamine dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine
Uses ADHD and narcolepsy ADHD and narcolepsy
Forms available Tablets and oral solution Tablets
Abuse Potential Yes Yes

Dexedrine Interactions

There is no drug that cannot potentially have harmful interactions with other medications. Dexedrine is no exception. The doctor must be informed of all medications used before dextroamphetamine is prescribed. It is essential to avoid using this drug with alcohol. Using these together can increase the risk of cardiovascular side effects of dextroamphetamine. For anyone who has a cardiac disorder, this can be very dangerous.

The drug should also not be used with SSRIs, such as fluoxetine, and SNRIs, such as duloxetine. They can increase the effects that dextroamphetamine has on the sympathetic nervous system and cause an increase in symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, restlessness. In rare cases, it can cause serotonin syndrome, which can be potentially fatal.

Acidic foods and drinks, such as those containing vitamin C, can reduce the levels of Dexedrine in the blood, making it less effective.

Dexedrine Abuse

While many use dextroamphetamine for ADHD and narcolepsy, there are plenty who abuse it to achieve recreational effects. These make up the majority of people who abuse it. However, many use it as a treatment for obesity, and others use it as a tool to focus when studying. It is recommended to discuss the prescribed dosages with the doctor and stick to his recommendations to avoid addiction and adverse effects. The same can happen if the drug is used for non-approved purposes.

Dextroamphetamine abuse can occur in any population though some are more at risk than others.

Stressed student taking dexedrine to study at night.

These Populations Are More Likely to Abuse this Drug:

Students

Most students who abuse amphetamines do not use them in the treatment of any of its approved indications. They use it to improve focus and concentration when studying. Long-term use of these drugs for non-approved purposes is drug abuse and can present the risk of addiction and side effects.

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 most significant risk.

People Interested in Weight Loss

Following students, obese individuals or those seeking to lose weight are largely at risk as amphetamines are known to reduce appetite and accelerate metabolism, resulting in weight loss. They may use dextroamphetamine 10mg for this purpose, and its use can commonly lead to addiction.

Those With a History of Abuse

If an individual has previously abused any substance, there is a higher risk of abusing and developing dependence on dextroamphetamine. These individuals are more likely to attempt higher doses and risk overdose and severe dextroamphetamine side effects.

Dexedrine Addiction

Dependence on any drug is due to chronic changes that the drug causes due to frequently influencing the balance of chemicals in the brain. It applies to dextroamphetamine as well. In its case, it causes an increase in dopamine levels after being taken, which has a reinforcing effect and promotes a desire to take more of it. This dependence can be either physical or psychological.

Dexedrine pills spilled out of the bottle.

A physical Dexedrine addiction develops when the body craves the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is not present.

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 will 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 health problem and should look into options for treating an addiction to illicit substances.

Addiction Signs

Many people are in denial about their drug misuse, and it is vital to be able to identify signs of addiction if they have progressed to the point of dependence. This is the first step in being able to get help. It is also important for the loved ones of potential addicts who may suspect something.

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

Dextroamphetamine Overdose

Dextroamphetamine overdose is possible when the drug is abused either by taking it in high amounts or combining it with other contraindicated substances. The drug must be 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 Are:

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

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.

Also, overdoses can be triggered by mixing prescription 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.

Dexedrine Withdrawal And Detox

One of the most dreaded aspects of dependence is withdrawal. The body can become used to the presence of a drug. Therefore, the production of some neurotransmitters becomes linked to the intake of that substance. When it isn’t available, these neurotransmitters aren’t at their normal levels, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. These can make quitting very hard as people go back to the drug to get rid of the uncomfortable symptoms.

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
  • Pale skin
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations

When withdrawing from dextroamphetamine, there is a rough pattern of how the symptoms appear based on dextroamphetamine half-life and factors such as the dosage abused and for how long. The symptoms typically start about 24 hours after the first dose, peak around the third day, and finally stop entirely from about two weeks.

The Timeline of Withdrawal Tends to Follow This Pattern:

  • Days 1 to 3: Symptoms are the most severe here. Sleep is disturbed, and depression, anxiety, and irritability are present. There are intense cravings for the drug. Symptoms like nausea and diarrhea are also present.
  • Days 4 to 7: The symptoms begin to subside, with cravings and fatigue persisting.
  • Days 8 to 14: Cravings and fatigue should be disappearing, and appetite should be mostly normal. Sleep disturbances like insomnia and nightmares are most prominent.
  • Days 15 to 28: Symptoms continue to decrease in intensity until they are gone.

Anyone 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.

How Long Does Dexedrine Stay in the System?

For many people using Dexedrine illegally, a concern is how long it stays in the system. 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 and dextroamphetamine half-life. However, there are rough estimates that can be used.

URINE Detectable up to 2 days
BLOOD Detectable up to 2 days
SALIVA Detectable for 1 to 2 days
HAIR Detectable up to 90 days

There are numerous health products available designed to help people flush their system of amphetamines faster, as well as guides that instruct them to 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. It includes amphetamines. As a result, users can expect all standard drug tests to detect Dexedrine. If the user has a prescription, a positive result should not be an issue, but if they do not, they can lose their job, scholarship, position on a sports team, or whatever is at stake with their testing.

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 providing 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 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: July 6th, 2021

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.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.