Dextroamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
This substance is also known by specific brand names such as Dexedrine, ProCentra or Zenzedi. The well-known ADHD drug, Adderall, is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Street names for dextroamphetamine include “dex,” “bennies,” and “uppers”.
Dextroamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance that carries a high risk of abuse and addiction. Stimulants like dextroamphetamine are often abused for their ability to produce desirable feelings such as:
- Increased energy.
- Heightened focus.
- Increased alertness.
- Suppressed appetite.
- Feelings of euphoria.
Abuse of dextroamphetamine occurs when users take the drug in excess amounts or utilize alternate methods of administration (i.e., crushing and snorting or injecting it) with the intent of eliciting more rapid and intense effects. Abusing dextroamphetamine has the potential to cause serious physical and mental health symptoms ranging from paranoia to cardiovascular failure.
In 2011, an average of 114 hospital visits per day involved the illicit use of amphetamines and/or methamphetamine in individuals between the age of 18 and 25, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated 1.6 million Americans over age 12 were non-medically using psychotherapeutic drugs, which includes stimulants like dextroamphetamine.
Signs and Symptoms
A number of symptoms may indicate the abuse of dextroamphetamine, including:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Reduced appetite or weight loss.
- Sleep difficulty.
- Dry mouth.
- Mood swings.
- Verbal tics.
- Erratic behavior.
- Tolerance (needing to frequently increase the dose to feel the same effects).
- Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cut down use.
The user may have a persistent runny nose or nosebleeds if the pills are crushed and snorted. A user may have needle or “track” marks if he or she injects the pills.
Effects of Dextroamphetamine Abuse
The abuse of dextroamphetamine has serious health consequences, including:
- Difficulty thinking clearly.
- Impaired memory.
- Unhealthy weight loss; malnutrition.
- Hypertension (raised blood pressure).
- Tachycardia (raised heart rate).
- Impaired eyesight.
- Psychotic symptoms.
- Seizures (highest risk in patients with seizure history).
- Heart attack.
A condition known as Raynaud’s phenomenon is also commonly associated with dextroamphetamine abuse and is characterized by a stronger-than-normal reaction to cold. During an “attack,” toes and fingers may feel numb and change color (pale to bluish and then to red) and then begin to tingle and throb as they warm up.
Dextroamphetamine abuse and addiction can also take a toll on the user’s life and cause numerous troubling issues, including:
- Difficulty concentrating at school or work.
- Prioritizing dextroamphetamine over personal obligations and previously enjoyed activities.
- Experiencing legal difficulties from use, such as those associated with driving while impaired, stealing to finance the habit, etc.
- Suffering from strained relationships with family members and loved ones.
Finally, continuing to abuse dextroamphetamine contributes to the risk of fatal overdose.
According to a 2012 study on prescription stimulant use:
- Nearly a quarter of middle or high-school students who were prescribed stimulants were asked to give or sell their medications to others in 2012.
- Over 35% of undergraduate students reported using non-prescribed stimulants.
- Of those undergraduate students who were prescribed medication for ADHD, 25% misused their medications to get high.
- Of a set of dental and dental hygiene students studied, just over 12% used stimulant medications without a prescription and, of those, 70% took them to improve attention and concentration.
- More than 10% of medical students were found to abuse stimulants, while 5.5% were formally diagnosed with ADHD. Nearly 75% of those were diagnosed after age 18.
For more information, visit our page on the History and Statistics of “Study Drugs”.
Teen Dextroamphetamine Abuse
In the younger community, middle and high-school aged students are obtaining prescription stimulants from friends. Teens who misuse prescription stimulants do so to get high or increase their ability to study, focus, and obtain better grades. This is cause for alarm not only because of the potential effects of stimulant abuse but also because the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that young people who abuse prescription stimulants are more likely to abuse other drugs.
Dextroamphetamine is primarily used to treat ADHD. According to NIDA:
- In 2011, 11% of Americans between the age of 4 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD (NIDA, 2014).
- In 2014, 6.8% of high school seniors reported the non-medical use of prescription stimulants like Adderall.
- Regular use of prescription stimulants is viewed as harmful by declining numbers of high school seniors than in previous years, from 69% in 2009 to 55.1% in 2014.
Prevention is essential in addressing the issue of prescription stimulant misuse among children and teenagers. Prevention starts at home and includes several facets, including:
- Developing and maintaining open lines of communication with your child to discuss substance use and any issues or questions they have.
- Maintaining involvement in your child’s life by getting to know them, being aware of their strengths, and giving love, encouragement, and support.
- Setting clear and consistent rules that are enforced with proper consequences.
- Being a good role model and practicing what you preach by avoiding drugs and staying healthy and safe.
- Helping your child identify healthy activities and maintain positive friendships.
- Remaining aware of what your child is doing, such as activities they engage in. Get to know their friends, as well as their friends’ parents.
- Provide positive and engaging activities in safe, supportive environments to give your child healthy alternatives to drug use.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
Many resources can help increase your understanding of dextroamphetamine, stimulant misuse and abuse, and recovery. Check out some of these websites:
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: Geared towards parents and provides information on drug use, prevention, and treatment.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Provides education and information on prevention.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Provides information on specific substances and treatment.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2013). Medication Guide: Dexedrine.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Dexedrine.
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Dextroamphetamine (oral route).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Fact Sheet.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Prescription Drug Abuse: Stimulants.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2014). A Day in the Life of Young Adults: Substance Use Facts.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2014). Substance Abuse - Amphetamines.
- Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain and Behavior, 2(5), 661–677.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drug Facts: High School and Youth Trends.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004). Keeping Youth Drug Free. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, DHHS Publication No. (SMA)-3772. Rockville, MD.