What Is Dexedrine Used For?
Dexedrine is a brand name for the prescription drug dextroamphetamine and is used to treat pediatric attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy in both children and adults. By increasing neural signaling via several neurotransmitter systems, Dexedrine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and boosts several physiologic processes, leading to:1,2,3
- Heightened alertness.
- A subjective increase in energy.
- Vigilance and focused attention.
Dexedrine is similar to other brand-name dextroamphetamine-based drugs, such as:2,3
- Adderall (dextroamphetamine + amphetamine).
Though the effects may be similar, Dexedrine differs from some other commonly prescribed stimulant medications like Concerta and Ritalin, as these are formulated with another drug called methylphenidate. Though different, both substances work as CNS stimulants and are prescribed for similar conditions.3
Dexedrine is available in extended-release capsules and is prescribed in doses from 5 mg to 60 mg that may be given at once or in divided doses in the case of narcolepsy. For those aged 6 and older using the substance for ADHD, dosing starts at 5 mg, with subsequent increases as needed until symptoms are controlled (with 40 mg being the suggested maximum dose).1
Is Dexedrine Harmful?
Although Dexedrine has the ability to improve symptoms of ADHD and help manage narcolepsy, Dexedrine abuse can be very harmful to the user. In fact, its potential for harm is indicated by the drug’s status as a Schedule II controlled substance (as determined by the Drug Enforcement Administration). This means that while Dexedrine has therapeutic benefits, it carries the potential for abuse.1
Dexedrine’s powerful stimulant effects should be closely monitored, even when the substance is being used as prescribed. To be sure, the drug’s potential for harm increases dramatically when it is abused. As with other prescription drugs, Dexedrine can be abused by:3
- Taking more of the substance than directed.
- Taking the drug more frequently than indicated.
- Taking the substance without a valid prescription.
- Taking the substance to get high.
- Using Dexedrine for a purpose other than intended by your prescription.
One specific way that people abuse Dexedrine is to use it as a focus and study-enhancing drug, hoping that the improved focus it provides for people with ADHD will help them study more effectively and for longer periods of time. There is no evidence to support that abusing study drugs actually leads to improved academic performance.4
Other groups of people willing to abuse Dexedrine include:5
- Academic professionals.
Rates of Dexedrine abuse are high because of its perceived benefits, as well as easy access to the substance. Due to desirability and accessibility, 3.1 million people in the U.S. reported using a stimulant like Dexedrine within the last month (according to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
The rate of stimulant abuse is third behind only marijuana/weed and prescription pain medications.5,6
Short-Term Dexedrine Effects
The short-term effects of Dexedrine use are achieved by the stimulant drug’s ability to interact with a group of neurotransmitters in the brain called monoamines, which includes:5
- Dopamine: a pleasure-inducing transmitter that is related to movement, emotion, and motivation.
- Norepinephrine: a hormone and neurotransmitter associated with attention, focus, heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle response.
- Serotonin: a neurotransmitter linked to mood changes and regulation of the sleep/wake cycle.
With the combination of neurotransmitter influence, Dexedrine use can produce a range of effects in the short term, such as:1,3,4
- Higher alertness.
- Increased energy.
- Improved attention.
- Better decision-making skills.
- Increased self-esteem.
- More appropriate family and social interactions.
Those abusing this substance may wish to achieve the above effects, but at an extreme level. For example, someone may abuse Dexedrine so that they can complete their work more quickly and efficiently without needing to stop for sleep. Other people will abuse it primarily for getting high, since the substance can trigger a sense of euphoria, with:7
- Improved mood.
- Decreased stress.
- Feelings of inflated self-worth.
Dexedrine Side Effects
Similar to other substances, Dexedrine use and abuse carries many risks. Even when it is used as prescribed, the substance is associated with a number of unwanted side effects. These effects tend to increase in frequency and intensity as someone abuses Dexedrine, especially at high doses. Some of the unwanted side effects of dextroamphetamine use are:1,2
- Impaired movement.
- Increase blood pressure.
- Higher heart rate.
- Motor and verbal tics.
- Vision problems.
- Dry mouth.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Risk of seizures.
Additional effects of sudden death, stroke, and cardiac issues can be triggered in people with heart conditions. Because of this, someone’s cardiac health should be determined before they are prescribed Dexedrine.1
The risk of Dexedrine side effects may increase when the substance is combined with antidepressants or over-the-counter cold medicines (e.g. decongestants containing pseudoephedrine). This mixture can cause very high blood pressure and dangerous changes in heart rate.3
Long-Term Side Effects of Dexedrine Use
Long-term Dexedrine abuse is associated with a wide range of ill effects to one’s physical and mental health. As use continues for longer periods or the substance is abused at higher levels, the risks increase.
This drug can give rise to several psychological issues, including:1
- Manic symptoms like an inability to sleep, very high energy, and difficulty making good choices. These symptoms are related to bipolar disorder.
- Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusional thinking, paranoia, and a disconnection from reality.
- Aggression in the form of physical violence or verbal outbursts against self or others.
Physically, the use of Dexedrine may have a link to long-term suppression of growth. Taking a stimulant medication consistently has been shown in some cases to slow the growth rate of the user. This can be seen by losing weight, failure to gain weight expectedly, and failure to grow taller. In some cases, Dexedrine can diminish appetite to the degree that extreme weight loss and malnutrition can occur.1
Dexedrine Dependence and Addiction
Some of the more harmful effects of Dexedrine use and abuse are ones that you cannot easily see: accumulated tolerance, substance dependence, and addiction.
- Tolerance. People who take Dexedrine regularly will no longer feel the same benefit at their initial dose. This occurs as one develops a tolerance to the drug and the body begins to adapt to higher levels of neurotransmitters. To achieve wanted results, the person using or abusing the substance will need to consume more of the substance or modify the frequency or route of their use, which typically leads to tolerance.5
- Dependence. Another common and expected effect of abuse—and even consistent use—is dependence. As the body adapts to the substance, it will become so accustomed to it that the body begins to require Dexedrine to feel normal and to perform at expected levels.5
- Drug addiction. Even people prescribed and using Dexedrine appropriately can develop tolerance and dependence, but addiction is more commonly associated with abuse. Addiction is a powerful desire to get and use a substance despite a high probability of negative repercussions. The thought and behavioral changes of addiction are believed to be brought on by brain impairment that results from chronic drug abuse.5
People addicted to Dexedrine may show symptoms by:8
- Placing more importance on the drug than other priorities.
- Having fewer healthy relationships and increased isolation.
- Losing their jobs or dropping out of school due to use.
- Finding themselves in legal or financial trouble.
- Having unexplained changes in mental or physical health.
- Showing a decline in self-care.
Dexedrine Withdrawal Treatment
The development of physiologic dependence may be difficult to identify during active drug use, but the symptoms become clear when use ends or decreases. This is because withdrawal symptoms emerge within hours or days after last use, depending on factors such as dosing, frequency, and methods of use. Though these symptoms are seldom life-threating, withdrawal from stimulants will be uncomfortable and include:7
- High frustration.
- Extreme paranoia.
- Dehydration and hunger.
- Fatigue and lack of energy.
- Changing need for sleep.
- Poor memory.
- Loss of interest and motivation.
- Drug-related dreams.
- Strong cravings for more Dexedrine.
Because the withdrawal profile associated with stimulants is rarely medically dangerous, many attempt to allow their body to process and remove the substance—which is called detoxification—without professional addiction treatment. This might not always be advisable, however, since withdrawal-related depression can be severe in some cases.
Though infrequent, the level of violence and aggression that arises during some individuals’ withdrawal can also precipitate dangerous results. With these risks, people withdrawing from Dexedrine may benefit from a period of inpatient detoxification to better manage these risks and ensure their safety.7
There are no medications specifically designed for stimulant withdrawal treatment. Pharmacologic interventions are instead largely supportive and administered for symptomatic relief, as needed. In cases of significant associated depression, the use of antidepressants may be helpful during withdrawal. Treatment mainly focuses on behavioral therapies, such as:7,9,10
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): a therapy style that places emphasis on the interconnectedness between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to understand, predict, and prevent substance use.
- Communication-based family therapy: engages the entire family and support system of the individual with the goal of identifying the role each person plays in both triggering and preventing use.
- Contingency management (CM): works to continually reinforce abstinence and activities associated with abstinence by providing rewards and prizes for drug-free urine tests, attending treatment, and participating in community events.
- Motivational interviewing (MI): places the focus on intrinsic motivation in lieu of external rewards to develop a greater desire to stay free from Dexedrine.
- The Matrix Model for Stimulant Abuse: a specialized program specifically for people addicted to stimulants. It incorporates aspects of the above therapies to better treat the individual.
Each of these treatment options can be performed in various settings, from inpatient to outpatient and others in between.
Find Addiction Treatment Programs
If this information leads you to believe that you or someone important to you has a problem with Dexedrine abuse, addiction, or dependence, treatment might be necessary. Rehab centers are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for facilities. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. You can call us free at to learn more and speak to someone about treatment options to lessen the impact of Dexedrine abuse in your life.
Dexedrine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care
- Inpatient Rehab Programs
- Outpatient Rehab Programs
- 3-Day, 5-Day, and 7-Day Detox Programs
- Sober Living Housing
- Aftercare Programs
- Therapy in Dexedrine Addiction Treatment
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