How Long Does Adderall Stay In Your System?

Evidence Based
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What is Adderall & Is It Addictive?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant composed of two chemical compounds: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. 

One of the functions of the drug is to treat symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults. These symptoms can include trouble focusing and difficulty controlling actions or staying still. 

Another reason for which clinicians may prescribe the medication is to treat narcolepsy in adults and children aged 12 or older. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that makes individuals suffer from extreme daytime sleepiness and fall asleep unexpectedly. 

The dual combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine is effective because of its impact on the central nervous system (CNS). Otherwise classified as CNS stimulants, this series of drugs alters the quantity of certain natural substances in the brain to produce physiological outcomes like improved concentration or heightened alertness. 

The benefits of using Adderall are a contributing factor to why many adolescents and college students in the United States use the drug. Adderall is generally perceived as a study-aid medication among students who want to pull an all-nighter and study intensely. However, as will be discussed later, long-term side effects are not completely known and continual drug use can lead to serious health consequences.

In a U.S. study analyzing trends between 2006 and 2011, individuals aged 18 to 25 were the most common age group to illegally take Adderall without a prescription.

The length of time for these drugs to take effect will vary. Adderall IR is an immediate-release pill taken 2 to 3 times per day. Adderall XR is an extended-release capsule that users take when they wake up.

Clinicians may not introduce higher doses initially to monitor response and control progress. Adderall IR and Adderall XR can have side effects, build physical dependence over time, and result in withdrawal symptoms or overdose when misused. 

Graphic human body showing symptoms.

Side Effects of Adderall & Withdrawal Symptoms

Adderall use can have different side effects, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Headache
  • Alterations in libido or sexual performance
  • Intense menstrual cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping 

It is important to seek medical help if any of the following serious side effects occur:

  • Slow or difficult speech
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness in the arms or legs
  • Seizures, which primarily occurs in individuals with a history of seizures. 
  • Motor or verbal tics
  • Blurred vision
  • Mental health issues, which may include hallucinations, depression, paranoia, or mania (frenzied or atypically excited mood)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Elevated heart rate 
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Fainting 

Individuals with heart defects or serious heart problems have a higher risk of sudden death, heart attacks, or strokes.

As Adderall is a prescription stimulant that affects the central nervous system, prolonged use of the drug may lead to physical tolerance and dependence (when higher doses are needed to have the same desired effects). Over time, continual use may then result in a substance use disorder (SUD).

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than one million Americans misused prescription stimulants in 2017. 

Individuals considering stopping the medication should speak with a medical professional to monitor withdrawal symptoms and lower the risk of overdose. 

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Intense, unpleasant dreams 
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation — in psychomotor agitation, individuals may experience a sense of anxious restlessness that causes them to perform unintentional movements, such as fidgeting or pacing around. In psychomotor retardation, individuals may note slowed speech, decreased movement, and impaired cognitive ability. 

How Long Does Adderall Stay In Your System?

The body absorbs Adderall via the gastrointestinal tract. The liver then breaks down the chemical substance and excretes it through urine. 

However, Adderall can be present or detected in different bodily specimens, including the hair, blood, and saliva. The following list comprises approximate windows of detection for each type of test:

Urine Drug Test

This type of drug screening can detect traces of amphetamine or Adderall up to 7 days after the last use. There may be a higher concentration of the drug, given that the body excretes it primarily through urine.  

Hair Test

This type of drug screening is convenient, as concentrations of Adderall can be present for up to 3 months. 

Blood Test

When other drug screening tests are not an option, a blood test can detect Adderall within minutes to hours. 

Saliva Test

Oral fluid screening can confirm concentrations of Adderall within 5 to 48 hours after last use. 

Half-Life of Adderall

The estimated half-life of the main ingredient of Adderall, dextroamphetamine, is between 9-13 hours. This means that the body will eliminate at least half of this chemical compound after this time has passed. 

The highest concentrations of the drug in the body’s system will occur approximately 3 hours after administration. 

Factors That Affect Detection Time

The window of detection will vary according to different factors, including:

  • Frequency of use — chronic users of Adderall may have urine concentrations of the substance for more days than the average time. 
  • Age younger individuals tend to have stronger metabolisms and healthier organs than older adults. This is important, as poor liver or kidney function can inhibit proper metabolism and lead to extended exposure to the drug.
  • pH level the pH level of urine can affect how quickly the kidney is capable of eliminating Adderall from the body. 
  • Dose — the amount of Adderall taken will also impact the duration of time that the substance is present. The higher the dose, the longer it is in the body.  
  • Adderall IR or XR because Adderall XR is an extended-release capsule, traces of its main ingredients will be detectable for longer periods. The detection times mentioned above apply to Adderall IR. 
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Treatment For Adderall Addiction

If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction to Adderall, there are different options available to seek help and find relief. 

Before quitting, it is recommended that you consult your nearest healthcare professional to speak about quitting. Prescription stimulants like Adderall can lead to a substance use disorder (addiction) and cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

A healthcare professional may recommend an inpatient or outpatient facility to help you through detoxification and ensure a healthier recovery. Tapering (gradual reduction of drug dosage) may be included in your treatment plan to avoid sudden, severe withdrawal symptoms.

While there is no FDA-approved medication-assisted drug that can treat this type of addiction, there are behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.  

Similarly, the FDA recently approved a mobile app called reSET that provides 24/7 access to digital cognitive behavioral therapy lessons and coping strategies. 


Ready to Make a Change?

Resources

“ADDERALL® (CII) - Medication Guides Attached2007.” FDA, 2007, www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf.

“The Amphetamine Withdrawal Syndrome.” Department of Health | The Amphetamine Withdrawal Syndrome, www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-toc~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7-aws.

Benham, Barbara. “Adderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 17 Feb. 2016, www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2016/adderall-misuse-rising-among-young-adults.html.

“Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601234.html.

“Hair Drug Testing.” LabCorp, www.labcorp.com/drug-testing/types-of-drug-tests/hair-drug-testing.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Commonly Used Drugs Charts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12 June 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/commonly-used-drugs-charts.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Can Prescription Drug Addiction Be Treated?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 June 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/how-can-prescription-drug-addiction-be-treated.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is the Scope of Prescription Drug Misuse?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 Apr. 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse.

“Oral Fluid Drug Testing.” LabCorp, www.labcorp.com/drug-testing/types-of-drug-tests/oral-fluid-testing.

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Updated on: September 2, 2020
Author
Anthony Armenta
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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