Dexedrine: Effects, Interactions & Addiction

Dexedrine is a prescription stimulant medication that treats ADHD and similar disorders. The drug has a high potential for abuse and addiction when taken in higher doses than prescribed or taken long-term. Learn the risks and find treatment.
Evidence Based
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What is Dexedrine?

Dexedrine pill

Dexedrine, the brand name for dextroamphetamine that is also sold under the name Dextrostate, is an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication. It helps people with ADHD focus and remain calm. It is also used to treat narcolepsy and helps people with sleep disorders feel wakeful and energetic. Dexedrine has a high likelihood of abuse.

Dexedrine works by altering the natural chemicals in the brain. It’s a stimulant and in addition to helping with focus, also makes it easier to organize and listen better.

Mild Side Effects

Dexedrine is linked to several common side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Increase in blood pressure

Symptoms are usually mild, but if they intensify, the person taking Dexedrine should contact his or her doctor. People taking Dexedrine are sometimes encouraged to test their blood pressure regularly.

Rare & Serious Side Effects

Rare but more serious side effects associated with Dexedrine include:

  • Numbness, coldness, or skin color changes that could indicate an issue with circulation
  • Unusual finger or toe wounds
  • Behavior changes or mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Muscle twitching or shaking
  • Uncontrolled movement
  • Vocal outbursts
  • Swelling in the feet or ankles
  • Changes in sexual interest or ability
  • Prolonged or frequent erections
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Significant unexplained weight loss

Several serious side effects warrant immediate medical attention. These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe headache
  • Pain in the chest, left arm, or jaw
  • Irregular or pounding heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision

Serotonin Syndrome and Overdose Symptoms

Dexedrine use can also cause serotonin syndrome by increasing serotonin levels to toxic levels. The condition is especially a risk when Dexedrine users are taking other serotonin-increasing medications.


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Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Twitching
  • Unexplained fever
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Overdose
  • It is possible to overdose on Dexedrine.

Overdose symptoms include:

  • Shakiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperactivity
  • Fast breathing
  • Confusion
  • Aggressiveness
  • Fever
  • Muscle pains

Medication and invasive medical procedures could be necessary if a person overdoses on Dexedrine.

Icon with triangle signifying risk.

Risks of Dexedrine

Dexedrine users face multiple risks. The drug can cause liver damage and that risk is higher for people with pre-existing liver health issues.

Users also face a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues.

Dexedrine overdose is a risk and can be fatal.

Finally, Dexedrine is a mind-altering medication. This means there is an increased risk for hallucinations, mania, paranoia, and panic attacks. Users might also experience mood swings or violent tendencies.

Dexedrine vs Adderall

How does Dexedrine compare to another popular ADHD medication, Adderall?

The two are the most commonly prescribed medications for treating the disorder. They both come in immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR) forms. They are also both stimulants and both contain d-amphetamine.

The difference between the two drugs is that Adderall also contains d-amphetamine and l-amphetamine in the ratio of 3:1. In an even dose, Adderall would be more potent than Dexedrine. Both are powerful and help manage ADHD symptoms, but Adderall is a stronger stimulant.

This doesn’t mean that someone with a “worse” case of ADHD, or someone with milder symptoms of the disorder, should choose one drug over the other. Both are effective, but they might work differently depending on the person using them.

Dexedrine and Depression

Some studies have shown that Dexedrine is useful for augmenting the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults and in treating depression in the elderly. Dexedrine and other psychostimulants also appear to be useful for treating post-stroke depression, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated depression, and helps those who have difficulty weaning from mechanical ventilation.

There is also evidence patients with cancer and depression benefit from stimulants when it comes to managing mood and other symptoms associated with major depressive disorder. However, more data is needed concerning the use of psychostimulants in the treatment of depression.

Pill bottle and skull

Is Dexedrine Addictive?

Yes, Dexedrine has a high risk of abuse, as well as addiction and dependency.

Stimulants trigger a euphoric high when taken in larger-than-prescribed doses. Dexedrine also enables users to stay awake and focused for long periods. For this reason, students consider it a “study drug” because it allows them to spend hours focused on their work.

Tolerance, and eventually dependence, are possible as the brain adjusts to the drug. The Dexedrine-dependent brain struggles to function without the drug and users who stop taking the drug experience withdrawal.

When someone develops an addiction to Dexedrine, they are willing to take action to acquire the drug that puts them at risk. They’ll continue to use the drug even if they are aware of the harmful effects.

Dexedrine addiction symptoms include:

  • Hazardous use
  • Problems with personal relationships
  • Neglect of responsibilities
  • Failed attempts to stop using
  • Physical or psychological problems linked to the drug
  • Giving up activities that were once enjoyed
  • Cravings
  • Withdrawal

Dexedrine triggers changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters. It also affects dopamine levels. When a person stops using the drug his or her brain is unable to function normally without it. Someone who tries to stop using Dexedrine might experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy levels
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme hunger and thirst
  • Chills
  • Unusual dreams
  • Muscle aches
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
Graphic of 3 different types of medication bottles and pills.

Dexedrine Addiction Treatment

There is no specific Dexedrine addiction treatment. People trying to break an addiction and/or dependency to Dexedrine should undergo a medically supervised detoxification process, followed by drug addiction therapy. Medically supervised detox is an important part of the recovery process because it eases withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapse.

The detox period begins with a crash as the effects of Dexedrine wear off. This period might trigger fatigue, depression, and general malaise. It usually lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Approximately 24 hours after the last dose of Dexedrine, the dependent person will experience fatigue and extreme hunger and thirst. These and the symptoms of withdrawal listed above last anywhere from five days to two weeks. However, some psychological symptoms might linger for several months, increasing the likelihood of relapse.

During and after the detox period, the person addicted to Dexedrine can participate in rehabilitation programs, support groups, 12-step programs, and therapy. Treatment programs can be either residential or outpatient or a combination of the two. Though the initial period of treatment tends to last a few weeks or months, continued long-term support shows the best success for maintaining sobriety.

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Resources

“Will You Have Depression with Dexedrine - EHealthMe.” www.Ehealthme.Com, www.ehealthme.com/ds/dexedrine/depression/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2020.

“What You Need to Know About Dexedrine (Dextroamphetamine Sulfate).” Psycom.Net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/dexedrine-dextroamphetamine-sulfate.

“Dexedrine Overdose.” EMedTV: Health Information Brought To Life, adhd.emedtv.com/dexedrine/dexedrine-overdose.html. Accessed 16 Mar. 2020.

Huffman, Jeff C., and Theodore A. Stern. “Using Psychostimulants to Treat Depression in the Medically Ill.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 1, 2004, pp. 44–46, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC427614/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2020.

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Updated on: July 20, 2020
Author
Addiction Group Staff
About
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Medically Reviewed: February 14, 2020
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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