Conditions the medication is used for: ADD/ ADHD, Narcolepsy

Other names for the medication: Adderall® and Adderall XR®

The medication may look like: It is available as tablets and capsules.

Is the medication addictive: Adderall® is a stimulant drug. In adults, Adderall® could be addictive because it can be taken for its stimulant effect. But, there is no evidence that taking Adderall® will cause someone to take illicit drugs when they are older. In fact the opposite might be true because the person will not try to self-medicate with illicit drugs to manage their symptoms.

What is this medication used for?

Adderall® and Adderall XR® contain amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (also known as dexamfetamine) and is used to help treat the symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and sometimes narcolepsy. It is available as tablets and capsules.

Please note: Adderall® is not licensed in the UK. If you wish to know more please ask for a copy of our “Unlicensed medicines” fact sheet.

What is the usual dose for this medication?

The usual dose of Adderall® starts at 5mg a day and increases up to a maximum of 40mg a day (depending on your child’s weight). This dose is normally split up over the day e.g. a dose every 4-6 hours.

How and when should I take the medication?

How to take:

Swallow the tablets or capsules with at least half a glass of water whilst sitting or standing. This is to make sure that they reach the stomach and do not stick in the throat.

When should my child take:

Adderall should be taken as directed on the medicine label. Taking it at mealtimes may make it easier for you to remember as there is no problem about taking Adderall with or after food. If the label says to take it once a day this is usually best at breakfast. If more than once a day, the last dose should be no later than teatime to make sure it doesn’t make it even harder to fall asleep.

What are the alternatives to this medication?

There are other medicines (e.g. methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine and atomoxetine), talking therapies and treatments for ADHD. See our “Handy chart” to help you compare the medicines available.

How long does the medication take to work?

It usually starts to work within a few hours of a dose.

How long will I need to keep taking this medication for?

Probably for several years. Some do well taking it into their 20s and 30s.

Can I just stop taking this medication?

It is unwise to stop taking it suddenly, even if symptoms have improved. At smaller doses, it could be stopped suddenly. At higher doses, it is possible that 'withdrawal' effects might be seen. These would include extreme tiredness, becoming even more hyperactive, eating more and depression. If this were to happen by accident, starting Adderall® again would get rid of these effects. When the time comes, you should withdraw Adderall® by a gradual reduction in the dose over several weeks. Discuss this with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose or overdose?

Take it as soon as you remember within about 2-3 hours of when it is due BUT do not take a dose any later than about late afternoon. If you do, it will mean that it may be much more difficult to get to sleep. Do not try to catch up by taking two or more doses at once as you may get more side-effects. If you or your child have problems remembering your doses (as very many people do) ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about this.

Will this medication affect my other medications Including the Contraceptive pill?

Adderall® has a few interactions with other medicines:

  • Adderall® can increase the effect of phenytoin and tricyclics (e.g. dosulepin, imipramine, lofepramine)   
  • Adderall® should not be taken with a class of antidepressant called the MAOIs
  • You should have no problems with "The Contraceptive Pill" and Adderall® Fruit juices, antacids and vitamin C can slow down the amount of Adderall® the body can take in.

Not all of these interactions happen in everyone. Some of these medicines can still be used together but you will need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. There are other possible drug interactions.

What sort of side-effects might I get from taking this medication?

Side effect

What happens

What to do about it

VERY COMMON (more than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Headache

Complaining their head is pounding and painful.

Try paracetamol. Your pharmacist will be able to advise if this is safe to take with any other medicines your child may be taking.

Dry mouth

Not much saliva or spit.

Suck sugar-free gum or boiled sweets. If it is bad, your doctor may be able to give you a mouth spray.

Insomnia

Not being able to fall asleep at night

Discuss this with your doctor. You may be able to change the time of the dose or doses. Make sure the last dose is before teatime, or even earlier.

Anorexia

Loss of weight, not feeling hungry.

If this is a problem, ask to see a pharmacist or dietician for advice. Your child may need some extra diet supplements. The loss of appetite often wears off after a few weeks.

COMMON (fewer than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Nausea and vomiting

Feeling sick and being sick. Abdominal pain

If it is bad, contact your doctor. It may be possible to adjust your child’s dose. Taking it after food may help. It should wear off after a few weeks.

Nervousness

Feeling more anxious or nervous

This should wear off. If not, mention it to your doctor next time you meet.

Dizziness

Feeling light-headed and faint

Do not stand up too quickly. Get your child to lie down if they feel it coming on.

UNCOMMON (fewer than about 1 in 100 people might get these)

Growth retardation

Slowing down of height gain and loss of weight

Your child should be measured every few months to see how tall he or she is and how weight is changing. If it is slowing down, your child may need to switch medicines, although this is very unlikely.

Aggression

Being aggressive, irritable, depressed, hostile and perhaps suicidal thinking.

If this occurs, discuss with your doctor as soon as possible.

Tachycardia

A pulse rate more than 120 beats per minute while you are resting.

If your child’s resting pulse is over about 120 (i.e. not after exercise), mention this to your doctor. He or she may need a different dose or a beta-blocker to help slow it down.

 

Do not be worried by this list of side effects. Some people get no side effects at all and others may get some effects that are not listed in this table. If you think your child might have a side effect to this medicine, you should ask your doctor, prescriber, nurse or pharmacist

Will I need to have blood tests?

Your child should not need any blood tests but might need a heart check before starting Adderall.

Can I drive or cycle while on this medication?

Your child may feel a bit light-headed at first when taking Adderall. If your child cycles or is old enough to drive, until this wears off or your child knows how Adderall affects him or her, avoid cycling, driving or operating machinery. It can help someone concentrate and so may be less likely to have an accident if he or she takes Adderall regularly. It is legal to drive if Adderall has been prescribed for you, you have taken it exactly as on the label and it does not affect your ability to drive safely.

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