Dexedrine Abuse

Dexedrine is a prescription stimulant that contains dextroamphetamine, one of the primary components of amphetamine. When used as prescribed, Dexedrine is considered safe and effective. But it causes dependence when it’s used regularly. Some people misuse Dexedrine to feel buzzed or high. Dexedrine abuse increases the risk of addiction and overdose.
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The Food and Drug Administration has approved Dexedrine for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. Like other ADHD medications, Dexedrine is supposed to be used alongside therapy and other treatments.

Fast Facts: Dexedrine

Abuse Potential
Scientific Name
Drug Class
Street Names
Dexies, Kiddie Speed, Uppers, Pep Pills
Side Effects
Headache, Dry Mouth, Constipation, High Blood Pressure, Rapid heartbeat, Insomnia
How It's Used
Swallowed, Snorted
Legal Status
Schedule II

The active ingredient in Dexedrine is dextroamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine is more potent than levoamphetamine, the other primary component of amphetamine. Thus, Dexedrine is more potent than the more widely prescribed ADHD medication Adderall. Adderall contains both dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

Effects of Dexedrine

Doctors may prescribe Dexedrine for long-term use, but the Food and Drug Administration warns that prolonged use of any amphetamine can lead to dependence. Dexedrine has the following black-box warning on its prescription drug label.

Black-Box Warning for Dexedrine:

Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse. Administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence and must be avoided. Particular attention should be paid to the possibility of subjects obtaining amphetamines for nontherapeutic use or distribution to others, and the drugs should be prescribed or dispensed sparingly. Misuse of amphetamines may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events.

People with heart problems should not take Dexedrine. Patients with heart problems who took the drug as prescribed have experienced increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and death, according to the drug’s label.

Like its chemical cousins methylphenidate and methamphetamine, dextroamphetamine can cause a range of side effects when used as prescribed.

Common side effects of Dexedrine include:
  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Appetite loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Constipation

If you become dependent on Dexedrine, talk to your doctor before discontinuing the medication. Stopping abruptly can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Dexedrine withdrawal can cause:
  • Aches
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Headache
  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Hallucinations

Abrupt cessation of Dexedrine can also cause depression. When used a prescribed by a doctor, most people do not experience severe side effects. However, patients should talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks of long-term Dexedrine use. They should also create a discontinuation plan if they decide to stop taking the medication.

Why Do People Abuse Dexedrine?

People who abuse Dexedrine and other amphetamines usually want to feel high, increase productivity at work or school, or stay awake longer. Amphetamines last longer than other stimulants, such as cocaine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

When people with ADHD take Dexedrine, they feel calm and relaxed. When people without ADHD take the medication, they feel stimulated and focused.

Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin have replaced Dexedrine and other prescription amphetamines as popular drugs of abuse. In 1981, about 5 percent of high school seniors took Dexedrine without a doctor’s prescription. That percentage dropped to less than 1 percent in 1986, and by 2016 a negligible percentage of 12th-graders abused Dexedrine annually, according to a Monitoring the Future report published in June 2017.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the largest national study on drug abuse, doesn’t ask participants about specific brands of ADHD medications. About 12 million people used amphetamine products in 2016, and 5.1 million misused amphetamine products that year. Amphetamine products include Adderall, Dexedrine, Vyvanse and generic amphetamine-based medications.

Like other stimulants, large doses of Dexedrine cause a powerful high followed by an intense crash. Symptoms of a Dexedrine crash include extreme fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Some people try to avoid the crash by taking higher or repeated doses of Dexedrine. This creates a cycle of binges and crashes that can cause serious side effects in the brain, including erratic behavior, psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations, according to the DEA.

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How Addictive Is Dexedrine?

When used as prescribed, dextroamphetamine rarely causes addiction. It may cause dependence, which is a separate medical condition that’s often associated with addiction.

As people take Dexedrine, they become used to having dextroamphetamine in their system. The brain eventually undergoes physical changes to adapt to the presence of the chemical. Tolerance to Dexedrine increases, and they require higher doses of the drug to feel the desired effect.

Eventually, the brain starts to rely on dextroamphetamine to function normally. Many people who use Dexedrine for long-term treatment of ADHD become dependent on the medication, but that doesn’t mean they’re addicted.

Addiction occurs when a person acts compulsively to take the drug despite known harms. Prescription drug addiction is a brain disease that’s characterized by behavioral problems. People who abuse Dexedrine increase their risk of addiction because taking the drug in high doses can manipulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system, which leads to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

Dextroamphetamine is chemically similar to other amphetamines, including crystal meth. These amphetamines are Schedule II controlled substances because they have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Despite these risks, the drugs have legitimate medical uses.

Does Dexedrine Addiction Require Rehab?

Most of the time, addiction to any amphetamine requires rehab. Unlike alcohol or opioid withdrawal, dextroamphetamine withdrawal isn’t associated with intense physical discomfort, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Negative feelings or emotions caused by withdrawal can compromise patient safety, though. To safely detox, people addicted to Dexedrine should attend certified rehab centers.

Doctors and nurses at rehab centers monitor patients for suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression during detox. They can also treat rare symptoms of dextroamphetamine withdrawal, such as seizures or heart problems, if they occur.

Detox is usually followed by individual and group therapy. Research shows that motivational and reward-based therapies are generally effective for treating individuals with stimulant use disorders.

Effective types of therapy the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends for Dexedrine addiction include:
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational incentives
  • Matrix model
  • 12-step facilitation therapy

Recovery from amphetamine addiction is associated with high rates of relapse, according to numerous studies. Causes of relapse include a variety of environmental, physiological and treatment factors. Longer durations of therapy are associated with lower rates of relapse, so people in recovery from Dexedrine addiction should consider attending outpatient therapy and support group meetings after initial treatment.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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