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Adderall vs Dextro: A Comprehensive Guide

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

When it comes to managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), selecting the right medication is of paramount importance. Among the array of ADHD medications, two names frequently surface in discussions: Adderall and Dextroamphetamine (Dextro). In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with an in-depth understanding of these medications, enabling you to make an informed decision about which one is the best fit for your specific needs.
In this guide, we will thoroughly compare Adderall and Dextro, covering various aspects that can influence your choice of medication. We will explore their composition, brand vs. generic options, duration of action, cost considerations, individual response and tolerance, side effects and risks, as well as their legal classification. Choosing the right ADHD medication can be a complex decision, but our experts at California Prime Recovery are here to provide personalized advice and treatment options. Call us at 866-208-2390 today to begin your journey towards effective ADHD management.

Understanding ADHD and Its Impact

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder affecting individuals of various ages. Beyond the well-known symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, ADHD significantly influences academic performance, relationships, and overall well-being.
Inattention results in difficulty sustaining attention, frequent errors, forgetfulness, and item misplacement. Hyperactivity leads to restlessness and an inability to sit still, particularly in quiet settings. Impulsivity manifests as impetuous decision-making and interruptions in conversations.

The Prevalence of ADHD

  • Approximately 9.4% of children in the United States, aged 2-17, have been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • About 4.4% of adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives.

These statistics underscore the significance of understanding and choosing the right medication for ADHD management.

A Closer Look at Adderall

Let’s begin by examining Adderall in greater detail. Adderall is a brand-name medication that consists of a combination of two stimulant drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.

Adderall Formulations

Adderall is available in two primary formulations:

  • Immediate-Release (IR): This version provides a rapid onset of action, typically within 30-60 minutes after ingestion. Its effects last for about 4-6 hours.
  • Extended-Release (XR): The extended-release form is designed to release the medication slowly over time, providing symptom relief for up to 12 hours.

These formulation options offer flexibility in dosing, allowing healthcare professionals to tailor treatment plans to individual needs.

Mechanism of Action

Adderall’s mechanism of action is quite intricate. It primarily works by:

  • Increasing the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • Inhibiting their reuptake, effectively prolonging their activity.

This dual-action effect enhances:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • Impulse control

Brand vs. Generic

  • Adderall: Recognized as a brand-name medication, Adderall can be more expensive compared to generic alternatives.
  • Generic Options: Generic versions containing the same active ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, are available and often more cost-effective.

Understanding Dextroamphetamine (Dextro)

Now, let’s dive deeper into Dextroamphetamine, commonly known as Dextro. Dextro is a generic medication that offers a distinctive approach to managing ADHD symptoms by containing only the dextroamphetamine component found in Adderall. Its composition, available formulations (Immediate-Release and Extended-Release), mechanism of action, and cost-effectiveness make it a noteworthy alternative within the realm of ADHD medications. Understanding these specific attributes is crucial when considering Dextro as a viable option for addressing ADHD symptoms effectively. In the subsequent sections, we will further explore the differences and similarities between Dextro and Adderall to aid you in making an informed decision about your ADHD treatment.

Dextro Formulations

Dextro is available in two primary formulations:

  • Immediate-Release (IR): Similar to Adderall IR, Dextro IR offers rapid symptom relief, with effects typically lasting for about 4-6 hours.
  • Extended-Release (XR): Dextro XR is designed for prolonged action, providing relief for up to 12 hours.

Much like Adderall, these formulation options offer flexibility in dosing to cater to individual needs.

Dextro’s mechanism of action closely mirrors that of Adderall, as it:

  • Increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • Inhibits their reuptake, prolonging their activity.

This results in enhanced:

  • Attention
  • Focus
  • Reduction of impulsivity


One notable advantage of Dextro is its cost-effectiveness as a generic medication. Many individuals find Dextro to be a more budget-friendly option compared to the brand-name Adderall.

Key Differences: A Comprehensive Comparison

1. Composition:

  • Adderall: It contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are both stimulant medications that affect the central nervous system.
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dextro): Dextroamphetamine, on the other hand, contains only dextroamphetamine. This makes it a more focused medication in terms of its active ingredient.

Understanding this composition difference is important as it can impact how each medication affects an individual’s body and brain.

2. Brand vs. Generic:

  • Adderall: It is recognized as a brand-name medication, often preferred by some individuals due to brand loyalty or perceived quality. Brand-name medications are typically more expensive.
  • Dextro: Dextroamphetamine is available as a generic option. Generic medications are often chosen for their cost-effectiveness, making them
    a more budget-friendly choice.

Choosing between brand and generic versions may depend on personal preferences and budget constraints.

3. Duration of Action:

  • Both medications come in immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR) versions, but the duration of action can vary:
    • Immediate-release forms typically last for about 4-6 hours, providing shorter bursts of symptom relief.
    • Extended-release versions can provide more sustained relief for up to 12 hours, potentially requiring fewer doses throughout the day. This can be advantageous for those who need continuous symptom control.

Understanding the duration of action helps in selecting the appropriate formulation based on the individual’s needs and lifestyle.

4. Cost Considerations:

  • Adderall: Due to its brand-name status, Adderall is often more expensive, making it less cost-effective for some individuals.
  • Dextro: Dextroamphetamine, being a generic option, is generally more affordable. This can be a significant factor for those looking for a more budget-friendly medication.

Considering the cost implications can be vital, especially for long-term medication users.

5. Individual Response and Tolerance:

  • How an individual responds to each medication can vary significantly. Some may experience more profound effects with one medication over the other. It’s essential to monitor and communicate any noticeable differences to healthcare professionals.
  • Tolerance may develop over time with both Adderall and Dextro. This means that the initial effectiveness of the medication may diminish, necessitating adjustments in medication or dosage under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

6. Side Effects and Risks:

Both Adderall and Dextro share common side effects such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Potential mood changes

However, individual reactions may differ, and it’s crucial to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. Regular communication can help manage side effects and minimize risks.

7. Legal Classification:

Both Adderall and Dextroamphetamine are classified as Schedule II controlled substances in the United States due to their potential for abuse and addiction. This classification underscores the importance of responsible use and compliance with medical advice, as well as the need for strict regulation and monitoring when using these medications.

In summary, the choice between Adderall and Dextro should be made after thorough consultation with a healthcare professional, taking into account individual needs, preferences, and potential cost considerations. It’s essential to prioritize safety and responsible use due to their controlled substance status.

Adderall Mechanism of Action

  1. Adderall:
    • Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are central nervous system stimulants.
    • Both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine increase the levels of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain.
    • This enhanced neurotransmitter activity is believed to improve focus, attention, and impulse control, making Adderall a commonly prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dextroamphetamine Mechanism of Action

  1. Dextroamphetamine:
    • Dextroamphetamine is one of the active ingredients in Adderall and works similarly to amphetamine.
    • It primarily increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, leading to improved concentration and reduced hyperactivity.

Storage and Disposal

  1. Adderall:

    • Store Adderall at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.
    • Keep it in a secure place, out of reach of children and individuals without a prescription.
    • Follow local guidelines or consult with a pharmacist for proper disposal of unused or expired medication. Some communities offer drug take-back programs.
  2. Dextroamphetamine:

    • If prescribed separately, dextroamphetamine should be stored similarly to Adderall.
    • Store it in a cool, dry place, and follow local guidelines for disposal.

Alcohol Use

  • Combining alcohol with Adderall or dextroamphetamine is generally not recommended.
  • Alcohol is a depressant, and combining it with stimulant medications can mask the sedative effects of alcohol, potentially leading to an increased risk of alcohol toxicity.
  • Additionally, the combination may impair judgment and increase the risk of adverse effects.

Controlled Substance Classification

  • Adderall:

    • Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, accepted medical uses, and the potential for severe psychological or physical dependence.
  • Dextroamphetamine:

    • Dextroamphetamine, when prescribed separately from Adderall, is also classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, subject to similar regulations and restrictions as Adderall.

Brands and Street Names


  • Brand Names:

    • Adderall is a common brand name for the combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Other brand names include Adderall XR (extended-release version).
  • Street Names:

    • Street names for Adderall may include “Addys,” “Uppers,” “Beans,” or “Smarties.” These terms are used colloquially and can vary regionally.


  • Brand Names:

    • Dextroamphetamine is available under different brand names, including Dexedrine and Dextrostat.
  • Street Names:

    • Street names for dextroamphetamine may include “Dexies” or “Dex.”

It’s important to note that the use of street names for prescription medications can vary, and these terms may change over time or in different locations.


Choosing the Right Medication: Factors to Consider

Selecting the most suitable medication for managing ADHD requires a thorough evaluation of various factors. Here are critical considerations to keep in mind:

1. Medical History

  • Discuss your complete medical history, including any previous experiences with ADHD medications or substance abuse, with your healthcare provider. This information is crucial for making an informed choice.

2. Individual Response and Tolerance

  • Pay close attention to how your body reacts to the medication. Your healthcare provider can adjust your treatment plan based on your response and tolerance.

3. Cost and Insurance Coverage

  • Consider your budget and insurance coverage when choosing between Adderall and Dextro. Generic options like Dextro may be more cost-effective for some individuals.

4. Lifestyle and Daily Routine

  • The duration of action of each medication may impact your daily schedule and responsibilities. Choose the one that aligns with your lifestyle and allows you to function optimally.

5. Potential Side Effects and Risks

  • Be aware of potential side effects and risks associated with both medications. Open communication with your healthcare provider is vital to manage and mitigate these issues effectively.


In conclusion, the comparison between dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and Adderall (a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) sheds light on the nuances of these medications commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. While both drugs belong to the same class of stimulants and share similar mechanisms of action, they also have distinct characteristics and potential benefits and drawbacks.

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If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390

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While they both contain dextroamphetamine, individual responses can vary, so they may not be interchangeable for everyone. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and response.

Yes, under the guidance of your healthcare provider, you can switch between immediate-release and extended-release formulations based on your evolving needs and response to treatment.

Long-term use of ADHD medication should be carefully monitored by a healthcare professional to minimize potential risks and side effects. Regular follow-up appointments are essential for safe and effective management.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare provider is necessary to diagnose ADHD accurately. If diagnosed, your healthcare provider will work with you to determine if medication is an appropriate treatment option based on your symptoms and needs.

Yes, non-medication treatments such as behavioral therapy, counseling, and lifestyle modifications can also be effective in managing ADHD symptoms. Discuss these options with your healthcare provider to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

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