Dexedrine Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment
Dexedrine is a prescription central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.1 It’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat narcolepsy and (ADHD).1 However, some individuals misuse Dexedrine by taking more than is prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription, or using the medication to get high.2 In 2021, 773,000 Americans aged 12 or older reported misusing prescription stimulant drugs like Dexedrine.3
This article explores Dexedrine, its side effects, risks of overdose, addiction, withdrawal, and treatment options should you or a loved one struggle with Dexedrine misuse or addiction.
What Is Dexedrine?
Dexedrine is the brand name for the prescription drug dextroamphetamine.1 It is used to manage symptoms of narcolepsy and ADHD.1,2 Dextroamphetamine is available in combination with amphetamine as Adderall, a more widely prescribed medication for the treatment of ADHD.2
Similar to other prescription stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), methamphetamine (Desoxyn), and dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (Adderall), dextroamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning the drug is approved for medical purposes, but it also carries a high potential for misuse and dependence.1,4
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Dextroamphetamine Side Effects
Prescription stimulants like Dexedrine work by increasing the activity of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is involved in the reinforcement of rewarding behavior; norepinephrine affects blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and increases breathing.2 Common dextroamphetamine side effects include:1
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Loss of appetite.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Weight loss.
- Dryness or unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Dextroamphetamine use may cause additional serious side effects, including:1
- Heart attack.
- Cardiomyopathy, which impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.
- New or worsening symptoms of psychosis, including volatile behavior, angry or aggressive outbursts, hallucinations, and/or paranoia.
- Blurred vision.
Misusing dextroamphetamine at higher doses or mixing dextroamphetamine with other stimulants can elevate the heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels and increase the risk of brain injury, liver damage, heart attack, and stroke.5
Combining depressants like alcohol and stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine, may modify or mask the effects of one or both drugs. This, in turn, may lead an individual to think that neither substance is producing the desired effects and cause them to take more of one or both substances, increasing their risk of overdose.5
It is possible to overdose on dextroamphetamine, especially if it is taken in high doses.2 Symptoms of dextroamphetamine overdose may include:1
- Increased reflexes.
- Breathing fast.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Panicky behavior or panic attack.
- High body temperature.
- Abnormal heartbeat.
- High or low blood pressure.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps.
- Loss of consciousness.
If you think someone might be experiencing an overdose from dextroamphetamine or other substance use, call 911 immediately.2 Stimulant overdose can cause seizures, irreversible damage to the heart, and death.2 After calling 911, remain with the individual until medical care arrives.
If you suspect opioid involvement, administer , if it is available. (Naloxone will only reverse the action of opioids, and it will not reverse the effects of other drugs or medication. However, amphetamines purchased illicitly may contain fentanyl, a potent opioid.)
Dexedrine Misuse and Addiction
As previously mentioned, individuals may misuse dextroamphetamine by taking it in larger doses, more frequently, or for a longer period of time than was prescribed.2 In some cases, this may also include using the dextroamphetamine in unintended ways like crushing the pills and snorting, smoking, or injecting them.2 Additionally, misuse can occur when dextroamphetamine is taken by an individual other than the person who was given the prescription.2 In fact, the nonmedical prescription stimulant misuse among high school and college students has increased in recent decades. These students misuse dextroamphetamine for a variety of reasons, including:6
- To enhance academic performance.
- To improve concentration.
- To induce euphoria.
Misusing dextroamphetamine for an extended period of time can lead to physiological dependence or addiction.1,2 Physiological dependence develops when the body becomes so accustomed to having the substance present that when use stops or is drastically reduced, withdrawal symptoms surface.1,2 Addiction is the progressive condition characterized by the compulsive use of dextroamphetamine despite the negative consequences it has on every aspect of the individual’s life.
Symptoms of Dexedrine Addiction
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about might have a stimulant use disorder, the clinical term for a dextroamphetamine addiction, there are symptoms that you can assess on your own. However, it’s important to understand that only a healthcare professional can make a formal diagnosis. Clinicians use the criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) to diagnose a stimulant use disorder. This criteria includes:7
- Taking the stimulant in higher doses or for a longer time than originally planned.
- The inability to control use or to stop taking dextroamphetamine despite repeated attempts and the desire to do so.
- Spending an inordinate amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from dextroamphetamine’s effects.
- Experiencing strong cravings for dextroamphetamine or other stimulants.
- Failing to fulfill important tasks at home, school, or work due to dextroamphetamine or stimulant use.
- Continuing to use stimulants knowing that it has caused or worsened relationship problems.
- Continuing to take dextroamphetamine or other stimulants even though it has caused or worsened medical or mental health problems.
- Abandoning or reducing involvement in recreational, work, or social activities that were once enjoyed due to dextroamphetamine or other stimulant use.
- Repeatedly using dextroamphetamines in dangerous or risky situations.
- Developing a tolerance, which means more of the stimulant is needed to get the same high or the same dose no longer produces the desired effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back on dextroamphetamine or other stimulant use.
To be diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder, the individual needs to meet at least 2 of these criteria within a 12-month period.7
Additionally, the criteria for tolerance and withdrawal do not count toward a stimulant use disorder diagnosis if the individual was prescribed dextroamphetamine and is taking it as it was prescribed by their healthcare provider.7
When an individual who has become physiologically dependent on a stimulant, like dextroamphetamine, suddenly stops or drastically cuts back on their use, withdrawal symptoms begin. While stimulant-related withdrawal is rarely dangerous, symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable, increasing the individual’s risk of relapse.8 Symptoms of dextroamphetamine withdrawal include:9
- Intense dextroamphetamine cravings.
- Difficulty or the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia).
- Sleep troubles, including insomnia, sleeping excessively, not feeling rested after sleeping, and having vivid, unpleasant dreams.
- Increased feelings of hunger.
- Restlessness and anxiety that results in repetitive and unintentional movements.
- Depression, which can be severe and include thoughts of suicide.
While withdrawal symptoms generally pass within a week or two after the last dose of dextroamphetamine, the experience may feel intense and unbearable.7,9 Therefore, medically managed detox may help to keep the individual as comfortable as possible.
Dexedrine Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one struggle with dextroamphetamine or other stimulant misuse or addiction, there are various treatment options available. Depending on your needs, treatment may take place in a few different settings and may include:9-12
- Detox. Medically managed detoxification takes place in a safe and supervised setting. While there aren’t any FDA-approved medications for the treatment of stimulant withdrawal, medications can be prescribed to treat specific unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia or severe depression. Detox, which is helpful in ridding the body of dextroamphetamine and preparing a person to enter treatment, does not address the root causes of addiction. Therefore, detox is typically the first step in a more comprehensive treatment plan.
- Inpatient treatment. Inpatient care requires you to stay at the facility while receiving intensive group and individual counseling, education, and behavioral interventions designed to equip you with coping skills to help you identify triggers, manage stressors, and avoid relapse.
- Outpatient treatment. Outpatient programs allow you to stay in your home or sober living environment while attending scheduled group and individual counseling sessions and therapies at the treatment facility. The intensity of these programs and the number of hours and days required in treatment depends on your needs and progress in the program.
- Aftercare. Also referred to as ongoing or continuing care, aftercare helps support your sobriety after you complete formal treatment. This can include recovery housing, mutual-help meetings, alumni groups, support groups, and private counseling.
Dextroamphetamine addiction treatment, regardless of the setting, involves using one or more types of effective behavioral therapy. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention (RP), contingency management (CM), community reinforcement approaches (CRA), motivational interviewing (MI), and The Matrix Model.10,11 By helping you identify and cope with your triggers, these behavioral interventions teach you how to change your behaviors to maintain sobriety, manage stress, improve problem-solving and communication skills, increase motivation to stay sober, and avoid relapse.2,11
Consider dextroamphetamine addiction treatment an investment in your health and well-being, and don’t let the cost deter you. Most insurance plans cover at least a portion of addiction treatment. Specifics are determined by individual plans. You can call the number on the back of your insurance card to find out exactly what your plan covers.
For assistance with finding the right treatment center for you, contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) anytime, 24/7 at
Our admissions navigators can answer your questions, verify your insurance, and explain your treatment options to help you begin your recovery journey.