Taking Dexedrine to Treat ADHD

Woman helping young girl take medicine in bedroom

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Dexedrine is a psychostimulant medication prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Like other stimulant medications, Dexedrine acts on the central nervous system and increases the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Boosting two of these neurotransmitters—dopamine and norepinephrine—helps improve a person’s focus and concentration and reduces hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Dexedrine is a brand name for a drug that is composed completely of dextroamphetamine. It is available in tablets and as capsules called Dexedrine Spansule. Dexedrine tablets are short-acting and are effective for about four to six hours. They are usually taken two or three times per day.

Dexedrine Spansule is extended-release, and so is typically effective for eight to 12 hours. When a capsule is taken, a first dose is released promptly, and the remaining medication is released gradually. It is taken once per day.

Two types of stimulant medications are used to treat ADHD: amphetamines and methylphenidates. Dexedrine, Adderall, and Vyvanse are amphetamines. Ritalin and Focalin are part of the methylphenidate drug family.


Dextroamphetamine is one of the oldest stimulant medications. Here is a quick look at its history:

  • 1930s: In the mid-1930s, an American pharmaceutical company called Smith, Kline & French first marketed a product called Dexedrine.
  • 1960s: The United States passed a law that required all drugs on the market to be effective and safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began the Drug Efficacy Study Implementation (DESI) program, which evaluated all the drugs that were available before 1962. During the DESI process, Dexedrine was approved for narcolepsy and “hyperkinetic disorder of childhood.” This was a name for the condition we now call ADHD.
  • In 1976, Dexedrine Spansule was approved. It was available before this date but had not been formally approved under the modern FDA approval standards.
  • 1990s: In the early 1990s, several companies were making dextroamphetamine.

Forms and Doses

Short-acting Dexedrine tablets are available in 5-milligram (mg) and 10-mg dosages. Dexedrine Spansule is available in 5-mg, 10-mg, and 15-mg capsules. Both are approved by the FDA for people six years of age and older.

Your doctor will work closely with you to find the right therapeutic dose for you or your child. Typically, the lowest dose is tried first. The dose is gradually increased by 5 mg at a time until the dose is found that helps the ADHD symptoms. The dose could range from 5 mg to 40 mg.

Dexedrine is a brand-name drug. The generic version of Dexedrine is called dextroamphetamine. Both short-acting tablets and Dexedrine Spansule capsules are available in generic versions. However, some people report that the generic version is not as effective, or they have side effects they did not have with Dexedrine.

Does Dexedrine Slow a Child’s Growth?

In the 1970s, there were concerns that taking a stimulant medication might slow or stunt a child’s growth. Because Dexedrine was a popular ADHD medication at that time, people often make a connection between Dexedrine and children’s growth issues.

In his book Taking Charge of ADHD, Russell Barkley, PhD, explains that the risk of slow or stunted growth because of stimulant medication is much less than it was thought to be in the 1970s.

When it was believed ADHD stimulant medication could affect growth, parents were advised to give their children "medication holidays." This meant children would take their medication as prescribed during the school year but would have a break during school holidays and possibly on weekends.

Today there is less concern about ADHD medication affecting growth, but you may wish to discuss the topic of medication holidays with your child's doctor if you have concerns.

While stimulant medication helps with academic performance, it also assists with other aspects of a child’s life including social connection (friends and family members) and performance in recreational activities and sports.

Doctors often monitor a child’s height while they are taking a stimulant medication. You and your child’s doctor can talk about the benefits and value, for your child in particular, of taking medication versus taking a break.

Does Dexedrine Cause Weight Loss?

Dexedrine can suppress appetite and result in weight loss. If you or your child are trying to maintain or gain weight, this can be a problem. It is important to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Having breakfast before taking your medication can be helpful. Also, have snacks close at hand for when the medication starts to wear off. Always speak to your doctor so they are aware of the situation and can monitor it.

Side Effects

Some common side effects of Dexedrine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight loss

For Women: Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing, or plan on becoming pregnant. Dexedrine could be unsafe for an unborn child and breastfeeding is not recommended while taking this medication.

Drug Interactions: Let your doctor know about all the medications you take, as they could interact with Dexedrine. This includes medications that are prescribed, as well as over-the-counter and natural treatments.

If you need to stop taking Dexedrine for any reason, do not stop abruptly. Speak with your doctor for help tapering the dose to minimize or reduce possible side effects.

Is Dexedrine Still Prescribed?

Yes, Dexedrine is still prescribed. However, it is considered to be an older ADHD medication. It is not as widely prescribed as the more modern stimulant medications like Adderall, Vyvanse, and Mydayis. Mydayis is an even longer-acting form of amphetamine than Vyvanse.

Some people who have taken Dexedrine in the past will switch to a newer ADHD drug, but not everyone does. Your doctor might prescribe Dexedrine if you have tried a newer ADHD medication and have not experienced relief from your symptoms.

New medications and delivery methods are being developed all the time. These new developments usually mean the patient's experience and quality of life are improved.

For example, Dexedrine and Vyvanse both include dextroamphetamine, but they differ in the delivery method. Mydayis consists of both dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.

Vyvanse is a prodrug. It contains lisdexamfetamine, which only changes into dextroamphetamine when it is taken orally and metabolized by the body’s enzymes. This process takes about one to two hours. There is not a sudden kick or jolt to the body when the medication starts to work. Because of this, Vyvanse is often described as a smooth drug. In addition, there can be less of a medication rebound as the drug’s effects start to wear off.

Another benefit of Vyvanse as a prodrug is that it is less likely to be abused. It cannot be inhaled or injected as a way to become high.

How Dexedrine Differs From Ritalin

It can be disappointing if you try a medication and it does not work in the way you hoped. Each person will respond slightly differently to each drug. In their book Answers to Distraction, medical doctors Edward Hallowell and John Ratey say that Ritalin can give more alertness, energy, and motivation, while Dexedrine balances mood, helps with focus, and seems to calm restlessness.

An experienced clinician will be able to listen to your ADHD symptoms and select the best medication for you. Each person experiences different benefits and side effects with their ADHD medication. This is why there is often some back and forth until you and your doctor find the right medication and dosage for you.


Dexedrine is a Schedule II drug, and this means there is a potential for abuse. Always take your medication as prescribed. If you have a history of substance abuse, talk about this with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you find the right ADHD treatment for you. Keep your medication in a safe place, away from other people, and never share your medication.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Dextroamphetamine.

  2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate) Spansule sustained release capsules.

  3. Heal DJ, Smith SL, Gosden J, Nutt DJ. Amphetamine, past and present – A pharmacological and clinical perspectiveJ Psychopharmacol. 2013;27(6):479-496. doi:10.1177/0269881113482532

  4. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Drug Efficacy Study Implementation (DESI).

  5. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA-approved drugs: Dexedrine.

  6. Barkley RA. Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents (Fourth Edition). The Guilford Press. New York City, NY; 2020.

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. Common ADHD medications & treatments for children.

  8. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) capsules.

  9. Hallowell EM, Ratey JJ. Answers to Distraction. Anchor Books, New York; 2010

By Jacqueline Sinfield
Jacqueline Sinfield is an ADHD coach, and the author of "Untapped Brilliance, How to Reach Your Full Potential As An Adult With ADHD."