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Dexedrine Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 29, 2019

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) is a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Dexedrine is a powerful and addictive substance, and should only be taken as directed.

What Is Dexedrine?

Dexedrine is brand name for dextroamphetamine, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. This synthetic stimulant increases the function of neurotransmitters in the brain, which improves focus, alertness, and concentration, while decreasing hyperactivity.

Dextroamphetamine is one of two synthetic amphetamine compounds. These compounds are known as dextro(d)-amphetamine and levo(l)-amphetamine. D-amphetamine is the stronger of the two compounds, and can be found in ADHD and narcolepsy medications (like Dexedrine and Adderall).

Dexedrine is available in both immediate and extended-release options. Dexedrine Spansule is the extended-release version of this medication and is only recommended for treatment of ADHD in persons from 6-16 years of age.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies medications that contain dextroamphetamine as Schedule II controlled substances. These medications have a high rate of abuse, and those who take them run significant risk of developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Dexedrine Abuse

Dexedrine is sometimes called a study drug. People who are prescribed this medication report that it helps them focus and concentrate, which can be appealing to students and professionals alike. If there is an exam or deadline approaching, someone may not see the harm in asking a friend for one of their pills, or doubling a dose if they already have a prescription.

Individuals may crush, snort, liquify, inject or smoke dexedrine to increase the intensity of the drug, or make it take effect sooner. All of these behaviors are Dexedrine abuse. Additional reasons people may abuse Dexedrine may be to stay awake, lose weight, increase physical performance, or to get high.

A person abusing Dexedrine may be dangerously close to developing an addiction, especially if they have developed a tolerance, needing more of the medication to feel the same effects of lower doses.

Dexedrine Addiction

Dexedrine causes activation, or stimulation, of the areas in the brain that increase response time, wakefulness, attention, and concentration, and also decrease hyperactivity and appetite. Dexedrine activates dopamine receptors, which are considered the “feel good” part of the brain that has been linked to addiction.

When a person abuses high doses of Dexedrine, it causes very high levels of dopamine in the brain. These high levels of dopamine produce euphoria and other positive mood responses. Eventually, the brain becomes used to the high dopamine levels and craves high doses of Dexedrine, feeding the developing addiction.

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At this point, a person will not only experience cravings for Dexedrine, but will also experience withdrawal symptoms without the drug. A person may feel depressed, sad, teary eyed, or even suicidal if they stop taking Dexedrine if they have developed dependence to the medication.

In addition to dependence and tolerance, a person struggling with Dexedrine addiction may be unable to stop or cut down Dexedrine use, struggle to complete tasks without Dexedrine, become obsessed with Dexedrine, or seem extremely run down and exhausted without Dexedrine.

Dexedrine Dependence And Addiction: Is There A Difference?

A person prescribed Dexedrine is likely to become dependent on the medication. Without Dexedrine, attempting to concentrate or focus can seem impossible for a person struggling with ADHD. Dexedrine gives the person the ability to function within ‘normal’ guidelines.

A person who takes Dexedrine exactly as prescribed is not addicted to Dexedrine, they are not attempting to misuse or abuse their prescription. Even though a sign of addiction is physical dependence, it is so much more.

Dexedrine addiction is both a physical and psychological dependence, as well as changes in behavior that seem to revolve around the abuse of the drug, such as:

  • running out of Dexedrine before a refill
  • doctor shopping / forging prescriptions
  • taking other stimulants when out of Dexedrine
  • asking for or stealing stimulant meds from others
  • spending excess amounts of time and money obsessing over Dexedrine
  • problems with work, school, or relationships due to Dexedrine use
  • continuing to take Dexedrine despite problems with health or relationships

Dexedrine Abuse And Addiction Effects

As with other stimulants, Dexedrine does have side effects. Abusing Dexedrine significantly increases the likelihood a person will experience these side effects:

  • unusual sweating
  • significant weight loss
  • trouble sleeping
  • muscle spasms
  • tics
  • irregular heart and/or breathing rates
  • restlessness
  • nervousness
  • agitation
  • aggression
  • mood swings

High levels of Dexedrine, especially long-term abuse, can result in the following serious side effects:

  • seizures
  • stroke
  • heart attack or failure
  • mania
  • delirium
  • paranoia
  • psychosis

Dexedrine Addiction Treatment Options

It can be complicated to treat an addiction to stimulants, such as Dexedrine. Many individuals who are addicted have also been diagnosed with ADHD, so finding alternative treatment options for these co-occurring disorders is also important. In addition, stopping a stimulant can also result in depressive symptoms emerging, like anhedonia.

Finding a substance abuse treatment location that is equipped with a medically supervised detoxification program can help ease the discomfort associated with stimulant withdrawal and also address the co-occurring disorders and symptoms.

Substance abuse treatment that is effective in addressing stimulant addiction may also include therapies, both individual and group, workshops, education, and aftercare planning that are uniquely designed for each individual receiving treatment.

We can make it easier for you to find a rehab center that best meets the needs of you or your loved one. Contact us today to help start the process.

Neuropharmacology - Psychostimulant addiction treatment

Food and Drug Administration - Dexedrine Label

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - Stimulant and Related Medication: Use in Pediatric Patients

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