Child Development

Dexedrine vs Adderall: Differences and Similarities

This article has been medically-reviewed by:

Individuals who live with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may face a range of symptoms that affect their life, behavior, and functioning. Stimulant medications such as Dexedrine and Adderall are considered the first line of treatment for ADHD, and they can help with both hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention symptoms, leading to an increase in focus, quality of life, and other benefits. 

When you consider medication options for your child with ADHD, it’s natural to wonder how the choices that are on the market compare to one another. Both Dexedrine and Adderall are common ADHD medications that have been studied over the years for efficacy and safety. 

So, when it comes to important factors such as cost, the frequency in which the medication is taken, and other areas of consideration, how do Dexedrine and Adderall fare? Is one better than the other? Let’s go over the facts and discuss some of the differences and similarities between the two. 

What Is Dexedrine?

Dexedrine is a prescription medication that is used to treat ADHD in children, teens, and adults. It is what’s called a “central nervous system stimulant.” The active ingredient in Dexedrine is d-amphetamine. 

What Is Adderall?

Like Dexedrine, Adderall is a prescription medication that is used to treat ADHD in children, teens, and adults, and it is a central nervous system stimulant. Unlike Dexedrine, Adderall actually contains a mixture of amphetamine salts: D-amphetamine saccharate, D-amphetamine sulfate, D, L-amphetamine, and D, L-amphetamine sulfate.

Dexedrine vs Adderall

Here are some of the similarities and differences between Dexedrine vs. Adderall:

Dexedrine Adderall
How often do you take this medication? Often, Dexedrine is prescribed twice daily. The extended-release version, however, may be taken only once per day in the morning. Often, Adderall is prescribed twice daily. The extended-release version, however, may be taken only once per day in the morning.
How long does it last? Standard or immediate-release Dexedrine lasts for around 4 hours, but the extended-release version can last for around 8 hours. Standard or immediate-release Adderall lasts for around 4-6 hours, but the extended-release version can last for around 8-12.
Is there another name for this medication? Yes. Dexedrine is also called Dextroamphetamine. Yes. Adderall is also called Amphetamine or “mixed Amphetamine salts.”
What forms does it come in? Capsule, tablet, and oral solution. Capsule or tablet.
Is a generic version of this medication available? Yes. Yes.
Are there other uses for this medication? Yes. Dexedrine can also be prescribed for narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Yes. Like Dexedrine, Adderall can also be prescribed for narcolepsy.
How old do you have to be to take this medication for ADHD? The immediate-release version of Dexedrine is FDA-approved for those aged 3+ who have ADHD. However, the extended-release version is for those aged 6 or above. The immediate-release version of Adderall is FDA-approved for those aged 3+ who have ADHD. However, the extended-release version is for those aged 6 or above.

These medications may be used alongside other interventions and forms of support, such as behavior therapy, games, at-home parenting techniques, and supportive daily routines. 

Many parents find that it is helpful to use a combination of these approaches alongside medication options like Dexedrine and Adderall. Note that these aren’t the only medications used for ADHD - there are other options, such as Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Strattera that your doctor may consider. 

Side Effects

The possible side effects of Dexedrine and Adderall are similar, and some side effects are more common than others. Below, find some of the common side effects affiliated with these medications.

Dexedrine 

Side effects of Dexedrine may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Feelings of nervousness or anxiety
  • Stomach pain or GI distress
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches 

Adderall

Side effects of Adderall may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Feelings of nervousness or anxiety
  • Stomach pain or GI distress
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches 

To mitigate the side effects and risks affiliated with Adderall or Dexedrine, some parents choose to take breaks from medication when they’re able to. 

For example, when kids are off of school. Unlike some other medications, the effects of Adderall and Dexedrine set in quickly, and these medications do not need to be built up in a person’s system over time to be effective. 

You can discuss your child’s medication schedule with their prescribing doctor. 

Cost

There are differences in cost between different medications, including Dexedrine and Adderall. Here’s what we know based on the median wholesale price without insurance applied: 

Dexedrine 

The wholesale cost of Dexedrine begins at $206.00 for a monthly (30-day) supply and goes up to around $412.00 depending on the dosage. 

Adderall 

Generic Adderall starts at around $45.00 for a monthly supply. Generic Adderall XR costs around $184.00 for a monthly supply. Unfortunately, the cost of medication is a barrier for many people and families. The good news is that there are options that can help. 

Since medication costs change over time, you may consult with the pharmacist at your pharmacy of choice to check on the price. Some pharmacies range in drug prices, and there are means that can help you cover the cost of medication, including manufacturer coupons. Health insurance may also aid individuals and families in covering the cost of their medication. 

If you face difficulty in covering the cost of medication, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Risks

Just as the common side effects of these medications are similar, the risks affiliated with Adderall and Dexedrine are similar as well. Here are the risks we know of that can be affiliated with Dexedrine and Adderall.

Dexedrine 

Risks associated with Dexedrine can include: 

  • Drug interactions.
  • Slowed growth in children. 
  • Heart problems.
  • Serotonin syndrome.
  • Worsening tics.

Adderall 

Risks associated with Adderall can include: 

  • Drug interactions. 
  • Slowed growth in children. 
  • Heart problems.
  • Serotonin syndrome.
  • Worsening tics.

Due to the potential for drug interactions, it is vital to discuss any other medication that your child is taking with their prescribing doctor. 

There are times when other medications, like antidepressants, may need to be adjusted if someone starts taking a central nervous stimulant like Adderall or Dexedrine. Supplements can affect these medications at times, so make sure that you reveal any supplements your child takes, too. You should also talk with your child’s doctor about any other health condition they have, such as a tic disorder, a seizure disorder, depression, or an anxiety disorder

Both Dexedrine and Adderall can have the potential for abuse, dependency, or misuse. These medications should be kept in a secure location and should never be shared. 

Standard medical monitoring via regular doctor’s appointments can decrease the risks of serious effects. If you notice serious side effects, such as suicidal thoughts or ideation, fever, hallucinations, cardiovascular effects, new or worsening tics, confusion, dark red urine, or signs of an allergic reaction, talk to a medical professional immediately or go to your nearest emergency room. 

Dosage

Everyone’s body is different. The correct dose for your child will be determined by their prescribing doctor based on factors such as their size and age. Here is what we know about the standard available doses of Dexedrine and Adderall.

Dexedrine 

The standard dose of Dexedrine ranges from around 5 mg to 40 mg per day. Often, kids will start out with 2.5 mg to 5 mg. 

Adderall 

Just like Dexedrine, the standard dose of Adderall tends to range from 5 mg to 40 mg per day, and kids typically start out with somewhere from 2.5 mg to 5 mg. If your child needs to go up in dose of either Adderall or Dexedrine, this will typically occur gradually and on a weekly basis in intervals of 2.5 mg. 

So, for example, if they start out at 2.5 mg, they may go up to 5 mg the following week, and so on. The maximum dose of both medications for adults, which varies from the maximum dose for kids, is 60 mg. 

If you believe that your child may need an adjustment in dose, it is vital to consult with their prescribing physician, whether that is a psychiatrist or their pediatrician before you make any changes. Medication regimens of any kind should never be stopped, started, or modified without the approval of a professional. 

Dexedrine vs Adderall: Which Is Better?

There are pros and cons to both Dexedrine and Adderall. Since Dexedrine comes in an oral solution, for example, this may be an upside for some parents of young children. However, Adderall may be less expensive, and it is sometimes suggested that Adderall is more powerful or effective due to the mixture of amphetamine salts the medication contains. 

On the other hand, some studies suggest that Dexedrine may be more effective. At the end of the day, the best medication may vary from person to person. It can take some time to find the right combination of treatments, including medication and other measures, for your child and family.

This article is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. Please consult with your or your child's prescribing doctor before changing, starting, or stopping a medication routine.