Medications for ADHD: Dexedrine

Dexedrine, also prescribed under its generic form dextroamphetamine, is classified as a central nervous stimulant. In the treatment of ADHD, Dexedrine may be used alone or in combination with counseling or other treatment methods. This drug is an amphetamine and should be taken with care.

Method of Action

In treating ADHD, Dexedrine may be beneficial in decreasing hyperactivity and impulsiveness and increasing attention. This drug works by causing a change in the amount of natural substances in the patient's brain. It facilitates the action of norepinephrine and dopamine through stopping monoamine oxidase action, blocking reuptake from the synapse, and facilitating catecholamine release. However, the exact method of action has yet to be established.


Adults and children older than six years old are generally started on a dose of five milligrams taken once a day. The doctor will usually increase the patient's dose each week by five milligrams until the lowest effective dose is determined. While rare, some patients are prescribed doses greater than 40 milligrams each day.

When taking this medication for ADHD, Dexedrine may be habit-forming, so the patient will be closely monitored.

In general, this medication should be taken early in the day to help prevent insomnia.

Side Effects

Patients taking this medication are at risk for a number of side effects. Common side effects include nausea, cramps, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, sweating, irritability, stomach upset, appetite loss, dry mouth, feeling nervous, sleeping difficulties, weight loss, and feeling restless.

Serious side effects, while not common, may include mood or behavior changes, uncontrolled movements, outbursts, feet or ankle swelling, unexplained significant weight loss, mental changes, muscle shaking or twitching, sexual interest or ability changes, and extreme fatigue. These side effects require that the patient alerts his or her doctor immediately.

Serious and rare side effects may include shortness of breath, severe headache, left arm or jaw pain, weakness affecting one side of the body, confusion, blurred vision, chest pain, heartbeat that is pounding/fast/irregular, seizures, slurred speech, and fainting. These side effects are medical emergencies.

Other Warnings

Not everyone can safely take this medication. Contraindications include mental and mood conditions, heart structure problems, overactive thyroid, glaucoma, heart or blood vessel disease, high blood pressure, previous stroke or heart attack, family or personal history of substance abuse, family history of sudden death, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and uncontrolled movements or outbursts.

Drug interactions include MAO inhibitors, alpha blockers, high blood pressure medications, lithium, sedatives, blood-pressure raising medications, street drugs, certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, certain pain medications, certain anti-seizure drugs, other stimulants, veratrum alkaloids, ammonium chloride, anti-ulcer medications, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, glutamic acid, methenamine, reserpine, sodium bicarbonate, antacids, ascorbic acid, fruit juices, guanethidine, sodium acid phosphate, and certain diuretics.


RxList. (2010). Dexedrine. Retrieved on January 21, 2011 from RxList:

PDRHealth. (2010). Dexedrine. Retrieved on January 21, 2011 from PDRHealth: