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ADHD

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Adderall XR vs Adderall: which one should you take for ADHD?

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: May 16, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

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Navigating the variety of medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be frustrating and confusing, especially when the medications are similar. But Adderall XR vs Adderall is one of the easier comparison to make.

Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) or Adderall IR, the standard formula, is one of the most commonly prescribed ADHD medications for reducing symptoms and regulating brain function. Adderall XR (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) is the same medication in extended-release form.

In this article, we compare the 2 forms of Adderall so that you can have an informed discussion with your healthcare provider about which is the best choice for your ADHD symptoms.

Get a prescription for Adderall or an alternative ADHD medication in as little as 24 hours.

If you suspect you have ADHD, Adderall and Adderall XR could help relieve your ADHD symptoms. Klarity matches patients with experienced healthcare providers for personalized ADHD treatment, including prescription medication. 

Adderall XR vs Adderall, what’s the difference?

Adderall XR and Adderall are the same medication in different formulations. Adderall XR is an extended-release form that lasts for up to 12 hours. It’s taken just once a day. Adderall (Adderal IR for instant release) works immediately and lasts 4 to 6 hours. You may take it twice a day.

Both are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that help people with ADHD symptoms pay attention, control behavioral issues, organize tasks, and listen. They regulate the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain — specifically dopamine and norepinephrine. 

Whether Adderall XR vs Adderall is better for you depends on your needs and lifestyle. If you simply want to take medication once a day instead of twice, Adderall XR might be best for you. If you’d rather have a more immediate effect from your ADHD medication, you might prefer the standard Adderall formula. 

Either medication works to alleviate your ADHD symptoms the same way. It’s simply a matter of how quickly and for how long.

Speak with an ADHD healthcare provider about which ADHD medication might best fit your daily needs.

Adderall XRAdderall
Drug classSchedule II stimulantSchedule II stimulant
Brand/generic statusBrand name for amphetamine saltsBrand name for amphetamine salts
Form(s) Extended-release capsules Immediate release tablets
Standard dosage5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg capsules

Generic capsules also come in 37.5 mg and 50 mg doses
5 mg, 7.5 mg 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg tablets
Conditions treatedFDA-approved uses:
ADHD
Narcolepsy
FDA-approved uses:
ADHD
Narcolepsy
Retail costBrand-name Adderall XR: $759 for 100 capsules

Generic amphetamine/dextroamphetamine: $52 for 100 capsules
Brand-name Adderall: $1,139 for 100 tablets

Generic amphetamine/dextroamphetamine: $24 to $63 for 100 tablets 
Side effectsCommon side effects:
Dry mouth
Loss of appetite
Trouble sleeping
Headache
Weight loss
Nausea
Anxiety
Agitation
Dizziness
Fast heartbeat
Diarrhea
Weakness
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Serious side effects:
Slowing of growth (height and weight) in children
Seizures
Circulation problems in fingers and toes (peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon)
Serotonin syndrome
New or worsening tics or worsening Tourette’s Syndrome
Common side-effects: 
Stomachache
Decreased appetite
Nervousness

Serious side effects:
Slowing of growth (height and weight) in children
Seizures
Circulation problems in fingers and toes (peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon)
Serotonin syndrome
New or worsening tics or worsening Tourette’s Syndrome
Drug interactionsMAOIs
SSRIs
SNRIs
Triptans
TCAs
Fentanyl
Lithium
Tramadol
Tryptophan
Buspirone
St. John’s Wort
Medications that raise blood pressure 
Medications containing lisdexamfetamine 
MAOIs
SSRIs
SNRIs
Triptans
TCAs
Fentanyl
Lithium
Tramadol
Tryptophan
Buspirone
St. John’s Wort
Medications that raise blood pressure 
Medications containing lisdexamfetamine 

What is Adderall XR?

Adderall XR is a stimulant medication delivered in a time-released formula that remains in the system longer than standard Adderall.

Forms and dosages of Adderall XR

Brand-name Adderall XR comes in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 milligram oral capsules. Generic amphetamine dextroamphetamine extended-release capsules also come in 37.5 and 50 milligram doses.

The slow-dissolving capsules release a steady dose of the active ingredients into the bloodstream. Adderall XR can be taken with or without food and should only be taken once a day as it lasts in your system for at least 12 hours.

When taking Adderall XR, you can swallow the capsule whole. The recommended dose for adults is 20 milligrams. Children between 6 and 17 may begin with 5 or 10 milligrams per day and increase to 20 or 30 milligrams if needed.

Conditions Adderall XR is used to treat

Adderall XR is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for the treatment of ADHD and sleeping disorders, like narcolepsy.

Cost

If you pay full retail price for the branded version, you’ll spend roughly $759 for 100 capsules according to drugs.com. 

Adderall XR comes in a generic form — amphetamine and dextroamphetamine —  that’s usually less expensive than the brand-name medication. Without insurance or a coupon, you’ll pay about $52 for 100 capsules. 

Contact your health insurance carrier to see whether your current plan partially or completely covers Adderall XR — whether generic or brand-name.

Side effects of Adderall XR

Common side effects for adults taking Adderall XR include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Children and teens may also have mood swings, vomiting, nausea, and fewer.

Not everyone will have side effects and everyone experiences them differently. Discuss any ongoing or worsening symptoms or side effects you have with your healthcare provider. 

More severe, but less common side effects of Adderall XR include:

  • Slowing of growth (height and weight) in children
  • Seizures
  • Circulation problems in fingers and toes (peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • New or worsening tics or worsening Tourette’s Syndrome

If you experience any of the serious side effects listed above, contact your medical provider or call 911 immediately.

Warnings for taking Adderall XR

Adderall XR is a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States which means it has a high potential for misuse, abuse, and addiction or substance abuse disorder. It has a boxed warning for abuse, misuse, and addiction. 

Adderall XR should be taken exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider to avoid the increased risk of negative side effects that come with Adderall misuse, including sleep disturbances, cardiovascular problems, and psychosis. You shouldn’t share Adderall XR with others.

Cardiac and circulatory warnings

If you have a known structural heart/cardiac abnormality, cardiomyopathy, serious cardiac arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, or other serious heart problems or disease, avoid Adderall. Sudden death might happen if you take it, even at the prescribed dose. 

Also know that CNS stimulants, like Adderall XR and Adderall, can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Your healthcare provider will want to monitor you for high blood pressure (hypertension) and tachycardia (a heart beat over 100 beats a minute)while on Adderall XR.

Adderall XR can also cause psychiatric reactions, including:

  • Worsening of existing psychosis
  • Manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder
  • New psychotic or manic symptoms

Psychiatric warnings

If you have a pre-existing psychiatric or psychotic disorder or bipolar disorder make sure your provider knows. They’ll monitor you and may have you stop taking Adderall if it creates worsened symptoms or episodes.

Drug interactions for Adderall XR

Adderall XR can cause a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome when taken with other medications that affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the body’s production of positive, “good” feelings. 

Medications that affect serotonin, include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), including procarbazine, metaxalone, etc. 
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Prozac
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Effexor, Cymbalta, and Pristiq
  • Triptans
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Anafranil and Elavil
  • Fentanyl
  • Lithium
  • Tramadol
  • Tryptophan
  • Buspirone
  • St. John’s Wort

Serotonin syndrome can lead to heart attack and even death. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact emergency medical services immediately.

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Excessive sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Other medications that can interact with Adderall XR and to avoid or speak to your healthcare provider about include:

  • Medications that raise blood pressure 
  • Medications containing lisdexamfetamine that are similar in chemical structure to Adderall XR

Also avoid suddenly stopping Adderall XR as it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. 

What is Adderall?

Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), like Adderall XR, is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, 2 CNS stimulants. These stimulants affect neurotransmitters in the brain that control behaviors like hyperactivity and impulsivity. 

The standard form of Adderall is quick-acting, as opposed to the long-lasting formulation in Adderall XR.

Available forms and dosages of Adderall

Adderall comes in tablet form and in the following dosages: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, and 30 milligrams. The quick-acting formula — also called the immediate release (IR) formula — is taken no more than twice a day with the last dose taken no later than midnight to avoid losing sleep.

Conditions treated by Adderal;

The standard version of Adderall is FDA-approved to treat ADHD and sleeping disorders, like narcolepsy.

Retail cost for Adderall

Brand-name Adderall costs roughly $1,139 for 100 tablets, which would last you about a month and a half. 

Adderall also comes in a generic form called dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, that costs less than the branded version of the drug. The generic’s retail price is between $24 and $63 for 100 tablets. 

Contact your insurance provider for accurate pricing if your plan covers the medication. 

Side effects of Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant ADHD medication, and all stimulant medications come with potential side effects. 

Common side effects you may experience on Adderall, include:

  • Stomach ache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nervousness

More serious side effects of Adderall include:

  • Slowing of growth (height and weight) in children
  • Seizures
  • Circulation problems in fingers and toes (peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • New or worsening tics or worsening Tourette’s Syndrome

Warnings and drug interactions for Adderall

The same warnings that apply to Adderall XR apply to Adderal, including:

  • A boxed warning for abuse, misuse, and addition.
  • Not using it if you have serious heart disease
  • A risk of increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • A risk for psychiatric reactions

The same medications that interact with Adderall XR also interact with Adderall and should be avoided or used with caution and supervision from your healthcare provider. 

You shouldn’t immediately stop taking Adderall unless instructed by a medical professional. It’s a controlled substance and stopping it can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Find a provider and get the best ADHD medication for you on Klarity

Klarity is an online platform where you can find a licensed ADHD medical professional who can identify the right medication for you. At Klarity, you can easily book an appointment within as little as 24 hours and get treatment without leaving home. 

You shouldn’t have to figure out which ADHD medication is right for you on your own. Schedule an appointment on Klarity and get personalized care fast!

Sources

DailyMed, LABEL: ADDERALL- dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate tablet, Sept. 2023, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=f22635fe-821d-4cde-aa12-419f8b53db81

DailyMed, LABEL: ADDERALL XR- dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine sulfate and amphetamine aspartate capsule, extended release, Oct. 2023, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=aff45863-ffe1-4d4f-8acf-c7081512a6c0

Drugs.com, Adderall XR Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/adderall-xr

Drugs.com, Adderall Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/adderall

Drugs.com, Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/amphetamine-dextroamphetamin

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.

If you’re having a mental health crisis or experiencing a psychiatric emergency, it’s crucial to seek immediate help from a mental healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You can also call your local emergency services, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, by calling or texting 988 or dialing the Lifeline’s previous phone number, 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) in the U.S.

How we reviewed this article: This article goes through rigorous fact-checking by a team of medical reviewers. Reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the author.

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