What is Dextroamphetamine?
Dextroamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant from the amphetamine family that “works by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain” (NLM). The drug can legally be obtained by prescription only as it is a schedule II controlled substance. Still, many individuals abuse it for its ability to cause alertness, concentration, and weight loss. This can be extremely dangerous and may cause severe side effects, even leading to death.
Dextroamphetamine is a psychostimulant drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug is available as a generic drug called Dextroamphetamine or under various brand names such as Dexedrine or Dextrostat.
The dextroamphetamine salts constitute about 75% of the ADHD drug known as Adderall and is the active metabolite of the drug lisdexamfetamine also known by the brand name Vyvanse. Several older drugs also contain dextroamphetamine or some compound of this drug in their formulations including Asenlix, Didrex and Aponeuron.
How is Dextroamphetamine Used?
According to the NLM, “Dextroamphetamine is used as part of a treatment program to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)… in adults and children” as well as a treatment for narcolepsy. Psychotherapy is often used along with dextroamphetamine to treat ADHD, and the drug is usually given in tablet or capsule form for daily use.
As stated by the NIDA, “Prescription stimulants have a paradoxically calming and ‘focusing’ effect on individuals with ADHD.” The drug takes the scattered energy that they can often have which makes it difficult to focus and allows them to concentrate on the task at hand. This can be an extremely beneficial medication for individuals with ADHD as it “helps to improve ADHD symptoms along with the patient’s self-esteem, thinking ability, and social and family interactions.”
Dextroamphetamine can be prescribed alone under several brand names including:
The drug is also prescribed as a combination product with amphetamine (another prescription stimulant). These combination products are:
- Adderall XR (extended release)
What are the Potential Side Effects Caused by Dextroamphetamine?
If taken as prescribed, dextroamphetamine is safe and helpful. However, it can have a number of side effects including restlessness and insomnia. If you are prescribed this medication or any medication that has this drug in it, talk with your doctor if any of the following side effects become severe, uncomfortable or do not go away:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Shaking or tremors
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Changes in sex drive
- Changes in sexual ability
- Unpleasant taste
Any of these side effects may occur during a regular regimen of dextroamphetamine. If any side effects become difficult for you to manage or uncomfortable in any way, discuss them with your doctor. You may be switched to a different medication or a lower dose. Most of these side effects, however, are not dangerous.
In some severe cases, taking dextroamphetamine can lead to serious side effects. If you notice any of the following side effects while taking dextroamphetamine, seek medical treatment immediately:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pounding heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Excessive tiredness
- Dizziness or feeling like you might faint
- Slowed speech or slurred speech
- Seizures or convulsions
- Mood swings that are extreme
- Abnormal excitement
- Blurred vision
Some of these, like hives, could be a sign that you are allergic to dextroamphetamine and should be switched to a different medication. Others are a sign that you may be taking too much of the medication or that it is not the correct treatment regimen for you. Either way, make sure to visit your doctor or a hospital but do not just stop taking dextroamphetamine if you have been taking it for more than a few weeks. According to the NLM, “Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually and monitor you carefully during this time” which is much safer than quitting the medication completely.
Taking destroamphetamine may slow weight gain in children and can stunt the growth of a child. This drug may also cause sudden death in children or teens with heart defects or serious heart problems. Sudden death, heart attack and stroke can occur in both children and adults who take dextroamphetamine.
According to the NIDA, dextroamphetamine and other prescription stimulants are often abused. “Because they suppress appetite, increase wakefulness, and increase focus and attention, they are frequently abused for purposes of weight loss or performance enhancement (e.g., to help study or boost grades in school).” Dextroamphetamine can also cause euphoria if taken in high enough doses so it is sometimes abused for this reason as well.
The largest population of dextroamphetamine abusers is among college students. As stated by SAMHSA, “An estimated 6.4 percent of full-time college students age 18 to 22 used Adderall nonmedically in the past year.” These students often use the drug because they believe it will help them focus better and study for finals or write papers without losing focus or becoming tired. While there is a widely held belief that these drugs improve a person’s cognitive skills when abused, “research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t” (NIDA).
Nevertheless, dextroamphetamine abuse is common in both its individual and combination forms. Those who abuse dextroamphetamine might swallow the tablets or crush them. If they crush the tablets, they will then either inject the drug or snort it (DOCP).
Signs of Dextroamphetamine Use
When someone is using dextroamphetamine correctly, they will likely show more focus and more alertness when it comes to their work. However, if someone is abusing the drug, they will usually take this to a higher level. One of the common signs of abuse is when an individual takes the drug in a binge-crash fashion. This means that they
- Abuse dextroamphetamine for several days straight
- Do not sleep or eat or only do so very little
- Become extremely frenzied or even border on mania
- Suddenly crash when they stop taking the drug, sometimes sleeping heavily for a long time afterward
- Repeat the cycle over again
Other signs of dextroamphetamine use are:
- Overly talkativeness
- Intense emotions and mood swings
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Sudden weight loss
These signs can occur whether someone is abusing the drug or not, but if they don’t have a prescription or are taking more than they were prescribed, they are definitely abusing dextroamphetamine. If someone you know exhibits these signs and the dangerous side effects listed above, there is strong chance that they are already abusing the drug.
Is it possible for someone to become addicted to dextroamphetamine? Yes. According to the NLM, “Dextroamphetamine can be habit-forming,” and this is why you should not “take a larger dose, take it more often, or take it for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor.” However, many individuals do so, and they become addicted to the drug more quickly than they realize.
According to the NIDA Teen, “Addiction is when a person seeks out and takes the drug over and over even though they know it is damaging their health and their life.” When someone becomes addicted to dextroamphetamine, they are no longer in control of their abuse of the drug and will continue to do it until they are able to get professional help. If you are concerned that you may be addicted to dextroamphetamine, consider the symptoms of this particular addiction syndrome.
Pay close attention to the following signs of addiction:
- Taking more than prescribed
- Taking more often than prescribed
- Using dextroamphetamine for reasons other than prescribed
- Difficulty falling asleep or hyperactivity when dextroamphetamine wears off
- Drinking alcohol while taking dextroamphetamine
- Excessive sleep when not taking dextroamphetamine
Worried your habit has gone too far? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel that you cannot stop abusing dextroamphetamine on your own?
- Have you been abusing dextroamphetamine for several months or more?
- Do you not feel normal unless you are on the drug?
- Do you feel that you need dextroamphetamine to feel like yourself, have a good time, wake up in the morning, or for another reason other than your prescribed reason for taking it?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug, such as:
- Feeling extremely tired?
- Experiencing thoughts of suicide?
- Being unable to feel pleasure?
- Becoming extremely anxious or irritable?
- Do you feel that your tolerance for the drug is growing?
- Do you need more of it each time in order to feel the same effects?
- Do you take more of the drug every time to get those effects?
- Do you find yourself thinking about dextroamphetamine often, even when you are not taking it?
- Do you crave the drug when you are not taking it?
- Have you ever done anything dangerous, illegal, or potentially harmful to obtain more dextroamphetamine including:
- Faking prescriptions?
- Doctor shopping?
- Buying dextroamphetamine illegally?
- Putting yourself in danger to obtain more of the drug?
- Have you become extremely malnourished as a result of your dextroamphetamine abuse?
- Have you experienced stimulant-induced psychosis as a result of your long-term dextroamphetamine abuse, the symptoms of which include:
- Extreme paranoia
- Violent or hostile behavior
- Are you noticing that your dextroamphetamine abuse is causing problems in different areas of your life?
- If this is the case, do you still feel unable to stop abusing the drug?
If you are abusing dextroamphetamine in any way and answered yes to most of questions above, you are definitely experiencing addiction to dextroamphetamine. You should attend formal drug rehab and possibly drug detox in order to work toward your recovery. Addiction is difficult and painful and can cause many issues for you and those you love. Once a person becomes addicted to dextroamphetamine, they won’t be able to stop unless they get real help and are able to look at their drug use in a new way that allows them to slowly recover.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is addicted to this medication, seek professional help immediately. Do not stop taking this drug without first consulting with a professional to ensure your safety during amphetamine detox.
Methods of Treatment for Dextroamphetamine Addiction
For those who become addicted to this drug, there is treatment. Most of the time, addiction treatment will be much like the treatment of various other types of amphetamine addiction and will include a period of safe and controlled detox followed by psychological counseling and therapy. You do not have to attempt to quit using dextroamphetamine alone – there is help!
Formal addiction treatment is a necessary and delicate process when a person has become addicted to a prescription stimulant like dextroamphetamine. Depending on the individual’s physical and psychological state, they might need to attend inpatient or outpatient treatment as a patient before transitioning into an aftercare or group program.
Inpatient care may be necessary for those with high psychiatric severity like the drug-induced psychosis or other psychological issues. Otherwise, as long as the individual has a good support system and the ability to visit a nearby rehab center daily, an outpatient facility would likely be ideal and less expensive.
Among the two methods of treatment that are often used in addiction treatment, medication and behavioral therapy can both be used in this case.
According to the NIDA, “At this time, there are no medications that are FDA-approved for treating stimulant addiction.” While this is true, some pharmacological treatments may be used during dextroamphetamine addiction treatment. For example, during the withdrawal phase, patients may be tapered off their dosage of dextroamphetamine instead of taken off it altogether. This can make the withdrawal symptoms less intense and severe.
Also, the CHCE states, “neuroleptics may be useful in controlling stimulant-induced psychosis or delirium, and anticraving agents with a fast onset of acton may be helpful during the early withdrawal period.” These medications, along with antidepressants if necessary, can be used to soften the effects of the withdrawal phase and cravings and to make it easier for the patients to focus on the other side of treatment: behavioral therapy.
Behavioral treatment is one of the most commonly used treatments for drug addiction as it allows patients to change the way they think and behave which is very effective toward stopping drug abuse. Many addicts will be encouraged to try cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, a treatment that helps patients identify triggers, fight cravings, and learn new strategies to help them stay sober.
Depending on the individual patient and their specific place in treatment, different behavioral therapies may be employed. The most important aspect of this treatment is that it pertains to the needs of the patient and that their personal treatment plan is constantly reassessed and adapted to fit their changing needs.
Because dextroamphetamine is a stimulant, cravings for this drug can last well beyond the 90 day mark for treatment. Individuals can sometimes experience cravings years later if they were severely addicted to the drug, which is why starting treatment as soon as possible is very important.
The correct use of dextroamphetamine allows many individuals, adults and children alike, to find the ability to focus and feel calmer in their work. When someone begins to abuse the drug, however, in a way or for a reason that they were not prescribed, addiction can set in very quickly and the individual can even experience death by heart failure. Seek treatment immediately if these issues exist in your life as a result of dextroamphetamine abuse.