DEA Schedule II Control Substance means this drug has a “high potential for abuse” that “may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” and the federal government sets limits on the amount that may be manufactured each year.
FDA “Black Box” Warning
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the following “black box” warning on all amphetamine drugs, including Dexedrine, which means that medical studies indicate Dexedrine carries a significant risk of serious, or even life-threatening, adverse effects.
Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) is an amphetamine drug.
Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity
How Does Dexedrine Work?
Dexedrine (as with all amphetamines) works by by initiating the acute stress response (“fight or flight” response). The central nervous system prepares the body for physical action by creating physiological changes as if it were stressed or under threat. These changes include:
The release of adrenaline, raises cortisol levels and other stress hormones
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Redirected blood flow into the muscles and away from the brain
Small doses of Dexedrine can banish tiredness and make the user feel alert and refreshed. However, the burst of energy comes at a price. A “speed crash” always follows the high and typically leaves the user feeling nauseous, irritable, depressed and extremely exhausted.
Do Not Dexedrine Use If
You have not tried other psychotherapy, have high blood pressure or any form of heart disease, are very nervous or have severe insomnia, have a history of addiction to drugs or alcohol, or have Tourette syndrome. Do not combine with monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
Dexedrine is not recommended for use as an anorectic (suppressing or causing loss of appetite) agent in children under 12 years of age.
Tolerance to the anorectic (suppressing or causing loss of appetite) effect usually develops within a few weeks. When this occurs, the recommended dose should not be exceeded in an attempt to increase the effect; rather, the drug should be discontinued (see DEPENDENCE, TOLERANCE AND WITHDRAWAL).
Common Side Effects
Loss of appetite
Difficulty falling asleep (insomnia)
Nervousness including agitation, anxiety and irritability
Less Common Side Effects
High blood pressure
Rapid pulse rate
Tolerance (constant need to raise the dose)
Feelings of suspicion and paranoia
Visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not there)
Dermatoses (infected or diseased skin)
Urinary tract infection
Infection or viral infection
Elevated ALT enzyme levels in the blood (signaling liver damage)
Overdose Side Effects
Dexedrine has been extensively abused. Extreme psychological dependence and severe social disability have resulted. Abuse of Dexedrine may cause a sudden heart attack even in those with no signs of heart disease. Symptoms of overdose that require immediate medical assistance include:
Hyperreflexia (overactive reflexes, which can include twitching or spasms)
Symptoms of depression
Seizures or abnormal EEGs
High blood pressure
Rapid heart beat
Swelling of hands/feet/ankles (for example, numbing of the fingertips)
Unexplained muscle pain
Lower abdominal pain
Rhabdomyolysis and kidney damage
Chronic abuse can manifest itself as psychosis, often indistinguishable from schizophrenia
Abuse of dextroamphetamine drugs have many serious potential side effects, including psychotic behavior, depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, violent behavior, confusion, insomnia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions.
Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic abusers of amphetamines, especially methamphetamine.
According to the DEA the effects of amphetamines are similar to cocaine but the onset is slower and the duration is longer. Chronic abuse produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations. These psychotic symptoms can persist for months and even years after use of these drugs has ceased, and may be related to its neurotoxic effects.
Amphetamine-Induced Anxiety Disorder
The onset of amphetamine-induced anxiety disorder can occur during amphetamine use or withdrawal, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as cited in the best-selling psychiatry text, Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry.
“Amphetamine, as with cocaine, can induce symptoms similar to those seen in obsessive disorder, panic disorder, and phobic disorders,” states Synopsis of Psychiatry.
Induction of schizophrenic-like states in children on prescribed doses of stimulant medications, including amphetamines (Adderall and Dexedrine), have been observed, though not as well documented as with amphetamine abusers, according to The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in an article entitled, “Adderall-Induced Psychosis in an Adolescent.”
Amphetamine—Induced Sexual Dysfunction
The American Psychiatric Association’s Manual of Mental Disorders, Synopsis of Psychiatry states: “High doses and long-term use of amphetamines (Dexedrine) are associated with erectile disorder and other sexual dysfunctions.”
It is possible to build up a tolerance to Dexedrine, which means the person using the drug needs to take larger doses to achieve the same effect. Over time, the body might come to depend on Dexedrine just to function normally. The person craves the drug and their psychological dependence makes them panic if access is denied, even temporarily.
Withdrawal symptoms can include tiredness, panic attacks, crankiness, extreme hunger, depression and nightmares. Some people experience a pattern of “binge crash” characterized by using continuously for several days without sleep, followed by a period of heavy sleeping.
If Dexedrine Doesn't Work
The drug should be stopped gradually. Withdrawal symptoms are psychological and stopping suddenly can cause extreme fatigue and severe, even suicidal, depression in adult patients.
If It Does Work
“In the treatment of ADHD for children and young adults, [amphetamine] is now prescribed frequently, often as a first-line drug. This is, in my opinion, a very serious mistake,” states Jack M. Gorman, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and deputy director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Amphetamine “is now abused throughout college campuses, where it is bought, sold, stolen, borrowed, snorted and injected. It is a very powerful drug that undoubtedly works for ADHD, but there are alternatives with less abuse potential that should be tried first.”
What is the most important information I should know about DEXEDRINE?
The following have been reported with use of DEXEDRINE and other stimulant medicines.
1. Heart-related problems:
sudden death in patients who have heart problems or heart defects
stroke and heart attack in adults
increased blood pressure and heart rate
Tell your doctor if you or your child have any heart problems, heart defects, high
blood pressure, or a family history of these problems.
Your doctor should check you or your child carefully for heart problems before
Your doctor should check you or your child's blood pressure and heart rate
regularly during treatment with DEXEDRINE.
Call your doctor right away if you or your child has any signs of heart
problems such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while
2. Mental (Psychiatric) problems:
new or worse behavior and thought problems
new or worse bipolar illness
new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility
Children and Teenagers
new psychotic symptoms (such as hearing voices, believing things that
are not true, are suspicious) or new manic symptoms
Tell your doctor about any mental problems you or your child have, or about a
family history of suicide, bipolar illness, or depression.
Call your doctor right away if you or your child have any new or
worsening mental symptoms or problems while taking DEXEDRINE, especially seeing or hearing things that are not real, believing things that
are not real, or are suspicious.
ABOVE: Dexedrine Medication Guide, Rev. 09/2009.
What are the differences between the various Amphetamines?
Many think methylphenidate (Ritalin) is safe, or mild, because so many children use it. However, the government classifies the psychoactive drug with cocaine and morphine because it's highly addictive. [More]
Although Vyvanse is referred to as “pro-drug” of dextroamphetamine, it's still an amphetamine, meaning that it's easily abused and can cause insomnia, agitation, anxiety and sometimes psychotic symptoms like seeing things or becoming paranoid. [More]
National Institute of Mental Health. Medications. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health,
National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; NIH Publication No. 02-3929, 2007 ed. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/medications/medications.pdf.
Australian Drug Foundation, Victorian Minister for Health. "Amphetamines Fact Sheet," 2007 ed.: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Amphetamines.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Health Alerts, “Heart Attack: Symptoms and Remedies”: www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/symptoms_remedies/heart_attack/83-1.html#3 (2008).
U.S. Food and Drug Association, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Public Health Advisory for Adderall and Adderall XR", 02/09/2005: www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PublicHealthAdvisories/ucm051672.htm.
Gorman, Jack M. The Essential Guide to Psychiatric Drugs. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
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