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How Long Does Adderall Work?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 21, 2024

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Adderall is a stimulant medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The prescription medication is also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy, a chronic condition correlated with excessive daytime sleepiness.

When Adderall is used as directed, the medication may trigger positive effects. In those using Adderall without a prescription, side effects can be potentially dangerous.

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If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with ADHD and you are wondering how long does Adderall take to work, today’s guide highlights the effects of Adderall in immediate-release and extended-release formulations.

Adderall XR vs IR

Adderall is a stimulant medication and a Schedule II controlled substance. It is a combination medication that consists of two active ingredients:

  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Amphetamine

There are two forms of Adderall:

  1. Adderall IR: Oral tablets in strengths of 5mg to 30mg are the immediate-release formulation of Adderall.
  2. Adderall XR: Oral capsules in strengths of 5mg to 30mg are the extended-release formulation of Adderall.

Both types of Adderall contain dextroamphetamine (75%) and levoamphetamine (25%). Both formulations are also available as generics. Generics are marketed as  amphetamine/dextroamphetamine.

Adderall is considered a first-line therapy for ADHD. Research indicates that Adderall IR and Adderall XR can:

  • Improve focus
  • Sharpen attention
  • Reduce impulsive behavior

How Long Does Adderall Work?

When you take Adderall, you will start to feel the effects within an hour. Effects persist for up to six hours. Adderall doses should always be spaced by a minimum of six hours.

How long does Adderall XR work, then?

If you are prescribed Adderall in extended-release form, effects will persist for up to twelve hours. To reduce the likelihood of Adderall overdose, avoid taking more than one dose of Adderall XR every 24 hours.

Adderall has a half-life of 11 to 17 hours. By this stage, blood concentration levels of the stimulant will be reduced by half. After four to five half-lives, all Adderall will be eliminated from your system.

Adderall IR is not always detectable in urine. This form of Adderall may be detectable in saliva tests or hair.

It can take four days for Adderall XR to completely leave your system.

How Long Is Adderall Effective?

When abused without a prescription, the Adderall effect time is typically four hours. Expect these stimulant effects to present:

  • Excitement
  • Enhanced alertness
  • Mood changes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Behavioral changes

The fleeting nature of the effects triggered by Adderall can provoke a pattern of abuse that may lead to the development of physical dependence and stimulant use disorder, and cause Adderall withdrawal when you stop taking the substance.

How Does It Feel When You Take Adderall?

If you ingest a stimulant like Adderall in any form, the medication will increase concentration levels, improve focus, and boost energy levels. Additionally, stimulants like Adderall suppress appetite and minimize sleep requirements.

Taking any form of Adderall increases the activity of these chemical messengers (neurotransmitters):

  • Norepinephrine
  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin

Adderall can trigger physical effects that include:

  • Raised blood pressure levels
  • Elevated core body temperature
  • Increased heart rate

Chronic Adderall abuse can lead to the following severe medical complications:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Seizure

The sustained abuse of Adderall can bring on these side effects:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Edginess
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cardiovascular disease

Long-term Adderall abuse can trigger changes to the reward center of the brain. These changes result from dopamine overexposure caused by chronic stimulant abuse.

Tolerance to Adderall forms so that the effects of the stimulant are diminished. In the context of Adderall abuse, this often prompts abusive patterns of consumption that hasten the development of physical dependence. Physical dependence frequently leads to addiction. Stimulant use disorder (Adderall addiction) is a chronic brain condition characterized by compulsive stimulant use in the face of clearly negative outcomes. We can help you unpack the physical and psychological side of Adderall addiction at Renaissance Recovery Center in Huntington Beach.

Adderall Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery in Huntington Beach

Here at Renaissance Recovery Center near Huntington Beach in Southern California, we specialize in treating all types of addictions, including stimulant use disorders, including adderall addiction treatment. You can also access dual diagnosis treatment for addictions with co-occurring mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

Choose addiction treatment at the level of intensity you need from one of these Renaissance outpatient treatment programs:

  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Virtual IOPs (online rehab programs)

All addiction treatment programs at Renaissance provide personalized treatment that utilizes an array of holistic and science-backed interventions that may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Experiential adventure therapy
  • Holistic therapy like mindfulness and meditation

Due to the chronic and relapsing nature of stimulant use disorder, your treatment team will give you with a comprehensive aftercare plan that includes relapse management and prevention strategies. Take the first crucial step to recovery by calling admissions at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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