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What to expect when using Adderall for the first time

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About AdderallHow does it feel?Side effectsSafetySummary
If you have ADHD, a doctor may prescribe Adderall to help with your symptoms. You may notice greater focus, concentration, and easier-to-manage energy levels when taking it for the first time.
Medically reviewed by Philip Ngo, PharmD
Written by Faye Stewart
Updated on

Everyone has difficulty paying attention sometimes, but if you notice it happening often alongside other symptoms, you may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Additional symptoms can include:

  • engaging in rash or potentially harmful behaviors
  • often feeling anxious or depressed
  • experiencing difficulty in social situations

Adderall (amphetamine dextroamphetamine) can make it easier to manage these symptoms, and it is one of the most common medications to help adults and children with ADHD.

What is Adderall, and how does it work?

Young male child sitting at a writing desk and writing with this left hand in an academic book depicting what to expect when using Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant, and other similar drugs include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).

These drugs aim to improve attention and decrease distractions, making it easier to focus on certain tasks. It causes your brain to produce more serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine chemicals, which are important for sending signals through your nervous system.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers methylphenidate and amphetamine Schedule II controlled substances due to their high potential for misuse.

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What does Adderall feel like?

When you begin taking Adderall, you may notice improved focus, better short-term memory, and more balanced energy levels. You may also find completing tasks and goal-setting easier.

Adderall works similarly in both adults and children. However, it may help children focus better at school by ignoring distractions.

How long does it take for Adderall to kick in?

You should notice that Adderall begins working in around 30–45 minutes.

How long do Adderall effects last?

There are two versions of Adderall available — Adderall and Adderall XR. The “XR” means it is an extended-release medication.

Adderall XR’s medication guide states that Adderall lasts for around 3 hours, while Adderall XR lasts approximately 7 hours because it releases the drug more slowly.

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What are the potential side effects of Adderall?

The most common side effects include decreased appetite and headache. They can also include dry mouth and trouble sleeping. The side effects typically go away within a few days or weeks, but if they don’t, talk with a doctor or healthcare professional about lowering medication dosage.

The medication can also have more serious side effects, like heart disease, and taking ADHD medication for a long time increases the chance of serious side effects.

Besides heart disease, these risks include:

  • high blood pressure
  • seizure
  • fast heartbeat
  • misuse and addiction
  • skin flushing resulting from amphetamine toxicity

Other side effects can include psychiatric conditions, such as amphetamine-induced psychosis. A 2019 research found this occurred in 1 out of 660 patients and occurred more in patients taking amphetamine than methylphenidate.

Taking stimulants like Adderall over long periods may also affect growth rates.

2017 research shows that adults who took stimulants for several years as children showed a 4.7 centimeter (cm) height deficit after consistently taking the medication. However, in general, children who take Adderall remain in a typical growth range.

How to use Adderall safely

All stimulants come with the risk of addiction and misuse, and safety is important.

When taking Adderall, always follow the instructions a doctor or healthcare professional gives you. When children use Adderall, it is essential to schedule annual checkups so that a doctor can monitor their height, weight, and general health.

You should not stop taking Adderall suddenly, even if you experience side effects, as it may cause withdrawal symptoms that can make you feel unwell. Instead, discuss the options with your healthcare team, as they can slowly lower your dose to reduce your withdrawal risk.


Medication is just one tool for managing ADHD, and you may consider using Adderall alongside other approaches like behavior management and educational interventions.

All these things together can help improve your quality of life, and working with a doctor or healthcare team can help determine the best treatment for you.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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