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Adderall® is a common medication for both adults and teenagers, and it can make a huge positive difference in the lives of the people who need it. But there is a problem – Adderall® is also a common target for abuse by people who don’t need the medication.

Worse, there is a risk that Adderall® and medications like it will cause addiction in users, both legal users who take the medication on doctor’s advice, and illegal users who take it as an unnecessary study aid or a way to get high.

Because of that addiction risk, and because even responsible users may sometimes need to change their medications, it’s important to understand how long Adderall® can stay in your system after you take it, and understand the symptoms of Adderall® withdrawal when it leaves your system.

What Is Adderall® and What Is It Used For?

Adderall® is primarily used as a treatment for ADHD [1]. Having the right medication, at the right dose, has been shown to improve the symptoms of ADHD in as much as 80% of the children who take it.

That means that Adderall® isn’t just an important medication for ADHD, it’s also a highly effective one. There are a few alternative options, medications that work similarly to Adderall®, but not in quite the same way, that may be used as alternatives for people that react badly to Adderall®, or who get used to the medication and need to stop taking it.

The good news is that most of the people who take Adderall® as prescribed can take the medication safely, and while they may crave the medication or feel some withdrawal symptoms if they miss a dose, they’ll generally be able to stop taking the medication if they need to.
The trick with Adderall® is that the medication, which is an amphetamine and chemically similar to methamphetamine in some ways, can also be enjoyable and may be used as a performance-enhancing medication for concentration and mental acuity.

People who abuse Adderall® when they don’t need the medication are much more likely to have complications from the medication, and may also struggle with addiction and have a hard time controlling how much they take the medication, or how often they take it.

Adderall® is typically taken several times a day by people with ADHD, but Adderall® XR [2], the extended-release version of the medication, is a longer-lasting version of the drug. For people with ADHD, not needing to take the medication several times a day can make it easier to manage the drug, and easier to avoid accidentally skipping a dose.

The version of Adderall® you take can have an impact on how long Adderall® stays in your system.

While convenient, Adderall® XR may stay in your system longer than the standard version of Adderall®, not because your body doesn’t process the drug just as quickly once it’s released, but because the drug is released more slowly over time. Your body cannot process a drug out of its system until it’s been released – so it may take longer to go into withdrawal, or for the medication to completely clear your system if you need to switch to a different ADHD medication.

How Long Does Adderall® Stay Active In Your System?

Adderall® is typically a relatively short-acting medication in your system. That’s why you need to take the medication several times a day unless you’re using one of the extended-release versions of this medication.

There is a difference between how long a medication is active, and how long it’s in your system. That said, you’ll typically only be able to feel the primary effects of a medication while it’s in its active phase.

Typically, Adderall® will last 4-6 hours per dose, while Adderall® XR can last up to 12 hours in a single dose.

Like all drugs, however, there can be individual differences in how long Adderall® lasts and how potent its effects are. Your metabolism, weight, activity level, and any other medication you are taking at the same time can all impact how long Adderall® is active in your system.

Generally, though, the differences in medication duration are minor.

How Long Does Adderall® Stay In Your System?

Even after Adderall® stops working, the chemical is still in your body while your liver and kidneys work on filtering it out and eliminating it.

That means that Adderall® is still detectible for a while after it wears off, which is important because it can help detect people who are taking Adderall® recreationally, but also because it can help your doctor check to make sure you’re getting an effective dose of Adderall®, and can even be useful for tracking if you’ve been missing doses, or need to take a little less of the medication than you already are.

Like the effective time for Adderall®, the length of time the medication stays in your system [3] can change depending on your overall health, size, metabolism, and other factors, including the other medications you’re taking at the same time.

Age can also be a significant factor, and younger people tend to eliminate Adderall® in their system faster than older people.

That said, Adderall® is typically detectable in blood tests for up to 46 hours after your last dose, up to 72 hours in urine, and in hair for up to 3 months after your last dose.

Side Effects and Risks Of Adderall®

Adderall® has a relatively wide range of side effects [4]. Fortunately, most people won’t have all of these side effects. Typically, most people will have a few relatively minor side effects, which may get better with time.

However, some people may need to switch to a different medication if they have too many side effects or too severe versions of Adderall’s® side effects.

Here are some of the most common side effects:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • More serious side effects, and side effects that require immediate medical attention, include:
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Severe headaches
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet
  • Unexplained fever
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Blurred vision
  • Unexplained muscle weakness, especially on one side of the body

Remember, for most people these side effects are uncommon, and the common side effects should be less severe than the normal symptoms of your ADHD. If that isn’t the case for you, it’s worth talking with your doctor to see if there may be an effective alternative medication.

Like most medications, people who use Adderall® illicitly or recreationally are more likely to have side effects and may have more severe versions of the side effects they get.

What Is Adderall® Withdrawal Like?

What Is Adderall® Withdrawal Like?

Adderall® withdrawal can be complicated, and it’s also a relatively common experience since many people with ADHD need to stop taking their medications or switch to a different ADHD medication at different points in their lives.

That means that understanding what Adderall® withdrawal is like is important even for people who are taking their medications as prescribed. The signs and symptoms of Adderall® withdrawal can also help you tell if someone in your life is abusing Adderall®, since some people may go into Adderall® withdrawal even after only one or two doses.

One of the primary changes that happens when you stop taking Adderall® is a drop in your overall level of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that are boosted while you’re taking the drug. That can cause depression, difficulty sleeping, excessive fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.

For many users, the withdrawal symptoms of Adderall® feel a bit like a hangover, but they almost always last longer than a hangover would, and can last for several days before the symptoms get better.

The good news is that Adderall® withdrawal is very rarely dangerous, and most people can get through Adderall® without needing any additional medical support.

Do You Need Help Overcoming Adderall® Addiction?

If you’re dealing with Adderall® addiction or any form of addiction, it may be important to get a little extra help overcoming that addiction.

Remember, addiction is a combination of both physical and psychological factors. Even though Adderall® withdrawal is generally considered an easier or simpler withdrawal, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to overcome Adderall® addiction.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you want to give yourself the best chance to overcome your addiction and develop the skills and coping mechanisms you need to manage life without addiction. Going to an addiction treatment center is one of the best ways to develop those skills, and to help identify the triggers and causes of your addiction in the first place, so you know when you need your coping skills and how to use them.

If that sounds like the kind of addiction recovery you’re looking for, contact Heights Treatment. We’re excited to help you start on the journey to addiction-free living.


[1] Cleveland Clinic. (2022, October 6). Retrieved from on 2023, February 16.
[2] Morin, A. LCSW. (2022, November 27). Verywell Mind. What to Know About Adderall XR
A Stimulant Used to Treat ADHD. Retrieved from on 2023, February 16.
[3] Hersh, E. (2019, October 3). Healthline. How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System? Retrieved from on 2023, February 16.
[4] Hobbs, H. Healthline. WebMD. (2022, May 4). Effects of Adderall on the Body. Retrieved from on 2023, February 16.

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