Switching Adderall: What You Need to Know

After years of being in decline, stimulants have once again become an enormous problem when it comes to substance use disorders in the U.S., especially among college-aged individuals. And this is not baseless conjecture; moreover, it is an unfortunate reality substantiated by multiple studies. One of those studies comes from Statista, an esteemed and trusted online market research, business intelligence, and statistics portal. The 2021 study found that an estimated 28 percent of college students admitted to taking a higher dose of their prescribed stimulant than what was prescribed by their physician. The study further noted that Adderall was one of the stimulants students admitted to abusing the most to, in their words, “get ahead” or “make the grade.”


What College Students and the Public at Large Should Know About Adderall

For those who are not quite as familiar with Adderall, it is a central nervous system stimulant that comprises amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Most physicians consider it a go-to drug for treating individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. And it’s easy to see why they view Adderall in such high regard. When taken as prescribed, Adderall does an excellent job when it comes to relieving symptoms commonly associated with both ADHD and narcolepsy. However, things can be very different when someone misuses or abuses this powerful central nervous system stimulant. What makes Adderall so alluring to college students and those who prefer stimulants over other illicit drugs is how it stimulates alertness and productivity. Depending on how and why individuals use it, this could be a blessing or a curse.

What Makes Adderall So Addictive?

To appreciate and wrap one’s mind around what makes Adderall so addictive, it helps to know more about how the drug affects the body and brain. Similar to cocaine, heroin, meth, and other street-level stimulants, Adderall works by increasing dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels in the brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS). When this happens, it can trigger intense feelings of euphoria. Some people also say it increases their sexual desire and gives them boundless energy. For someone new to Adderall, all of these things make the drug appealing, and before long, they become physically, psychologically, and even emotionally dependent upon it. To that end, some of the tell-tale signs of Adderall addiction include

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Blistering or peeling skin
  • Changes in vision
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Paranoia and mania
  • Seizures
  • Skin rash
  • Speech problems
  • Weakness or numbness that affects the arms or legs

While these telling signs of Adderall addiction are horrible, they can be considerably worse when individuals start withdrawing from the drug. And this explains why those addicted to the powerful stimulant have a hard time quitting it. The longer someone takes Adderall, the more likely they are to build a tolerance for it. When this happens, they no longer derive the same degree of euphoria when they take the drug. The same is true of any other perceived benefits they associate with taking it. This increased tolerance sometimes drives individuals to switch from Adderall to another stimulant.

Why Some People Make the Switch From Adderall to Other Stimulants

For those who have never heard of an Adderall tolerance break, it refers to taking a break from Adderall so that the body can become sensitive to it again. And it is a common occurrence among long-term users of Adderall. That said, there are different ways to take an Adderall break. Some people abstain from the drug entirely, and some replace it with another stimulant. The ones who switch to an alternative stimulant drug do so because they feel less productive, alert, and self-aware, all of which they experience plenty of when on Adderall. Bearing that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the stimulant drugs that individuals commonly replace with Adderall:

Switching from Adderall to Vyvanse

Whether individuals are trying to quit stimulants for good or want just a temporary break from Adderall, Vyvanse can be an attractive proposition. And this is because both drugs are long-acting central nervous stimulants, which means they can continue enjoying the intense euphoria and other perceived benefits. That said, there are a few differences between the two drugs.

Vyvanse contains only one active ingredient, lisdexamfetamine, compared to the four in Adderall, which comprises four different variations of amphetamine salts. Having one active ingredient means that the time it takes for Vyvanse to start working is much longer. Studies show that it takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours for Vyvanse to work, and its effects can last up to 14 hours. Adderall takes 30 to 60 minutes to work, but its effects only last 4 to 5 hours.

Switching from Adderall to Ritalin

Switching from Adderall to Ritalin is also common among long-term Adderall users. And many make this switch for the same reason that some switch from Adderall to Vyvanse. Essentially, they either want a break from Adderall or have had enough of taking stimulants and are trying to end their relationship with them altogether. The difference between these two drugs is Adderall is a long-acting stimulant. Ritalin, on the other hand, is a short-acting one. That said, how long it takes for these drugs to work and how long their respective effects last will, of course, differ.

Switching from Adderall to Concerta

Another option for individuals interested in taking an Adderall break is switching to Concerta. In many ways, Concerta is the same as Adderall in that it is a go-to prescription drug for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. But that is where the similarities end; Concerta only has one active ingredient, methylphenidate hydrochloride. Studies show Concerta begins working within one hour of someone taking it, and the effects can last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours.

Switching from Adderall to Nuvigil

Nuvigil can be a good option for those who fancy switching from Adderall to another stimulant drug. Unlike Adderall, a Schedule II controlled substance, Nuvigil is a Schedule IV, which means the risk of addiction is lower. Studies show it takes 30 to 90 minutes for this short-acting stimulant drug, commonly prescribed to treat narcolepsy, to start working, and the effects can last up to 15 hours. The only active ingredient in Nuvigil is armodafinil.

Switching from Adderall to Dexedrine

While some might consider switching from Adderall to Dexedrine, there are not a lot of benefits that come from doing so as the two drugs are more the same than they are different. Both Dexedrine and Adderall and prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, and they both have a recommended starting standard dosage of 5mg once or twice per day that can be titrated up to a maximum dosage of 40mg per day. They are also both classified as long-acting Schedule II controlled substances. That said, Adderall is the more powerful of the two because it’s a combination drug comprised of two different types of stimulants. For this reason, most people will switch from Adderall to the less powerful Dexedrine to give their central nervous system a needed break or wean themselves off of stimulants altogether.

Switching from Adderall to Strattera

Rounding out some of the common stimulants many individuals switch to when they take an Adderall break is Strattera. One of the things that differentiate these two drugs is Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and not a central nervous system stimulant drug, which is the official classification for Adderall. Even though both drugs are effective in treating ADHD, they work in very different ways. And for some, the difference is enough for them to make Strattera their go-to drug when they decide to take a much-needed Adderall break.

Final Thoughts on Switching From Adderall to Other Stimulants

Whether the goal is to make doing so part of your addiction recovery or give your central nervous system a much-needed break, switching from Adderall to another stimulant can help. For more information on either or to get help finding a quality rehab facility in your area, consider speaking with a Mid Hudson Addiction Recovery associate today.


  • Does your brain go back to normal after stopping Adderall?
  • Does Adderall need to be tapered?
  • Is it good to switch ADHD medications?


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