Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. All forms of Adderall consist of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The medication is primarily used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and can be used for individuals with the sleep disorder narcolepsy. In some cases, Adderall may be used for enhancing attention and wakefulness in people who have other disorders that result in lethargy or extreme sleepiness, such as individuals with certain types of strokes, neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis or delirium, etc.

Two Major Forms of Adderall

Adderall is available in two major forms: an immediate-release version (Adderall IR) and an extended-release version (Adderall XR). Adderall IR produces stimulant effects that will typically last 4-6 hours, and Adderall XR typically produces stimulant effects that last 12 hours.  

Both versions of the drug are classified by the DEA as Schedule II controlled substances.   This indicates that the DEA considers both versions to have significant potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence in spite of their medicinal uses.

Other Differences in Adderall IR and XR

The FDA reports that both the IR and XR versions of Adderall contain the same ingredients in the same proportion. Thus, the efficacy of the drug and the side effects associated with the different forms the drug are not considered to be significantly different except in specific cases where a person’s metabolism may result in a different side effect profile from one version over another. 

The IR version of Adderall is manufactured as a tablet, and the XR version comes in capsule form. The XR capsules contain about half immediate-release formulations of the drugs and about half delayed-release formulations. With the delayed-release version, users only need to take the drug in the morning as opposed to multiple times per day (as with the IR version). 

In terms of their abuse potential, the IR version of Adderall is more likely to be abused when individuals grind up the tablets and snort the powder because this version makes the drug more available to this method of use. The XR version consists of a number of little beads in the capsules that would need to be individually ground up, and this makes it harder to prepare the drug for snorting. Simply snorting the beads will not result in an individual experiencing the psychoactive effects of the drug. Thus, individuals abusing the IR version of Adderall may experience more intense feelings of stimulation, energy, mood enhancement, etc., than those abusing the XR version; however, again, both forms have the same classification by the DEA.  

  • Individuals who abuse stimulant drugs like Adderall often experience significant feelings of depression, apathy, lethargy, and increased appetite after the effects of the drug wear off. Most often, stimulant abusers refer to this as “the crash.” It appears that the crash that occurs in many individuals as a result of discontinuing Adderall is significantly more severe in those who abuse the IR version (based on anecdotal evidence). These individuals might be more prone to seek out the drug to counteract these effects and to engage in more prolonged periods of drug bingeing.
  • While this may result in more complicated issues with discontinuation and withdrawal, it would not significantly affect the treatment approach for individuals with substance use disorders as a result of Adderall abuse. Individuals would require the same protocols, such as withdrawal management, therapy, support group participation, etc., despite which form of the drug they abused. Some of the particular aspects of an intervention might vary slightly based on the form of drug the individual primarily abused; for example, some individuals who abused the IR version may require more intense withdrawal management interventions than those who abused the XR version.