What Is the Difference between Adderall XR and IR? 

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. All forms of Adderall consist of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The medication is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and narcolepsy.

Two Major Forms of Adderall

someone with a drug abuse disorder is holding adderall ir and adderall xr pills in her hand

Adderall is available in two major forms: an immediate-release version (Adderall, although sometimes referred to as “Adderall IR”) and an extended-release version (Adderall XR). Adderall IR treats ADHD symptoms for about 5-8 hours, whereas Adderall XR typically lasts for 10-12 hours.

Both versions of the drug are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule II drugs. This scheduling indicates that the DEA considers both versions to have high potential for abuse and the development of dependence, although they are considered to have medical uses.

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Other Differences in Adderall IR and XR

Both the IR and XR versions of Adderall contain dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Thus, the different forms of the drug have the same potential side effects.

The IR version of Adderall is manufactured as a tablet, and the XR version comes in capsule form. The XR capsules contains both immediate-release beads and delayed-release beads, which is how it achieves its long-lasting effects. Thus, taking one 20mg dose of Adderall XR is comparable to taking one 10mg dose of Adderall IR followed by another 10mg Adderall IR dose 4 hours later.

Research suggests that IR versions of stimulants have a higher risk of being misused and diverted. Some users report grinding up the tablets and snorting the powder to hasten the onset of the drugs effects. Reasons for misuse and diversion disclosed by individuals include wanting to boost alertness, increase concentration, experience a high, or experiment.

  • Individuals who regularly use prescription stimulants like Adderall may experience feelings of depression, fatigue, and trouble sleeping if they suddenly stop using them. This experience is sometimes referred to as a “crash.” These withdrawal symptoms are experienced because the individual’s body has become dependent on the drug to function normally.
  • Misuse of Adderall, whether IR or XR, can result in a person developing a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders should be treated by professionals. Whether a person’s substance use disorder involves Adderall IR, Adderall XR, another prescription stimulant, or another type of drug, research-based care can help them learn to manage their substance use disorder and avoid relapse.

About The Contributor

Sophie Stein, MSN
Sophie Stein, MSN

Clinical Editor

Sophie Stein received her master’s of science in nursing from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She previously worked as an advanced practice registered nurse at an outpatient psychiatric practice providing mental health care for children,... Read More

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