What Is Dexedrine Used for?

Updated February 21, 2017

Dexedrine has been available since 1930. Originally prescribed for weight loss and depression, it is now used primarily in treatment for attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is one of a group of amphetamines that are central nervous system stimulants, used to increase attention span, curb restlessness and heighten one's ability to concentrate.

How Does Dexedrine Work With ADD and ADHD?

Part of the brain sends serotonin and dopamine, the brain's chemical messengers, to various parts of the body. When the brain is underperforming, the messages do not go out appropriately, and brain activity is sluggish. Dexedrine can activate that part of the brain so that it operates more efficiently, and patients exhibit better impulse control and focus and increased calmness. When treated with Dexedrine or Ritalin, another amphetamine stimulant, 60 to 70 per cent of children with ADD and ADHD demonstrate improvement.

How Does Dexedrine Work With Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy causes an uncontrollable need to sleep and/or sudden lapses into very deep sleep. This presents danger in driving and operating any kind of equipment. It causes embarrassment and messes during meals. It renders patients virtually unemployable. Treatment with Dexedrine and other stimulants takes some experimentation, but narcolepsy patients have achieved success with it. Some patients may have to combine Dexedrine with Adderal or another stimulant drug. Dosage times may be more frequent in the morning and taper off later in the day, depending on patient results and tolerances. Success is as simple as the narcoleptic making it through a meal, a half-day on the job, or a drive to and from work without falling asleep. The amount of Dexedrine needed to effect an acceptable alert state varies from person to person.

Dexedrine and Weight Loss

One of the side effects of Dexedrine is loss of appetite and weight loss, and it was formerly used as a diet pill. Because of its high risk for abuse, Dexedrine is no longer prescribed to treat obesity. It is highly habit-forming: its effectiveness diminishes and the user increases the dosage, trying to get the original anorexic effect to return. As a weight-loss treatment, it is now reserved only for those who have not responded to anything else, but its use is tightly controlled.

Dexedrine and Depression

Dexedrine and other amphetamines do elevate one's mood while increasing energy and clarity of thought. This makes them very attractive and effective for depressed patients. However, they are only used to treat depression in patients who have not responded to at least two other antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. They may be given to terminally ill people who are too sick to take anything else. The danger is that the good results are often only short-lived, and the drugs are addictive. When they wear off, or when the patient develops tolerance, the drug no longer works, and there is a let-down or "crash." The many negative withdrawal symptoms include severe depression, fatigue and inability to think or function well.

Dexedrine and Abuse

Dexedrine has a high street value and is known as "speed" or "uppers." The heightened alertness, focused attention, thought clarity and high energy associated with Dexedrine makes it extremely desirable. Since it is a controlled substance, it is a serious offence to take Dexedrine without a prescription, to give it to anyone else or to sell it illegally. It is compared to cocaine in its addictive potential. It also stunts growth in young people and increases the heart rate and blood pressure and leads to other health risks in adults.

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About the Author

Linda Johnson is a veteran writer and Photoshop and Illustrator aficionado. She is a TV-radio producer, ad agency owner and a winner of Addy Awards and the First Place Award for Best National Public Service Film. In addition to Johnson's online work, her writing has appeared in "Poetry Guide," the "Indianapolis Star" and Indianapolis Dine magazine.