HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Dexamfetamine

Return to Dexamfetamine overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Taking Ritalin to treat ADHD
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Dexamfetamine can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study?  Can I drink?
Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information.
Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.
You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.
We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information.

SAFETY HEADLINES

  • If you have taken more dexamfetamine than it said on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Dexamfetamine can cause serious side-effects: allergic reactions (high body temperature, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps), twitching and other symptoms that can be found here. Go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms, with your medicine
  • Do not take dexamfetamine if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI) like moclobemide, phenelzine, isocarboxazid or tranylcypromine in the last 14 days.
  • Stopping dexamfetamine suddenly can cause serious side-effects – go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects.
  • You might feel sleepy or have eyesight problems in the first few days after taking dexamfetamine – do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.
  • We do not know how safe dexamfetamine is in in pregnancy Use good contraception while you are taking dexamfetamine. See your doctor if you become pregnant, to get advice, but there is no urgent need to stop dexamfetamine. Dexamfetamine is passed in small amounts to the baby in breastmilk. Talk to your doctor or midwife about this and get their help.

The tablets contain lactose.

The tablets contain isomalt and the liquid contains maltitol

The oral solution contains a sugar type agent called maltitol, and some additives that can cause allergies - check to see if any of these are a problem for you.

  • The oral solution has a type of sugar called maltitol in it, so if you have trouble digesting some sugars like fructose please let your doctor or pharmacist know this. It should not affect your blood sugars if you are diabetic.
  • The oral solution also has some preservatives in it that can cause allergies - talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have problems with food additives or ‘E’ numbers.

Dexamfetamine is a controlled drug

Dexamfetamine is a ‘controlled drug’:

  • This means that the pharmacy has to take special care of the tablets by locking them in a cupboard.

  • The doctor has to write extra things on the prescription, like the total amount needed in words and figures to make it very clear.

  • A prescription for dexamfetamine has to be dispensed by the pharmacy within 28 days of the prescription being written (you can keep most other prescriptions for 6 months).

  • You cannot get an emergency supply of dexamfetamine without a prescription.

  • This is all because dexamfetamine might be sold as a street drug.

  • If you have to take it to school, it might have to be locked in a safe place or special arrangements put in place.

Dexamfetamine is mainly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

It is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It can also be used by specialists to treat narcolepsy (where you keep falling asleep), but it is not licensed in children and young people under the age of 18 for this.

Dexamfetamine can help to adjust the chemicals your brain needs, and focus your energy

For ADHD:

It might seem odd at first that we would use a stimulant as a treatment for hyperactivity.

  • Dexamfetamine stimulates centres in the brain that are under-active.
  • It should help to increase your attention span, and your concentration, and stop you acting on impulse without thinking.
  • Two of the chemicals in the brain are called noradrenaline and dopamine. These transmitters carry messages across cells in the brain.
  • Dexamfetamine is a molecule that acts like noradrenaline and dopamine. It acts as a substitute for these transmitters in the brain, and is taken up into nerve endings where it releases ‘real’ noradrenaline and dopamine into the system.
  • Higher levels of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain help to make people alert and ready for action. They feel like they have more energy and wellbeing.
  • The stimulant seems to give people a better focus for their energy.
  • With higher levels of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, many other effects occur in different parts of the body, including the heart, the gut, and the lungs.
  • Overall, this leads to the good effects of the medicine, but can also produce unwanted effects (side effects).
  • It is hard to control how much of each effect happens as every person is different.

For Narcolepsy:

The increased levels of dopamine and noradrenaline helps people to stay awake and alert.

You might have to take dexamfetamine up to four times a day

You will get the best effect from your dexamfetamine if you take it every day.
Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check it with your pharmacist or doctor:

  • You might be taking tablets up to four times a day.
  • You can take dexamfetamine with or without food.

If you need to break a tablet to get your exact dose, please ask the pharmacist how to do this accurately.

If you forget to take a dose then just take it as soon as possible

What to do if you miss a dose:

  • If you remember later, take it as soon as possible.
  • If you do not remember to take it by time for the next dose, just leave it and take the next dose.
  • Do not take a double dose. 

What might happen?

  • If you forget to take it for a few days, your symptoms may come back.
  • You may get an unwanted effect of feeling very low as the chemicals in your brain change their balance, with less noradrenaline and dopamine around.
  • You may also feel very tired.

You must go to A&E if you take too much

What to do if you take too much:

  • If you have taken more dexamfetamine than it said on the label, you must get help quickly – even if you don’t feel any different.
  • Go to A&E. Take your medicine with you, to show to the doctors. Tell them how much you have taken.
  • Get a friend or family member to go with you, if you can, just in case you feel ill on the way.

You might get any of the following signs:

  • feeling very excited
  • having a fit (seizure), which can lead to a coma
  • seeing, feeling or hearing things that are not real (hallucinations)
  • changes in your heartbeat (slow, fast or uneven)
  • your breathing getting slower.

It can take a few weeks for dexamfetamine to start helping

It can take a few weeks for dexamfetamine to show its full effect. We do not know why.

  • You should see improvements in your concentration and other symptoms within one month of starting the medicine.
  • Your doctor might start you on a low dose and then increase it slowly over 2-4 weeks to your full dose.

Many people take dexamfetamine for a year, and then check to see if they still need it

You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take dexamfetamine.

  • You will not get the full effect for a few weeks.
  • You should probably take it for at least a year - otherwise your symptoms can come back.
  • After a year, the doctor may stop the medicine (a drug ‘holiday’) to see if you still need it. They will probably do this during a holiday if you are at school.
  • You may find you take it for much longer.

Dexamfetamine works best as part of a wider treatment programme

Dexamfetamine is prescribed as part of a wider treatment plan for ADHD.

  • This plan may include educational, social and psychological counselling.

The doctor will do regular checks while you are taking dexamfetamine

Before you start taking dexamfetamine, if you change your dose, and at least every 6 months after you start, the doctor will do some tests to check that dexamfetamine is (still) right for you.

  • They will check your appetite, as dexamfetamine can make you want to eat less.        
  • They will check your weight and height, as dexamfetamine can slow down your growth.
  • They will check your heart rate and blood pressure, as this is a stimulant that can have side-effects on the heart and blood vessels.
  • They will ask you about your mood and how you are feeling, to check that the medicine is working but also whether you are having any side-effects.
  • They will ask you about any feelings of aggression or dislike towards others, which can be a side-effect of the medicine

For more information about these possible side-effects, please see the warnings and side effects page.

References sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on dexamfetamine. Tablets and liquid are listed separately and include manufacturer’s name. If your medicine is not listed here and is made as a special order then ask the pharmacist for a full list of all ingredients. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm 
  • NICE Guidance NG 87. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: diagnosis and management March 2018 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG87