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Content reviewed and updated: 03/08/22

How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System – Doses & Levels

Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine), one of the most commonly prescribed stimulants, helps ease the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also prescribed as a second-line treatment for narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. Whether you just started medication or are discussing treatment options with your provider, you may have questions about ADHD medication like Adderall. You might wonder, how long is Adderall in your system? Or how long does Adderall last?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • The different types of Adderall
  • How Adderall works in different dosages
  • The effects of Adderall

At Ahead, we strive to empower our patients with awareness and knowledge of the treatment options available to them, including stimulant or non-stimulant treatment options. While Adderall is commonly prescribed, it is not the only ADHD medication available. We encourage you to seek information about different ADHD treatments, especially if you are just starting your mental healthcare journey. 

How does Adderall work?

Adderall comes in two forms: an immediate-release oral tablet (regular Adderall) and an extended-release oral tablet (Adderall XR). Whereas immediate-release Adderall may need to be taken multiple times per day, extended-release Adderall can be taken once daily with effects that last all day. These different versions can stay in your system for varying amounts of time.

Adderall contains a mixture of dextroamphetamine (d-amphetamine) and levoamphetamine (l-amphetamine). Dextroamphetamine has more potent stimulant effects than levoamphetamine. In fact, dextroamphetamine itself is sold under the brand names Dexedrine and ProCentra. However, drugs like Adderall and Dexedrine may have slightly different effects for some people.

That said, the exact way in which Adderall works is unknown. It is believed to act in the central nervous system and increase the availability of certain neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine and dopamine, in the brain. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can make it difficult for people to concentrate or focus on daily activities.

It is generally accepted that taking Adderall daily can help improve attention, concentration, and impulsive behavior in those with ADHD. According to a systematic review from The Lancet, Adderall may be the preferred medication for short-term ADHD treatment in adults. Based on efficacy and safety data, the review found that Adderall was more effective than other common ADHD medications, such as Strattera (atomoxetine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate).

How long does Adderall stay in your system?

The overall half-life of Adderall ranges from 9 to 14 hours. Half-life, or elimination half-life, refers to the amount of time it takes for half the amount of a drug to be eliminated from the body. The average half-life of dextroamphetamine (10 hours) is shorter than that of levoamphetamine (13 to 14 hours).  So understanding how Adderall’s half-life works, how long does Adderall stay in your system?

Let’s look at an example. If Adderall has a maximum half-life of 14 hours, then after every 14 hours, the amount of Adderall in the body is halved. Based on a 14-hour half-life, how long does 20mg of Adderall last? If you were to take a single 20 mg dose of Adderall at 10am, then 10 mg of Adderall would remain in your body at midnight. At 2pm the next day, 5 mg of Adderall would remain in your body. After approximately five of these half-life cycles, the drug would be considered completely cleared from your system. It can take around three days for Adderall to be eliminated from your body, although the effects can wear off much sooner. 

However, it’s important to understand that half-life estimates are only estimates. Everyone reacts differently and metabolizes at various paces. Some people metabolize differently depending on the enzymes in their body, so half-lives of medication can vary. When determining how long Adderall could stay in your system, keep in mind that you can only estimate the half-life.

This might leave you wondering, does Adderall build up in your system? The answer is yes, depending on the frequency and dose a person takes. A person taking Adderall regularly will take longer to clear it out of their system than someone who takes it infrequently.

Different tests can be carried out to assess the Adderall levels in urine, blood, hair, and saliva. Adderall can be detected in blood up to 46 hours after last use. You might also wonder how long can Adderall be tested in urine. The answer is that Adderall can be found in urine up to 72 hours after last use. In saliva, Adderall can be identified anywhere from 20 to 50 hours after the last dose. Although hair testing is uncommon, Adderall can be detected in hair up to 3 months after the last dose. In addition, amphetamines can be detected in sweat for up to a week or more, depending on the dosage taken.

How long do the effects of Adderall last?

Immediate-release Adderall reaches maximum levels in the bloodstream within 3 hours of taking it, with effects that last 4 to 6 hours. Extended-release Adderall reaches maximum blood levels within 7 hours of taking it, with effects that last 8 to 12 hours.

Some providers may recommend taking Adderall on an empty stomach since food may affect how long it takes Adderall to reach maximum blood levels. For instance, taking Adderall XR with a high-fat meal can prolong the time it takes to feel the maximum effects of Adderall. However, food is not the only factor that impacts the effects of Adderall.

What factors affect how long Adderall stays in your system?

Not everyone metabolizes, or processes, Adderall the same way. Various factors influence how fast Adderall leaves the system. These can include sleep, dosage, body weight, kidney and liver function, and other drugs the person is taking.

Sleeping Habits

How long can Adderall keep you awake? When considering the Adderall half life, sleep is another important aspect of life that can be affected. ADHD itself can disrupt healthy sleeping habits, but taking Adderall late into the night can also keep you up. That’s why it’s important to consider the half-life of your medication and work with a provider to build out a medication schedule that promotes better sleep.

Dosage

Compared to lower doses taken infrequently, higher doses of Adderall taken multiple times per day can take longer for the body to process. The formulation, such as immediate- or extended-release, can also affect the rate at which the body metabolizes the drug. For example, the half life of Adderall 10mg IR (immediate-release) is shorter compared to the half-life of Adderall 10mg ER (extended-release). The drug is released into the body more slowly with the extended-release formulation compared to the immediate-release formulation. This means that it will generally take longer for the body to clear Adderall XR compared to regular Adderall.

Body weight

Body fat and excess body weight can increase the elimination half-life of Adderall, meaning that the body takes more time to process it. In addition, people with higher body weights may need higher Adderall doses, which in turn can take longer to process.

Kidney and liver function

Stimulant medications like Adderall and some non-stimulant medications are primarily metabolized in the liver and excreted through the kidneys. Liver and kidney problems can therefore affect how Adderall is removed from the body. Those with liver or kidney impairments may have higher concentrations of Adderall in the bloodstream for longer periods of time than those without liver or kidney impairments.

Other drugs

Adderall is processed in the liver by the CYP2D6 enzyme. Certain drugs can block CYP2D6 and thus lead to increased blood levels of Adderall. These drugs include Quinora (quinidine), Norvir (ritonavir), and certain serotonergic drugs, such as Paxil (paroxetine) and Prozac (fluoxetine).

How fast Adderall is eliminated from the body can also be affected by urine pH. An individual with higher urine pH (basic) may eliminate Adderall slower than an individual with lower urine pH (acidic). Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, such as Diamox (acetazolamide), and alkalinizing agents, such as Alka-Seltzer (sodium bicarbonate), can increase urine pH and thus result in decreased Adderall elimination from the body.

Overall, it is helpful to discuss with your provider any factors that may influence how long Adderall will stay in your system. In addition to those described above, others might include lifestyle factors, such as diet, and genetics.

Is withdrawal possible with Adderall?

Adderall is commonly prescribed for many people seeking ADHD treatment, and for good reason—it is an effective stimulant medication.

However, Adderall should only be used when prescribed and with guidance from a qualified healthcare provider. Adderall has high potential to be misused or abused. Even if not misused or abused, Adderall in high doses for extended periods of time may lead to tolerance or physiological dependence. In such cases, discontinuing Adderall abruptly can result in withdrawal symptoms, which may include:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

If you take Adderall, you may take it for a while before you and your provider decide to try a different treatment or discontinue drugs altogether. If and when Adderall is discontinued by your doctor, the dosage may be tapered slowly over a period of time. This way, the medication leaves your system gradually, thus preventing withdrawal. Your provider may also suggest not taking Adderall on weekends (or on days you do not need it) to avoid developing a tolerance to the medication, and in turn to avoid withdrawal symptoms should you stop taking the medication completely in the future.

Takeaway

There is no concrete answer for how long Adderall stays in your system, and various factors (such as body weight, age, and other drugs being taken) can have an impact.

The half-life of Adderall is anywhere from 9 to 14 hours, while the effects may be felt for up to 6 hours with immediate-release Adderall and up to 12 hours with extended-release Adderall. Depending on the screening test performed, Adderall can usually be detected up to 2 to 3 days after the last dose was taken.

If you are living with ADHD, Adderall can be a safe and effective medication when used as prescribed. If you are wondering about how Adderall might work for you, or if you have concerns related to this drug, then you should talk to your provider. Your provider is there to provide guidance and address any questions you may have about your medication.

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