Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 28th, 2018.
What is Adderall? How does it work?
Adderall is a compound drug commonly used for recreational and performance enhancements by athletes. It is commonly prescribed for medical purposes, in child psychiatry, for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The active ingredient of Adderall is called an amphetamine.
Amphetamines ( commonly known by drug abusers as speed, Sulf, Billy, crystal and whizz) are non- catecholamine sympathomimetic drugs which stimulate the central nervous system and produce cortical excitability.
The mechanism of action of the amphetamine contained in Adderall works by potentiating the action of neurotransmitters in the brain such as adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine.
These neurotransmitters are stimulating in nature, meaning they help in stressful situations such as the need to fight or take flight. An amphetamine has similar pharmacological effects observed in cocaine users. However, Adderall produces effects that are long acting than those observed in cocaine abusers and is thus commonly abused.
How can adderall be taken?
Adderall is consumed by snorting, injection, by smoking it and orally, by swallowing. To determine how long the Adderall will stay in your system, you have to ascertain which type of Adderall was taken. The two types being slow or regular release. The slow release lingers for a much longer time in the bloodstream and therefore, has a longer detection time, meaning that it can be detected several hours to days after the last dose was taken.
In contrast, the regular release has a faster elimination time, meaning that it is cleared from the body much faster and hence the detection time is shorter. This implies that it can be detected within a few hours from the time the last dose was ingested.
There are variables that determine how long the Adderall will stay in your system. These variations can depend on a number of factors such as body weight, height, age, kidney/ renal function, dosage, hydration status, dietary intake and urinary pH.
The difference of these variables, in different individuals is what manifests as differences in excretion rates of the same dose of a drug in two different people. For example, a young person and an elderly person will have different excretion rates of Adderall because age is a variable that determines how fast the drug will be eliminated from the body.
Eliminate routes of Adderall from the body
Excretion is the process by which toxins and other substances leave the body via the excretory organs. These excretory organs include the kidneys and the sweat glands, which eliminate toxins via the urine and sweat respectively.
Adderall is eliminated from the body via the urine, saliva and hair. Traces of the drug are also detectable in the breastmilk and the fetal circulation. The most reliable excretion routes for detection of Adderall are through the urine, the saliva and the blood.
The kidneys are responsible for elimination of the drug via the urine. Urinary excretion of Adderall and other amphetamines is one of the most reliable methods of detecting the drug in the system. The active form of Adderall, amphetamine, can be detected from the urine with a standard cutoff of 1000 ng/ mL.
Adderall is detectable in the urine within 4 to 6 hours after ingestion of the drug. This earliest detection of the drug corresponds with the half- life of Adderall, meaning that 50% of it can be detected within 6 hours after ingestion. However, it takes several more hours for the drug to completely leave the body.
Excretion of Adderall from the saliva can be detected up to 72 hours from the time of taking the last dose. This means that Adderall can show up in a saliva drug test even though the last dose was taken 3 days ago.
The excretion of Adderall from the hair can be detectable even after 3 months from the last dosage. The hair test is ideal when determining how long ago someone last took Adderall.
The metabolites of Adderall can also be detected in the bloodstream. These amphetamine metabolites can be used to detect the Adderall that is effectively circulating in the system before it is excreted by the kidneys. The long acting Adderall has a longer clearance time as compared to the regular type.
Drug tests for detection of Adderall
Several drug tests are available for the detection of Adderall from the body. The tests used for detection of the drug utilize different markers that are able to detect the presence of amphetamines in body fluids such as urine, saliva and blood. The hair test is uncommon, however, it is the most potent with detection time lasting up to 3 months.
The urine drug test is the commonest method used to detect Adderall. It can provide accurate results, which detect the drug up to 4 days from cessation of use. However, it can even be detected 7 days after the last dosage in cases of renal impairment or when a larger dose of the drug was ingested.
The blood test for the drug is used to test for the metabolites of Adderall that could still be circulating within the body. This test can also be used in the case of doubt when a urine test was used, with suspected inhibition of urinary elimination by use of alkaline diet. The drug can be detected for up to 46 hours after ingestion of the 10mg dosage.
The hair drug test is expensive and is thus not a commonly used drug test method for Adderall. However, it gives extremely reliable test results, with a detection period lasting up to 3 months. The drug test results are not altered by use of hair chemicals such as hair dyes because the detection markers use the hair follicle structural content. The hair drug test is a more reliable indicator for when the drug was last taken.
Clearance of Adderall from the system
The clearance of Adderall from the system depends on whether the slow release or regular release tablet was ingested. The regular Adderall has a half- life of 4 to 6 hours and the drug can be completely eliminated from the system within 36 hours from the last ingested dose. The half- life is dependent on the urinary pH, the diet, frequency of hydration and dosage.
Amphetamines are efficiently excreted via the urine in normal renal function and can be detected from the urine within 4 to 6 hours. It has a detection period of 2- 4 days by urine but could be longer than that, depending on the dosage.
The standard cutoff point of the urine drug test for Adderall is 1000 ng/mL. The clearance of Adderall via the saliva is very fast and has been reported to be detectable in saliva within 5 to 10 minutes after use and can stay in the system for up to 3 days.
Amphetamines have also shown that their clearance is more efficient when the blood is more acidic, hence the recommendation that an acidic diet following Adderall ingestion will contribute to its elimination from the system.
Generally, vitamin C is an excellent means of acidifying the urine and is ideal for use in the elimination of residual amphetamines. In contrast, foods that are more alkaline tend to slow the elimination and clearance of amphetamines from the system, thus prolonging the elimination period of Adderall.
Clearance of the regular Adderall is much faster because the half- life is shorter, at 4 to 6 hours, implying that it takes 24 to 36 hours for the drug to be completely eliminated from the system. The slow release Adderall has an elimination half- life of 10 to 13 hours, implying that it takes 60 to 80 hours for the drug to be completely cleared from the body.
There are different reports on how long it takes for the drug to get cleared from the system. These differences can be attributed to variations in the factors that influence the excretion of a drug from the body. These factors can vary amongst individuals, or can vary in the same individual at different intervals, depending on whether the variables have a negative or positive effect on the clearance rate of the drug.
Thus a standard can never be set for the exact timeframe for when Adderall is expected to get cleared from the system. However, the timeframes given are approximations of clearance rates that have been observed in different individuals taking the same or different doses of the drug. It could, thus, take few hours, or several days for the drug to get cleared from the system.
Factors influencing the elimination of Adderall from the body
Factors that affect and influence the elimination of Adderall from the body include age, kidney function, body weight, urinary pH and dosage. Generally, a person with a higher body mass will clear the Adderall much faster than a lean person. Younger people tend to have efficient function of the kidneys, meaning that clearance of the drug from the urine is much faster in the young than the elderly, due to diminished kidney function.
In diseased states of the kidneys, renal clearance of the drug is affected, meaning that elimination is slow. The more acidic the pH of the kidneys, the faster the renal clearance hence a diet rich in vitamin C and acidic foods such as lemons means that the drug is cleared at a faster rate than when taking a diet rich in alkaline foods.
In normal urinary pH, about 30% of Adderall is excreted unchanged. Frequent hydration also helps to facilitate quick excretion of Adderall via the urine.
Detoxification of Adderall
Detoxification of Adderall depends on the type of Adderall being used, the two types being extended release and controlled release. The extended or slow release tablets take longer to release and are eliminated more slowly, at a maximum of 72 hours. The controlled release tablets take 60 hours to be completely removed from the body via the bloodstream. The regular release type takes 36 hours to be completely excreted.
Detoxification of amphetamines causes withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and palpitations. However, these withdrawal symptoms normally subside after a week. Home remedies for the withdrawal includes the use of vitamin C containing foods such as oranges, lemons and blueberries. These foods acidify the urine and thus increase the excretion rate of the kidneys.
Drugs used in the detoxification of amphetamines include benzodiazepines. These drugs have sedative effects and will help in calming the patient down from hyperactivity associated with withdrawal symptoms.
Generally, the withdrawal symptoms in amphetamine abuse are well tolerated unlike in other stimulant abuse such as cocaine. The withdrawal symptoms linger for about a week but can be more, depending on the strength of the last dose taken.
Adderall, just like any other amphetamine derivative is a central nervous system stimulant. It is widely used in the form of a prescription drug and is also widely used for recreational purposes as well as performance enhancements. Its effect on the body is similar to adrenaline. The dosage of Adderall can either be in the slow release form or regular release.
The elimination of the drug from the body depends on several factors such as weight, dosage, urinary function and age. It is primarily excreted via the kidneys. Therefore, anything that enhances the excretion efficiency of the kidney will directly influence the excretion rate of the drug from the body.
On average, it takes 2 to 4 days for the regular release Adderall to be eliminated from the body, but may take up to a week for the slow release, after the last dosage. However, there is no clear cut clearance rate of the drug that can be applied to all individuals because different factors can affect different individuals in various ways and thus differences are observed in the clearance rate of the drug.
Several drug tests are used to detect the presence of Adderall in the body, the commonest being the urine drug test because it is much cheaper and easily administered.
Anne Smith-Kielland, Bjorn Skuterud et al. Urinary Excretion of Amphetamine after Termination of Drug Abuse. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Vol. 21, September 1997
Jonathan M. Oyler, Edward J. Cone et al.Duration of Detectable Methamphetamine and Amphetamine Excretion in Urine after Controlled Oral Administration of Methamphetamine to Humans (October 2002), Vol. 48, Issue 10.
Semple D, Smith R et al. Oxford Handbook Of Psychiatry (2005) 1st Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
4. Detection Times of Drugs of Abuse in Blood, Urine, and Oral Fluid. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring 26(2):200-5. DOI: 10.1097/00007691-200404000-00020 · Source: PubMed
5. Urinary Excretion of d-Amphetamine Following Oral Doses in Humans: Implications for Urine Drug Testing. Journal of analytical toxicology 22(6):481-6 · November 1998 with 1,040 Reads. DOI: 10.1093/jat/22.6.481 · Source: PubMed
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