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Dextroamphetamine is an oral drug that is commonly prescribed as a stimulant for patients with narcolepsy. It has also been deemed effective as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both adults and children. As with any amphetamine, the drug has the potential to become addictive and ultimately abused, which can lead to life-threatening health complications. Doctors take care to prescribe the appropriate doses and monitor its effectiveness to prevent adverse reactions and limit the possibility of tolerance and dependence.
Doctors classify dextroamphetamine as a sympathomimetic drug, meaning that it imitates the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. People who suffer from narcolepsy or ADHD have deficiencies in sympathetic nervous system functioning, specifically the abnormal production and reuptake of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Dextroamphetamine stimulates the release of these neurotransmitters, allowing a person to become more alert and attentive. When the drug is taken as directed, narcoleptic patients are able to avoid sudden bouts of tiredness and ADHD sufferers tend to experience improvements in behavior and cognition.
Dextroamphetamine comes in several different dosage amounts, and doctors determine the appropriate dosages based on their patients' ages, body weights, and conditions. Physicians are very careful when prescribing dextroamphetamine, and patients are generally given very low doses of the drug for the first week of use to check for unusual reactions. Most children under the age of 12 are given a maximum of five milligrams (mg) of the drug daily at the beginning of treatment, and adults are typically prescribed 10 mg doses. Dosages are gradually increased to as much as 60 mg a day for older patients and 40 mg for children.
The most common side effects are restlessness, insomnia, headache, and weight loss. A person may also experience more serious side effects, such as a rapid heartbeat, blurred vision, shortness of breath, dizziness, or hallucinations. Rarely, the dextroamphetamine can cause an allergic skin reaction or lead to serious respiratory or cardiac problems. An individual who experiences any adverse side effects should report them to his or her doctor as soon as possible to prevent severe complications.
It is possible to become addicted to dextroamphetamine. An individual may build a physiological tolerance for the drug, needing larger doses at a time to achieve its desired effect. Psychological dependence occurs when a patient becomes obsessed with using the medication, and feels that he or she could not function without it. Addiction can lead to long-term health problems as well as present the risk of a fatal overdose. Most patients, however, are able to reap the benefits of the drug and avoid dependence when they follow their doctors' orders.