Comparing Adderall XR and IR

Last Updated: April 18, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Adderall IR and XR are similar to one another in many ways. However, there are also several key differences between these two dosage forms.

Adderall was the 24th most commonly prescribed drug in the United States in 2019. In that year alone, almost 3.6 million Americans took the drug. However, not all Adderall is created equal, as the drug is manufactured and prescribed in both immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR) dosage forms. Although the two Adderall dosage forms have many similarities, there are some key differences between them. If you or someone you love takes Adderall in either form, it’s important to be aware of how the medications differ.

Adderall Extended Release (XR) vs. Immediate Release (IR)

Adderall IR and Adderall XR both contain the same active ingredients. Further, they both work to increase the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. However, while Adderall IR is simply released into the body after it is taken, Adderall XR is specially formulated to have a two-stage delivery system that makes the drug last longer than its shorter-acting counterpart. 

Adderall XR vs. Adderall IR

Although Adderall XR and Adderall IR are similar drugs that contain the same active ingredients, there are important differences between the two of them. Theirduration, side effects and potential for causing withdrawal may vary. It is important to know the differences between the substances if you take one or both drugs.

Time to Peak Effect

While Adderall IR reaches its peak level in the blood within three hours, Adderall XR doesn’t reach its peak level in the blood until seven hoursafter a dose has been taken.


Adderall IR lasts for a much shorter period of time than Adderall XR. Adderall IR can be taken two or even three times a day at intervals of four to six hours. In contrast, Adderall XR lasts a much longer period of time and should only be taken once daily in the morning. Taking additional doses or taking it later in the day can lead to nighttime insomnia since it lasts so long.

Side Effects

Adderall IR and Adderall XR have very similar side effects, as they both contain the same ingredients. Side effects of either drug can include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Overstimulation and restlessness
  • Aggression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss


Both Adderall IR and Adderall XR are equally effective for ADHD and have been approved by the FDA for this reason. Sometimes, they are even used alongside each other. For example, a person may take an Adderall XR dose in the morning; if ADHD symptoms flare later in the day as Adderall XR wears off, their doctor may prescribe Adderall IR, which is short-acting enough to not interfere with nighttime sleep.

Adderall IR is also FDA-approved for the treatment of narcolepsy. However, Adderall XR does not have FDA approval for this condition.


A stimulant “crash” refers to when a person has binged on a stimulant and then feels extreme fatigue for days. Stimulant crashes are commonly linked to illicit stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Unfortunately, there is little research available about crashes related to Adderall IR or XR. Although it can be tempting to assume that stimulant crashes occur regardless of the stimulant, it is impossible to say until studies are conducted.


Although they contain the same ingredients of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine salts, Adderall IR and Adderall XR come in slightly different dosage forms and strengths. While Adderall IR comes as a tablet, Adderall XR comes as a capsule. Their strengths also vary:

Adderall IRAdderall XR
5 mg5 mg
7.5 mg10 mg
10 mg15 mg
12.5 mg 20 mg 
15 mg 25 mg
20 mg 30 mg
30 mg


It is unclear whether Adderall IR and Adderall ER have different withdrawal effects. However, some experts suspect that Adderall IR may have a higher risk for withdrawal than Adderall XR.

Overall, Adderall withdrawal usually lasts up to five days. However, some people may experience a longer withdrawal time frame due to protracted withdrawal symptoms. 

Adderall XR vs. IR: Abuse Potential

Both Adderall IR and Adderall XR have a very high abuse potential. They are both Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they carry a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. For this reason, it is important to take Adderall only as instructed by your doctor. You should also never take Adderall that has not been prescribed to you.

Get Help for Adderall Abuse and Addiction in New Jersey

If you or someone you love is struggling with Adderall abuse, you may notice signs like a focus on obtaining or taking Adderall or seeking out the drug from different doctors or pharmacies. These signs can indicate that a person may be starting to develop an Adderall addiction, which can have serious health consequences. Fortunately, help is available at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper. Our Adderall addiction experts can help you quit Adderall for good and start a healthier, substance-free life in recovery. Contact us today to learn more about Adderall addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.


World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed August 1, 2022.

Parrott, Andrew C. “Why all stimulant drugs are damaging to […]ological explanation.” Human Psychopharmacology, July 2015. Accessed August 1, 2022. “Adderall.” February 1, 2022. Accessed August 1, 2022. “Adderall XR.” March 1, 2022. Accessed August 1, 2022.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Controlled Substances.” July 25, 2022. Accessed August 1, 2022.

ClinCalc. “Dextroamphetamine Saccharate; Amphetamin[…]mphetamine Aspartate.” Accessed August 1, 2022.

Adler, Lenard A.; Lynch, Lauren R.; Shaw, David M.; et al. “Medication adherence and symptom reducti[…]ized crossover study.” Postgraduate Medicine, September 2011. Accessed August 1, 2022.

Sallee, Floyd R.; Smirnoff, Alexander V. “Adderall XR: long acting stimulant for single daily dosing.” Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, November 2004. Accessed August 1, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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