How do Adderall’s active ingredients interact with brain chemistry?

Adderall’s amphetamine compounds stimulate brain activity. These stimulant actions are caused by the two main components of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine is much more powerful than the levoamphetamine component. Dextroamphetamine also induces more feelings of euphoria. In contrast, levoamphetamine induces a higher level of  depression than dextroamphetamine. Adderall has a levoamphetamine component because this added compound enables the medication’s effects to happen sooner and last longer. Compared to a dextroamphetamine formulation, Adderall’s blend of these two compounds has a faster onset and has more long-lasting effects. Although the human brain prefers dextroamphetamine over levoamphetamine, it appears certain children respond better to levoamphetamine. Adderall’s components produce their effects by binding to nerve cells’ monoamine transporters. They also boost the amounts of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine on an extracellular level. Researchers hypothesize that d-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine) works primarily on dopamine focused systems while l-amphetamine (levoamphetamine) affects systems that are comparatively focused on norepinephrine.

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Amphetamine binds to neurons’ dopamine transporter and blocks them from clearing out dopamine from the space between the synapses. Moreover, amphetamine is then taken into the neuron’s cell. This pushes dopamine out of the cell and into the space between the nerve cell’s synapses. Amphetamine also has the power to inhibit enzymes that break down epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These enzymes are monoamine oxidase A and B (MAO-A and MAO-B). By inhibiting MAO-A and MAO-B, Amphetamines boost the accumulation of the monoamine compounds listed above. This results in a stimulation of these neurochemicals’ release. This then increases the level of neurotransmission of signals among neurons. Amphetamines work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitter chemicals in the neuron’s synapse made possible through the increased release of these chemicals while inhibiting their removal from the synapse.

Like other prescription medications which are in the stimulant category, Adderall works on the brain’s mesolimbic reward pathway and can be habit-forming if used improperly. Accordingly, the US DEA has classified this medication as a Schedule II medication. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse but do carry recognized and accepted medical benefits. Patients need a prescription to obtain Adderall.

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