Whether you misplaced your current prescription or have to wait until your next one is available, you may consider turning to an old prescription to tide you over. But if that prescription is expired, you should proceed with caution.
Does Adderall Expire?
Technically, anything with an expiration date can expire - and most medications will include some kind of indication as to the expiration date. The same is true for Adderall, which often comes with a manufacturer’s expiration date, a pharmacist’s expiration date, or both.
In 1979, the FDA began requiring manufacturers to provide an expiration date that certifies the expected shelf life of a medication under ideal storage conditions. This notice helps to inform pharmacies and dispensaries so that they can effectively dispense or discard medications to ensure patient safety. Medications are tested and certified to last anywhere from 12-60 months depending on the drug company’s testing criteria, with liquid medications and antibiotics owning shorter shelf lives than other prescriptions. In almost all cases, a drug should be disposed of when a manufacturer’s expiration date is reached - but you may not receive this information if your medication is dispensed to a separate bottle.
When a pharmacy dispenses your medication, they will include their own expiration date that is based on factors like the type of medication, the bottle it’s dispensed into, the expiration date provided by the manufacturer, and other factors that your pharmacist will take into consideration. With a doctor’s approval, you may be able to use a prescription that has recently expired for certain circumstances, but you should never take an old prescription without checking first.
In addition to passing its expiration date, you also need to consider if your medication has received wear or damage that may cause it to expire prematurely.
Can You See If Adderall Has Expired?
Adderall expires, but unlike food and other easily degradable materials, Adderall is most likely not going to brown, yellow, or stink to tell you when it’s past its expiration date. As long as it is stored safely and kept cool and dry, the medication could go decades without showing any visible wear. But if the pills are not stored correctly, they’re more likely to show physical signs of expiration.
Capsules like the extended-release versions of Adderall can melt if you leave them in your car or in the sun, leading to the capsule breaking down and affecting the concentration of the medication in each pill. Plus, both tablets and capsules will break down and lose potency if they are exposed to intense heat or get wet, making it essential that you store all medications effectively to maintain the advertised shelf life.
If you notice anything physically wrong with your pills - regardless of their expiration date - you should contact your doctor or throw out the affected medication.
Why Does Adderall Expire?
Adderall can expire due to extended periods of time or physical effects that compromise the integrity and potency of the product. When it expires naturally over time, the active ingredient in the pill or tablet degrades to where it is not as available anymore. It doesn’t even have to shrink or show any sign of expiration - the chemical concentration inside simply changes. This degradation can be caused by something obvious like a melted capsule or wet tablet, but can also result from intense heat due to the bottle being left in the sun or in your car to where the high temperatures affect the chemical composition or concentration of the pill.
What Happens When Adderall Expires?
Once Adderall passes its expiration date, it’s not supposed to be consumed. However, an expired medication does not suddenly lose its effects just because a specific date has passed.
In most cases, a recently time-expired prescription of Adderall will not change much. In fact, a study has shown that about 90% of drugs available on the market will actually retain their efficacy over a 15-year period when stored correctly to rule out physical expiration. As a result, your doctor may allow you to use a prescription that has exceeded the pharmacist’s expiration date if there is no reasonable alternative.
However, it’s possible that your prescription is expired and may be less potent than you’re expecting. An uncertain potency caused by passing the expiration date or suffering physical damage may lead to insufficient doses when taken normally or overdosing if you try to compensate for the potency loss by taking more pills. So, it’s best reserved for emergencies or under a doctor's supervision.
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