Adderall is one of several popularly prescribed stimulant medications used for the treatment of ADHD. It is a dextroamphetamine and central nervous system stimulant that works by increasing the amount of norepinephrine (giving you alertness) and dopamine (increasing your pleasure) in the body, offering the user increased focus, attention, and energy for an extended period. Its chemical structure is actually only one small chemical formula change from being methamphetamine. Adderall is a Schedule II substance, meaning it is one schedule below drugs such as heroin and ecstasy and within the same schedule as cocaine, methamphetamine, and OxyContin.
Adderall abuse is particularly rampant among younger demographics and college students. One 2009 study found that full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were more than twice as likely to have used Adderall for non-medical use than the non-college-attending population. Not only that, but college students who abused Adderall were nearly three times more likely to have used marijuana and almost eight times as likely to have tried cocaine, prescription tranquilizers, or benzodiazepines. This medication is intended to be taken orally daily to assist with attention and focus, but it is commonly abused to accomplish more work, keeping people awake, and as a party drug. Adderall can be ingested orally or crushed into a fine powder and snorted, accelerating the effects on the brain.
Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal
As a stimulant, Adderall increases levels of dopamine in the brain, so it’s no surprise that coming down off the drug is associated with a drop in dopamine levels, fatigue, and mental fogginess. People who take large doses of the drug over prolonged periods of time could potentially develop a tolerance and grow to become physically dependent on the pill. The first stages of withdrawal occur when the user begins to feel like the usual doses aren't working anymore, and that if they stop taking the drug, they will be unable to function. Common withdrawal symptoms are:
- Increased Appetite
- Mental Fog
- Suicidal Thoughts
The following testimonials on Adderall withdrawal were gathered from the Bluelight forum and the views expressed are in no way affiliated with Landmark Recovery:
“It got worse...I ran out yesterday and slept from 9 last night to 10 this morning. I have no ambition, no drive, depressed as hell. And I have a family including three kids. Here it is Sunday, and I am useless. I can't refill until at least a week from now, but someone I know said tomorrow I could get some Adderall or Ritalin from them. I hope they are for real because I have to work and I don't know if I am going to make it.”
“When I stopped I had pretty bad headaches and slept for about three days. Coupled with some moderate to severe anxiety. Overall it wasn't the worst thing - nowhere near trying to kick opiates.”
“Without the drug, I felt stupid, unable to focus or follow a thought through to completion. I was shy and unwilling to initiate conversation. The witty, articulate woman I once was seemed to no longer exist. I felt dumb, out of it. I spoke slowly because it took immense effort to gather and express coherent thoughts.”
“I locked myself in the bathroom when the shakes started and stayed till the puking stopped. Nothing will make it easier. You have to push through it. Endeavor to persevere.”
Adderall Withdrawal Timeline
When someone develops a dependency on Adderall, the withdrawal process can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to recover some semblance of normalcy. Although Adderall is long-acting, the withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of taking the last dose, especially if the person has been heavily abusing the drug. As with most drugs, the worst symptoms typically abate within three days, but there is a chance some symptoms linger.
The first period of withdrawal involves some of the worst symptoms and is typically called the “crash” because it feels like such a sudden and jarring reversal from the effects of the drug. These symptoms can start to appear as early as 4 - 6 hours after the last dose.
- Trouble Focusing
- Lack of Energy
- Physical Pains Across Body
- Antisocial Tendencies
After the most intense of the physical withdrawal symptoms abate, there will still be lingering psychological symptoms, especially lethargy and problems focusing and mustering the energy.
- Antisocial Tendencies
- Trouble Sleeping
3 Weeks +
After three weeks, the body should be closer to restoring a healthy balance of chemical levels in the brain. This means the worst of the withdrawal symptoms will have gone, but lingering feelings of brain fog, depression, and cravings may persist. These symptoms are more likely to persist when someone quits cold turkey but continues to live the lifestyle that led to their abuse in the first place.
- Brain Fog
- Trouble Sleeping
Treatment for Adderall Withdrawal
To successfully detox from Adderall, your best option is to enter into either an outpatient or inpatient treatment center. Here, you will get the assistance of trained professionals in detoxing your body from the effects of Adderall while minimizing the risk of relapse, suicide, or accidentally overdosing. A rehab center will also help you to build long-term sobriety strategies and coping mechanisms. The other option to try is going cold-turkey, but this method is considerably more dangerous and less effective than treatment. Some personal strategies to employ include:
Drink Plenty of Fluids
It’s always important to stay hydrated, but consuming more water during withdrawal can help to relieve symptoms such as body pain, headaches, and will help to flush the toxins from out of your body. Adderall can dehydrate the body slightly; you will likely need to replenish your water anyway. Try getting some Pedialyte or Gatorade so that your body retains water better.
Avoid fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods in order to minimize the lethargic feelings associated with Adderall withdrawal. By eating healthy, you can supply the body with the fuel it needs to restore a healthy balance and feel normal again. Drink plenty of Orange Juice and ingest other foods rich in Vitamin C. You can also try some over the counter vitamins such Magnesium to help with muscle pains, Vitamin C for flushing out toxins, and Melatonin to help with insomnia.
Take Off Work
Don’t try to be a superhero and take on the world while you’re coming off of withdrawal. It’s likely that you started or continued your Adderall habit to meet work obligations, so it’ not recommended that you immediately try to jump back into work while dealing with the mental fog and lethargy of Adderall withdrawal.
You will feel extreme lethargy and want to avoid physical activity, but your body will need it to get restful sleep and to help keep your mind preoccupied. Mild exercise such as walking, jogging, or swimming can help relieve some of the anxiety associated with Adderall withdrawal. Try to set some daily exercise routine.
There are several over the counter medications that can be useful in treating Adderall withdrawal symptoms. These are more helpful during the initial stages of withdrawal when physical symptoms are most prominent.
- Neurontin/Topamax: These anticonvulsant medications can be useful for resisting cravings and preventing shakes and tremors.
- Baclofen: This muscle relaxer can be useful in dealing with the physical body aches you may experience during withdrawal.
- Caffeine/Provigil: Both of these are mild stimulants that can help offset some of the extreme lethargy and sleepiness caused by withdrawal.
Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, involves the recovering addict attending a 30-90 day treatment program where they stay within the confines of a safe and secure facility. While enrolled in an inpatient treatment program, recovering Adderall addicts will undergo a medically supervised detoxification process to help them entirely withdraw from the substance. Clinicians may use the assistance of anticonvulsant medication or painkillers to wean the patient off the substance most safely and painfully possible. For Adderall users, this process typically takes less than a few days.
The rest of the time spent in residential treatment is dedicated to teaching the patient about ways they can live a healthy and productive life without the influence of substances such as Adderall or other stimulants. They will attend group and individual therapy sessions to learn more about the underlying psychological components of addiction and learn to deal with their problems in ways that don’t involve substances. In this supportive environment, patients learn to build a long-term network for recovery. Inpatient rehab offers the best chance for Adderall addicts to not only withdraw from their substance but also learn how to live the rest of their lives without it.
Outpatient treatment is structured similarly to residential treatment but is not as intensive and is confined to the facility. The patient may live at home or in a sober living environment while attending outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is suitable for those patients who do not meet the medical criteria for inpatient treatment. When the patient is not participating in outpatient sessions, they must voluntarily abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Those who receive outpatient care still have access to a support network and are not facing recovery alone. Outpatient care includes support groups, counseling sessions, and access to Narcotics Anonymous as well as Alcoholics Anonymous. The resources provided through the outpatient program supports the patient with the goal of maintaining long-term sobriety.
What is Adderall Used to Treat
Adderall is a combination of both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. When someone takes Adderall, they are taking a central nervous system stimulant that changes the chemistry of the brain, increasing the availability of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Adderall is currently only available by prescription and is used to treat two primary conditions for both children and adults. The first is ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a common mental disorder that affects children and some adults and is characterized by hyperactivity and inattention as well as problems functioning at home. The second is narcolepsy in adults, a disorder where someone falls asleep at strange times. These are the only two disorders that the FDA has approved for Adderall to treat.
Although it requires a prescription to use, Adderall is still commonly abused and diverted illegally for recreational and other non-medical purposes. Adderall is available in immediate-release and extended release forms at varying dosage amounts. When someone with ADHD takes Adderall, it can create a calming effect that lowers their hyperactivity levels and helps them focus. When someone without ADHD takes it, the opposite effect happens, and users feel euphoric, full of energy, and self-confidence.
When someone without a prescription begins to abuse Adderall, they gradually start to experience the adverse side effects and crashes associated with Adderall. This includes anxiety, nervousness, and lethargy, essentially the opposite effects that the high produces.
Drug and alcohol addictions are some of the most destructive forces in the world today, especially if the addiction is to stimulant drugs such as Adderall. The process of healing ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world at large, starts with recognizing the danger that these substances represent. At Landmark Recovery, we believe in creating a supportive network of love and access to resources that can help you break free from the chains of addiction. Visit our website to learn more about drug and alcohol rehab.