If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Adderall, gaining a sense of exactly what happens when you stop taking the drug is important. Adderall is a powerful stimulant that is used in a clinical setting to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Outside of a clinical study, Adderall has a high rate of substance abuse due to its wide availability and strong stimulant properties.

Individuals who take stimulants like Adderall long enough to develop a tolerance to the drug will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Although withdrawal is an uncomfortable process, it is also the body’s way of readjusting to normal function without the presence of the drug. 

Having a clear idea of what to expect during the withdrawal process can help the Adderall addict in your life make an informed decision about the level of care they will need to navigate the process successfully. 

What is Adderall?

Adderall is the trade name for a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both of these components of Adderall are stimulants. This medication is most commonly used to treat ADHD. For individuals that have ADHD, the stimulant properties of Adderall can allow them to focus.

When taken as prescribed, Adderall poses a reduced level of risk. However, the reality is that the abuse potential of Adderall is high. Regularly taking Adderall, even as prescribed, can be habit-forming and result in the development of chemical dependence. 

Adderall works by boosting the activity of two important neurotransmitters; dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a key component of how our body regulates pleasure and emotion. It also plays a role in how we perceive and act on rewards, a process known as the reward pathway. By increasing the activity of dopamine in the brain, Adderall produces a “high” or feeling of euphoria when abused.

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is used by our body to stimulate action during a fight-or-flight response. Fight-or-flight is used to refer to how the human body reacts to situations that are perceived as life-threatening. During these situations your pupils will dilate, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase to prepare you for physical exertion, and your senses and focus will be heightened. 

Adderall Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal from Adderall is difficult to navigate without the right support and addiction treatment plan in place. Withdrawing from Adderall will occur within 24 hours after the last dose, and will result in the onset of both physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. In most individuals, physical withdrawal symptoms will subside by the end of the second week, while mental withdrawal symptoms may continue for some time after this period.

It should be noted that there is a high degree of variability in how different individuals experience withdrawal from Adderall. How intense and difficult withdrawal is, what types of symptoms you experience, and how long those symptoms last can all vary substantially from person to person.

Factors that influence how you experience Adderall withdrawal include:

  • The length of time you have been abusing Adderall;
  • Your current dosage and tolerance to the drug;
  • Your metabolism;
  • Your underlying physical health.

It is also important to understand that not everyone who takes Adderall will experience withdrawal. Many people have been prescribed Adderall, and take the drug exactly as prescribed. Typically, when individuals who are prescribed Adderall are going to cease using the drug they will go through an extended tapering process where their dosage is reduced to low enough levels that it can be safely eliminated. In this type of situation, any withdrawal symptoms would be mild and the withdrawal process would be largely avoided.

For individuals that have developed a strong tolerance to the drug and abuse it at high doses, the onset of withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of the last dose is nearly inevitable. With stimulants like Adderall, withdrawal is often referred to as a “crash”, which is a reference to the lethargy, low energy, and lack of motivation that is characteristic of Adderall withdrawal. Let’s explore the most common signs of Adderall withdrawal.

Physical Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Most of the physical Adderall withdrawal symptoms are similar to those that occur with other stimulants. The most common symptoms include:

  • Profound fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Powerful hunger
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping

One of the most common long-term effects of stimulants like Adderall is appetite suppression. In the middle of an Adderall binge, most people will eat only sparingly or won’t eat at all. Once the use of Adderall has stopped hunger comes back in full force. It is not uncommon for individuals to eat far more than they would regularly need to eat to feel satiated during early withdrawal.

At the same time, most people experience stomach problems. Frequent bowel movements, nausea, and vomiting are all possible during withdrawal. It is important to ensure that the person going through withdrawal maintains adequate levels of hydration in spite of any stomach issues caused by their symptoms.

The most common symptom that people experience is a deep state of fatigue during the days and weeks after they have stopped taking Adderall. One of the effects of Adderall itself is a lack of fatigue, so it makes sense that once an individual stops taking the drug they will experience the onset of fatigue. In many cases, the level of fatigue a person experiences is remarkable. Some people recount barely being able to get out of bed in the days immediately following cessation. Over time this fatigue will fade as your body begins to return to a normal state of energy regulation.

Mental Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

While most people tend to think of the physical symptoms when they are looking forward to the withdrawal process, many individuals recovering from an Adderall addiction will experience powerful mental withdrawal symptoms as well. These mental symptoms are unseen yet no less important to plan for and treat.

Common mental withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation
  • Difficulty sleeping / insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Desire to use again

While physical withdrawal symptoms are usually completely gone by the end of the second week, mental withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or even months after cessation. Many people experience depression during Adderall withdrawal. This depression can result in suicidal thoughts as well.

Some people may experience auditory and visual hallucinations during the initial period coming down after an extended Adderall binge. While these symptoms can occur, they are very rare during the days and weeks after an individual has quit the use of Adderall.

Difficulty focusing and concentrating are both very common in the days after quitting Adderall. This is one of the reasons that it is difficult for most people to immediately return to a normal routine after they have quit. Rather, it takes the body and mind time to achieve a state of balance once again. Although this period of time can be frustrating, it is an important component of the healing process.

Treatment Options for Adderall Withdrawal

When exploring treatments for Adderall addiction and withdrawal, the most common recommendation is to enter an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient treatment programs offer the best combination of security, 24-hour care, and resources, giving you or your loved one the best chances for the successful recovery. There are also outpatient treatment programs available for Adderall addiction. Understanding the difference between these two can help you make an informed decision about the level of care you will require to achieve sobriety.

Many people who regularly abuse Adderall attempt to quit on their own one or more times before they ever enter a treatment program. They are unsuccessful because during the withdrawal process most people will experience a strong desire to begin using Adderall again. Withdrawal from Adderall is an uncomfortable process, so it can be very appealing to return to using Adderall again so withdrawal symptoms will subside.

Detox from Adderall

Most inpatient programs address the withdrawal process before you actually begin prescription drug rehab. This period of time is known as detox. The Adderall detox timeline typically lasts up to a week, and the purpose of this period is to rid your body of any remaining traces of the drug while also allowing you to overcome the physical Adderall withdrawal symptoms you will experience. Once the majority of withdrawal symptoms have subsided, you’ll be ready to fully engage with the recovery process.

Detoxing off of Adderall within a clinical setting has a number of important differences from quitting on your own. The first is you will be monitored for any complications that might arise. Although withdrawal from Adderall is uncomfortable and difficult, it isn’t usually dangerous. However, during the course of drug addiction, it is possible for individuals to develop underlying health conditions that go unnoticed. The stress withdrawal places on the body can cause these conditions to manifest, so it is important that they are quickly identified and treated.

Detoxing with an inpatient setting will also allow for medical management of withdrawal symptoms. Many people experience the onset of depression and anxiety when they are withdrawing from Adderall. These can be identified early on in the withdrawal process and medications such as antidepressants can be administered to help. Many people also have difficulty sleeping during the first couple of weeks after they stop taking Adderall. Medical professionals can administer medications that allow the individual in recovery to achieve a more normal sleep schedule, which can make the entire process much more comfortable and bearable.

Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment

Once you have successfully navigated the withdrawal process you will transition to the remainder of the treatment program. The two main options for withdrawal treatment programs are inpatient and outpatient treatment. The basic difference between these two treatment options is that inpatient programs require you to reside in the facility for the duration of your program while outpatient treatment allows you to return home during the evening.

There are different levels of care that you will receive from an inpatient and outpatient treatment program, so it is important to choose the appropriate program for the level of care you require. While both programs will give you access to the counseling and therapy sessions that can help you uncover and address the roots of your addiction, inpatient treatment programs offer an additional level of security over outpatient programs. 

Inpatient treatment programs are a more secure option appropriate for individuals that will struggle with returning to Adderall abuse when they are outside of the treatment facility. Inpatient programs typically last from 30 – 90 days, so they represent a significant investment of time on the part of the patient. During that time, access to Adderall will be limited by the very nature of the program, making this the most effective choice for individuals that have struggled to get clean and failed in the past.

Outpatient treatment programs tend to be ideal for people that have responsibilities that don’t allow them to reside in a treatment facility. People who have to care for children or other family members may decide that an outpatient treatment program is more appropriate for their living situation. These types of programs are best suited for individuals whose lifestyle and the social group won’t place pressure on them to return to using Adderall again when they return home.

Closing Thoughts

Adderall withdrawal can be a difficult process to overcome on your own. Once an individual develops a tolerance for the drug and quits suddenly, they will experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours. Adderall withdrawal has both physical and mental withdrawal symptoms; most of which last up to 2 weeks. Some individuals may experience mental withdrawal symptoms past this point in time.

In order to give yourself or a loved one the best chances for a successful recovery, it is best to navigate the withdrawal process within an inpatient treatment facility. By doing so, the most difficult withdrawal symptoms can be identified and treated through the administration of medications. At the same time, any underlying health issues or complications arising from Adderall abuse can be quickly treated and monitored.

To learn more about the Adderall withdrawal process and what treatment options are available, please contact Apex Recovery today.

Sources

  1. https://www.drugs.com/adderall.html
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/norepinephrine
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/dopamine
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
  5. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adderall-withdrawal#1