Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms and Quitting Adderall Use
What Is Adderall Used For?
Adderall—a branded formulation of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine—is a stimulant that doctors prescribe for the management of:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
As a prescription stimulant, Adderall can be used to effectively manage these conditions by helping users remain alert and focused. Unfortunately, Adderall is also a popular drug of abuse. It is sold on the black market under many different names, including “beans,” “black beauties,” “dexies,” “pep pills,” “speed,” and “uppers.”1
This drug is abused recreationally because high doses can produce a euphoric high similar to that of illicit stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. People also abuse Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug. It is often called a “study drug” due to its misleading reputation for improving alertness and concentration, even in those without ADHD. Learn more about the effects of Adderall use.
The abuse of Adderall is rising fast, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which tracks drug-related visits to emergency rooms across the country. In 2013, DAWN reported 17,000 Adderall-related visits to emergency departments in 2011, an increase of 650% over the number in 2004.2
The misuse of Adderall is tied to numerous physical and mental risks; unfortunately, Adderall users who want to stop may find that they are not able to do so on their own. Adderall is known to produce tolerance and dependence in some individuals. Once a person has developed physiological dependence on this drug, they may experience a stimulant withdrawal syndrome as their body detoxes from the substance.
What Is Amphetamine Withdrawal?
The term “drug withdrawal” refers to a group of negative symptoms that often occur when a dependent user stops taking a drug suddenly or attempts to significantly reduce their dose.
Like with many other drugs of abuse, heavy amphetamine use may be associated with an unpleasant withdrawal syndrome—the severity of which will be relative to the average amount of the drug being abused, amongst other variables.
Is Adderall Withdrawal Dangerous?
Withdrawal from certain drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines can pose a dangerous, or even fatal, risk to abusers. However, withdrawal from stimulants like Adderall often results in relatively mild physical symptoms that are unpleasant but not usually life-threatening.3 These symptoms will vary in number and intensity for different people but, on the whole, they are typically less dangerous than the risks posed by continued abuse.
Although Adderall withdrawal does not usually pose a physical danger to abusers, this does not mean that withdrawal from Adderall is easy or safe. The FDA-required labeling for this medicine warns of “extreme psychological dependence,”4 and prominent psychological dangers during withdrawal include depression, anxiety, and drug cravings.5
These psychological symptoms can make it very difficult for an abuser to resist the urge to resume taking the drug in order to relieve unpleasant feelings. In extreme cases, the depression and anxiety induced by amphetamine withdrawal can lead to suicidal or violent actions,6 which can pose a danger to the individual or those around them.
In some cases, professional detox assistance and medical supervision may be required to mitigate the risk of potentially severe psychological withdrawal symptoms. For help finding a professional treatment program, call American Addiction Centers (AAC) free today at .
Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Withdrawal
Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall or other stimulants can begin anytime from hours or days after the last use. These symptoms may differ depending on the individual and their personal history of using Adderall, but generally include:4,6,7
- Extreme fatigue.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Insomnia, followed by hypersomnia.
- Intense and vivid drug-related dreams.
- Memory impairment.
- Drug cravings.
- Anhedonia (loss of interest in pleasurable activities).
These are symptoms of what is known as “acute withdrawal” and will usually resolve themselves in 1-2 weeks.8 However, those recovering from stimulant abuse may also experience a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (also known as PAWS or protracted withdrawal).8 In the case of PAWS, Adderall withdrawal symptoms can persist for months or years, long after the drug has left the body. The causes of PAWS are generally not well understood; however, symptoms of PAWS are thought to reflect long-lasting changes in the brain caused by drug abuse. There is no standard treatment for PAWS, but individuals in recovery should be aware that these symptoms are not permanent and will pass in time.8
Can Medications Help With Withdrawal From Adderall?
Currently, there are no medicines approved for treating stimulant withdrawal, and because the physical withdrawal symptoms of stimulants are relatively mild, users will usually not usually require supportive medication during the withdrawal process.9 However, even though withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they are unpleasant, and medical supervision can help to prevent those working through detox from either outright relapsing or self-medicating with other potentially harmful substances like alcohol, tranquilizers, or opioids.6
As noted above, the psychological symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, like depression, can be quite serious and can create the potential for self-harm, especially in patients with pre-existing depression. Vigilant monitoring and psychiatric medications may be required in these cases. Any agitation or insomnia that arises during acute withdrawal from Adderall will likely first be addressed non-pharmacologically (e.g. through stress management techniques, relaxation exercises). However, if symptoms are persistent and/or severe, medications with minimal abuse potential such as trazodone may be administered on a trial basis.6
Adderall Detox Programs
Following detox from Adderall, people recovering from Adderall abuse or addiction may enter a drug treatment program in order to give them the best chance at a full recovery. Detox is not considered to be a standalone treatment for addiction, but rather the beginning step to stabilize the body and mind so that recovery may begin in earnest.
Treatment for amphetamine addiction is based on behavioral therapies that are similar to those used for addictions to other stimulants. Three common behavioral interventions used for stimulants are:10
- Contingency management interventions. These therapies use reward vouchers or cash prizes to reward positive behaviors like drug-free urine tests. The value of the rewards is low at first and increases with each consecutive positive step.
- The Matrix Model. This therapy includes elements from many different approaches, including group therapy, drug education, and self-help participation.
- 12-step facilitation therapy. This model is designed to help the recovering individual become actively involved in 12-step recovery groups in order to help support their continued abstinence following treatment.
Why Is Quitting Adderall Important?
People often view Adderall and other prescription medicines as “safe” compared with illicit drugs, because they are dispensed by professionals and there is less stigma associated with taking a pill than snorting or injecting drugs.11,12 However, like other stimulants, Adderall abuse can result in potentially damaging health effects, including:7
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased body temperature.
- Increased heart rate.
- Decreased appetite.
Abusing Adderall at high doses—or for long periods of time—can produce even more dangerous effects, like strokes, heart attacks, or feelings of hostility and paranoia.7 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires all packages of Adderall and generic versions of the drug to be labeled with a warning that misuse can cause serious cardiovascular problems and sudden death.4
How to Find Help Stopping Adderall Use
Professional addiction treatment can start anyone battling substance misuse on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab centers are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for facilities. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. If you need help stopping Adderall use, please call us free at today. It’s never too late to ask for help.
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