Adderall Withdrawal: Timeline, Side Effects, Detox

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Stimulant abuse is on the rise, according to a report released by John Hopkins University, especially Adderall abuse in young adults. Emergency room visits across the country have spiked dramatically in teens and young adults despite prescription distribution remaining steady. Misuse of Adderall is the highest in the 18 to 25-year-old range, and this age group is most reliant on getting the medication from friends or families with a prescription. 

Adderall is the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, which is responsible for side effects and other mental health issues. Some of these include aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, and depression. Its stimulant properties can also cause cardiovascular side effects like high blood pressure or stroke. The warnings have led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put a black-box warning on the medication. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much research on the long-term effects of the drug. 

One idea that circulates and isn’t true is that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs. Unfortunately, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs, and in some cases, more dangerous because they’re perceived safe. 

Those who abuse the drug put themselves at an increased risk of developing a chemical dependency or addiction, leading to withdrawal symptoms upon a decrease in dosage or cessation. An individual who uses Adderall must do so with caution and follow instructions from their doctor. If you feel that you’ve become addicted to Adderall, it’s important to understand the withdrawal symptoms you might face.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

When your body withdraws from a substance like Adderall, it’s typically because you’ve used the drug in heavy doses or took it for an extended period. Prolonged or heavy use of Adderall will cause you to develop a tolerance, leading to dependence and addiction and cause withdrawal when you run out of the substance. With prolonged use of Adderall, someone who is addicted will start feeling these symptoms in a few hours after their last dose.

These symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Unpleasant or vivid dreams
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Manic tendencies
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Anxiety
  • Grinding of the teeth
  • Depression
  • Aggression

The symptoms can last anywhere from five days to three weeks, but this is dependent on how long a person has been using Adderall and the amount they take. 

The most common Adderall withdrawal symptom is chronic headache, which occurs when a person decreases their dose or stops altogether. Despite it being common, it can cause health complications without adequate treatment. The reason a headache occurs due to Adderall withdrawal is because of the following:

  • Cerebral vasoconstriction: narrowing of the blood vessels in your brain caused by a lack of oxygen entering the brain
  • Amphetamine-related hypertension: high blood pressure
  • Stress or neck tension: muscle rigidity caused by excessive muscle strain
  • Electrolyte disturbances: nutrient balance that’s depleted in the brain

What Are the Stages of Adderall Withdrawal Timeline?

The first symptoms of Adderall withdrawal are known as the “crash,” and the individual could experience quite a few unpleasant symptoms. As was mentioned above, the severity of symptoms is dependent on how long Adderall was used and how much was consumed at a time. The initial stages will start once Adderall wears off, which is around four to 12 hours after the last dose.

Once Adderall wears off, a person can expect the following symptoms:

  • Overeating
  • Prolonged sleeping
  • Depressed mood
  • Cravings, which are less severe in the earlier stages of withdrawal

The onset of Adderall withdrawal symptoms will last a few hours, but the more severe and longer-lasting symptoms to follow include:

  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • An inability to experience pleasure
  • Intense cravings for Adderall
  • Lethargy
adderall-withdrawal

The symptoms occur in the first one to three weeks before subsiding.

Psychosis may also occur during this time but is more common if the person experienced it during their time using Adderall. Withdrawal symptoms will affect the mind worse than the body, and depending on the person, the dangers of stopping Adderall can be severe. If you’re looking to quit Adderall, you should, at the very least, consider entering detox in a treatment facility. 

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a set of Adderall withdrawal symptoms that persist for weeks, months, and in extreme cases, years after cessation of the prescription drug. It is characterized by symptoms that are similar to mood disorders, including mood swings, insomnia, and intense anxiety. An estimated 75 percent of psychotropic drug users will experience the condition to some degree. For this reason, treatment is vital because it’s a reason those in recovery will relapse.

The most common PAWS symptoms include the following:

  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Panic or anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Inability to to recall memories or solve problems
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

Why Should I Detox?

Although stopping Adderall cold-turkey may seem like a good idea at the moment, it could be deadly if the person relapses with a lower tolerance. Adderall withdrawal is uncomfortable, challenging, and dangerous. Given these unique challenges, withdrawing without professional help isn’t the best idea. You should look for a medically assisted detox program that supports you during Adderall withdrawal. 

By getting professional help, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be monitored in a safe environment while your body endures this stressful period. Addiction treatment offers you a better chance at lasting and meaningful recovery for the emotional support you’ll receive. 

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Once you complete detox, addiction specialists will recommend continuing your care with long-term inpatient or outpatient care. The continuation of treatment will allow for higher success rates to stop Adderall. Higher levels of care will last anywhere from 28 to 90 days, depending on the situation and level of addiction. During a stint in this level of care, you’ll learn how to live your life Adderall-free and develop the tools necessary and avoid triggers. 

If the treatment team determines you need further medical treatment, you may continue your care on an inpatient basis, which could be because of a co-occurring medical condition or PAWS. Inpatient treatment provides 24/7 clinical monitoring, and you’ll begin seeing a therapist on a regular basis to help you process your addiction and recovery. 

If you have a safe home environment where no one is using drugs, or you don’t have a history of relapse, you could opt for an outpatient stint. This means you’ll be able to attend daily therapy sessions and return home at the end of the day. It’s an ideal situation for those who feel their work, school, or other obligations are a barrier to getting the help they need. 

Sources

UCLA (N.D.) Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). from https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS

NCBI (December 2012) Amphetamine-Induced Psychosis. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554477/

Department of Health (February 2021) Tolerance. from https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-toc~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb-8~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb-8-2

NIH (August 2010) The Definition of Drug Dependence. from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20715472/

John Hopkins University (February 2016) Adderall Abuse On the Rise Among Young Adults. from https://hub.jhu.edu/2016/02/16/adderall-abuse-rising-young-adults/

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