Adderall is a stimulant medication that belongs to a group of drugs called amphetamines. It is typically prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy symptoms.
Adderall works by stimulating the central nervous system, increasing some of the chemical messengers in the brain involved in motivation, concentration, focus, and reward, resulting in improved focus, increased impulse control, and decreased restlessness.
When Adderall is used for an extended period, it causes changes to the chemical makeup of the brain, resulting in Adderall dependence. When the body becomes physically dependent on a drug like Adderall, it adapts to expect it in its system. As a result, if you abruptly stop taking Adderall, your body becomes chemically unbalanced, causing you to experience Adderall withdrawal symptoms.
It is important to know that Adderall dependence or addiction can happen to anyone. Whether you have been prescribed Adderall or have sourced it illicitly, knowing the signs of dependence and the process of Adderall withdrawal is essential if you want to stop taking the drug.
Any use of Adderall without a doctor's prescription is referred to as Adderall abuse. Many young people, particularly college students in America, believe that Adderall makes them more intelligent or capable of studying for extended periods. As a result, they often use the drug recreationally, causing substance abuse problems to develop.
Taking large doses of Adderall for long time frames, for example, during study sessions, causes a substantial risk of becoming physically dependent on the drug. When there are high levels of Adderall in the body for an extended time, tolerance builds up, meaning it takes more frequent doses to feel the desired effects.
This practice of consecutive days of taking large doses is often referred to as an Adderall binge, which normally results in an Adderall crash. This is like a mini-withdrawal, with most people experiencing physical and mental exhaustion. This crash can also impact mental well-being, with many people experiencing a low or depressed mood.
An Adderall crash often begins a few hours after your last dose and lasts for one or two days. After an Adderall binge, you are likely to be sleep-deprived, and you may also feel extremely hungry. Adderall can affect your appetite, so many people feel as though they need to eat a lot while they recuperate.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
When you stop taking Adderall, you will begin to withdraw from the drug. When medical treatment is sought, this process is usually encountered during detox, which is the first stage of addiction recovery. During detox, Adderall and any other harmful substances or toxins leave the body.
To successfully navigate withdrawal, it can be helpful to understand the process and the Adderall withdrawal symptoms you may experience. If you are attempting to stop taking Adderall altogether, withdrawal symptoms will be similar to the feeling of an Adderall crash to start with, but they become less intense over time.
If, however, you take Adderall regularly, withdrawal symptoms often take longer to appear. For this reason, you may not notice any symptoms until a few days after your last dose.
As Adderall works by increasing the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, mood changes are among the most common withdrawal symptoms. This is because dopamine activates your brain’s reward system and norepinephrine increases your focus. Both also play a significant role in mood regulation. You may also experience symptoms of depression.
Depression experienced during Adderall withdrawal is only temporary and generally lasts for one week, although feelings may linger in some people. This temporary depression arises due to the brain experiencing what it perceives to be low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine compared to the increased activity of these neurotransmitters caused by prolonged Adderall consumption.
In addition to depression, The American Psychiatric Association lists additional symptoms of stimulant withdrawal, including:
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Change in appetite
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Slowed movements or reflexes
- Slow heart rate
- Adderall cravings
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Lack of motivation
The length of time that withdrawal symptoms last depends on several factors, including how long you have been taking the drug and the method of use. Some people may only experience symptoms for five days, whereas others may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms for three weeks or more.
Those who take Adderall frequently or in large doses generally experience a longer withdrawal than those who consume less. The duration of withdrawal can also be influenced by the method of use. A person who snorts or injects Adderall is more likely to have a longer withdrawal period than a person who swallows pills. This is because they are more likely to depend on the drug.
Read more: Adderall Addiction Treatment
Pre-existing mental health conditions can also extend the withdrawal duration, along with pre-existing physical medical conditions. In addition, whether a person consumes alcohol or other substances while taking Adderall can affect the length of withdrawal.
Adderall Withdrawal Timeline
Everyone's experience of stimulant withdrawal is different. Below, we have shared an outline of the Adderall withdrawal timeline:
Day One to Two
Your withdrawal symptoms are likely to start within a day or two of stopping using the drug. However, you may begin to feel symptoms within hours of your last dose if you use a considerable amount of Adderall.
Day Two to Seven
The initial days of withdrawal may cause psychological symptoms like lack of focus, physical fatigue, intense hunger, and sleep disturbances. The feelings of alertness and increased energy that Adderall initially provided are reversed for many people.
During the first week, withdrawal symptoms can cause an inability to sleep or stay awake, or both. As these physical symptoms begin to wear off, people often experience a surge in emotional issues, including anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, and an incapacity to feel happy.
Counseling and group therapy can be beneficial at this stage, and it is highly recommended you start attending these as soon as you’re physically able.
Physical symptoms should have mostly subsided, but cravings can be difficult and result in a relapse. Seeking professional medical advice or Adderall addiction treatment decreases the chance of relapse.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from Adderall can cause post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), which can be a significant factor in relapse, no matter how committed a person is to their sobriety. PAWS are the lingering withdrawal symptoms that can last weeks or months.
The symptoms can be discomforting and even distressing - irritability, depression, cravings, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping are most common. People who have been abusing Adderall for a long period or taking frequent large doses of the drug are more likely to experience PAWS.
If you experience severe depression during the post-acute period, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
Some people decide to complete a medical detox program to increase the chance of successful recovery. Adderall withdrawal and detox can be incredibly distressing, so emotional support is often required.
Treatment centers, such as our own, offer medical supervision at treatment facilities, where medical professionals monitor your heart rate and blood pressure. They may also provide sleep aids to alleviate insomnia.
If you or someone you know is looking for support with Adderall detox and Adderall withdrawal, we are here to help at Cornerstone. Withdrawal from Adderall can be challenging, but nobody needs to do it alone.
We offer medical detox and follow-up substance abuse treatment tailored to your needs. We understand that addiction is a complex disease, so whether you want help managing drug cravings, finding support groups, or getting information about drug addiction, call us today.