Adderall is a prescription stimulant that treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some sleep disorders like narcolepsy. This brand-name medicine is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and it comes in both an immediate-release and extended-release formulas.
While Adderall was approved as a treatment in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, this medication experienced a boom in popularity in the 1990s, partly due to changes in the medical understanding of ADHD, followed by greater diversion of the drug by children with these prescriptions who gave their Adderall to friends or family. This stimulant, along with Ritalin, became infamous as a “study drug,” mistakenly believed to increase learning ability and skill. While stimulant drugs increase attention and alertness, they do not increase the ability to absorb information. Taking Adderall and other drugs for these reasons is prescription misuse and can lead to addiction. Thousands of people currently struggle with Adderall abuse and addiction.
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Withdrawal Symptoms from Adderall
Different people experience Adderall withdrawal for different lengths of time, depending on how large their dose was and how long they have struggled with abuse. Typically, withdrawal does not last longer than 10 days. This medication has a half-life of about 10 hours, according to the pharmaceutical company, Shire LLC. The first withdrawal symptoms will begin about one day after the final dose is taken.
Attempting to stop Adderall abuse without the oversight of a medical professional can be dangerous. Suddenly quitting Adderall can lead to the “Adderall crash,” a condition of intense and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The main withdrawal symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Sluggishness or low energy
- Appearing slow or drunk
According to the Australian Government’s Department of Health, the most common symptoms occurred among with these frequencies:
- Irritability: 78%
- Depression: 50%
- Physical aches and pains: 58%
- Impaired social functioning: 46%
Other symptoms associated with Adderall withdrawal include:
- Panic attacks
- Intense hunger
- Insomnia or sleeplessness
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Suicidal ideation
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach aches or cramping
Attempting to quit this stimulant drug “cold turkey” may lead to a syndrome that resembles severe depressive disorder. Symptoms of this condition may include:
- Excessive sleep
- Serious psychomotor retardation, or very slow movements
At its most dangerous, the withdrawal syndrome associated with Adderall can cause:
- Extreme paranoia
- Cardiac arrest
- Schizophrenia-like symptoms, including hallucinations
Even when Adderall is taken as prescribed, it is important to get a doctor’s help tapering down, or weaning off, the prescription. For those who struggle with Adderall abuse or addiction, getting help from an addiction specialist to safely detox in a similar way is very important, to avoid relapsing back into addiction.
Working with a Doctor to Detox Is the Safest Option
A doctor will work with their patient to ease the dose of Adderall until the body is no longer dependent on the drug. For people who take Adderall as prescribed, weaning off this medication may cause mild withdrawal symptoms but should not be that difficult.
There are no specific medical treatments to ease withdrawal symptoms associated with stimulant drugs like Adderall, so weaning off the drug is the best process. Behavioral approaches, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can help those struggling with addiction to manage the long-term experience of withdrawal.
Working with a doctor to create a tapering schedule will gradually ease the body and brain off dependence on Adderall. Each schedule will be slightly different, and a physician will assess each patient to determine how serious their withdrawal symptoms are. Some over-the-counter painkillers or other medicines may temporarily relieve withdrawal symptoms.
In addition to weaning off Adderall with a doctor’s help, adding gradual lifestyle changes to one’s routine can reduce symptoms.
One of the withdrawal symptoms from Adderall is increased appetite since stimulants suppress the appetite. When appetite returns, eating healthy food and preparing nutritious meals can improve overall health.
Low-impact exercise can also address physical pain long-term by improving circulation, physical strength, and flexibility. Exercises like walking, yoga, or tai chi may smooth the experience of withdrawal.
Getting regular sleep is also extremely important when detoxing from stimulants like Adderall. Because stimulants increase energy, they disrupt sleep; withdrawal symptoms may include oversleeping, or paradoxical insomnia, especially due to discomfort. One of the long-term methods of treating insomnia includes creating small rituals or habits around bedtime, like avoiding screens (e.g., phones, computers, etc.), deep breathing exercises, and getting into bed and waking up at the same time every day.
A Comprehensive Plan
Visit a physician or therapist to discuss a treatment plan, or contact a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Adderall addiction can lead to serious harm, including overdose or death. By working with an addiction specialist, anyone who needs to end Adderall addiction can develop a plan to wean off the stimulant and then receive comprehensive therapy to address substance abuse issues.