ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Like many drugs, Adderall carries a high risk of dependence. In this article, we’ll review the effects and the best ways to treat symptoms. Keep reading and learn more about it. Then, we invite you to leave your questions at the end.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Effects Of Withdrawal
- Common Symptoms
- Protracted Symptoms
- Main Treatments
- Medications That Help
- Detox At Home?
- Medical Detox
- Who Uses Adderall?
- Signs of a Drug Problem
- Dependence VS. Addiction
- Your Questions
Effects of Withdrawal from Adderall
Adderall works by calming the brain’s process to heighten concentration and focus for people with ADHD. For people without ADHD, it creates a hyper focus and a high. But is also comes with some negative side effects. Not only can amphetamines induce tolerance, they can also be habit forming. This means that the brain adapts to them over time…and needs the drug to function normally.
How does Adderall work?
The first thing that you need to know is this drug increases the activity of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine affects feelings of pleasure. Norepinephrine affects blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing. So, it stimulates the release of these neurotransmitters…and causes stimulating effects!
When you adapt to stimulants like Adderall, the brain actually produces its own chemical signals to “slow down” or “depress” certain functions. It does this so that it can continue to work. But, when your brain has become used to Adderall and then no longer has it…it takes time to re-balance.
Withdrawal is a process during which the body starts to function without the presence of Adderall after a period of chemical dependence on amphetamines.
So when the person stops taking Adderall after daily dosing, s/he feels completely differently. Side effects of Adderall withdrawal include changes in the mental state. Mental clarity becomes lethargy. Mental alertness becomes fatigue. The pain of withdrawal can have an effect on the process, making it difficult to stay off Adderall.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall or other stimulants can start as early as a few hours after the effect has worn off. And the length of time until withdrawal stops can vary from weeks to months later. In fact, it can take days to weeks to completely remove Adderall from the system when you’ve developed physical dependence on Adderall. The duration of Adderall withdrawal usually will depend on a few factors such as your:
- Amount of time you’ve been taking Adderall.
- Dosing amounts.
- Frequency of doses.
- General health.
- Physical fitness.
It is important to note that because Adderall is a stimulant, withdrawal symptoms can be delayed. Therefore, it may take several weeks to months to no longer feel the effects of withdrawal symptoms.
To know how to treat Adderall withdrawal, it is important to recognize withdrawal from Adderall symptoms. You may experience any of the following:
- Abdominal pain.
- Anhedonia (loss of interest in pleasurable activities).
- Drug craving.
- Increased heart rate.
- Memory impairment.
- Mood swings.
Because Adderall gives the person the edge that needs to get through the day, it can be hard to stop using Adderall. In fact, sleep, energy, and mood are affected the most during Adderall withdrawal and can be difficult to stabilize. Adderall withdrawal symptoms, in particular intense craving, may be a critical factor leading to relapse to amphetamine use.
The symptoms above are what is known as “acute withdrawal”, and will usually resolve themselves in 1-2 weeks. However, those recovering from stimulant abuse may also experience a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (also known as PAWS or protracted withdrawal). The most common PAWS for Adderall include:
- Mood disorders, especially anxiety and depression.
- Sleep disturbances.
- The inability to experience pleasure, anhedonia.
In the case of Adderall PAWS, 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 anyone going through withdrawal should be aware that these symptoms are not permanent and will pass in time.
Amphetamine withdrawal is largely subjective, but may be difficult to manage, particularly for friends and family members, due to mood swings. The initial phase of withdrawal syndrome (a.k.a. crashing) occurs as the stimulant effects wear off. These symptoms include:
- Depressed mood (although some irritability even in the initial phase).
- Prolonged sleeping.
- Some cravings (not usually severe in this initial phase).
The initial phase may last one to two days and then is followed by a longer period of several days to weeks of:
- Disturbed sleep.
- Mood changeability (irritability, depression, inability to experience pleasure).
Psychotic symptoms may emerge during the first one to two weeks, particularly if they were present during times of use.
Treatment for amphetamine detox is based on behavioral therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management (motivational incentives), can be effective in helping to treat people with prescription stimulant addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps modify the person’s drug-use expectations and behaviors, and it can effectively manage triggers and stress. Contingency management provides vouchers or small cash rewards for positive behaviors such as staying drug-free.
Medications that Help
Currently, there are no medicines approved for treating stimulant withdrawal, and because the physical withdrawal symptoms for stimulants are relatively mild, users will not usually require supportive medication during the withdrawal process. Still, some medications may be useful with some symptoms; however, remember, the mainstay of treatment is supportive care and counseling.
Main medications include:
Antidepressants have been used for abstinence-induced depression with some benefit, although the onset of action is delayed and the recurrence to use while taking antidepressants can cause hypertension or serotonin syndrome (set of symptoms caused by an excess of serotonin, a neurotransmitter important for good mood, sleep, nutrition, perception of pain and pleasure and sexual desire). Mirtazapine is used more frequently and has resulted in an improvement in symptoms. It can be continued for depressive symptoms if the response to treatment is evident.
Benzos and the short-term use of benzodiazepines (diazepam) and antipsychotics (olanzapine) for the control of irritability and agitation may be useful. Care must be taken since access to large quantities of medication can lead to dependence on benzodiazepines. These medications must be taken for a maximum of 7 to 10 days.
Modafinil (neurostimulant with properties to promote alertness) is also used and has been shown to improve some symptoms, but this is not an approved drug for amphetamine withdrawal treatment.
Most experts recommend a conservative taper of 10% of Adderall from the previous dosage every few weeks during withdrawal.
The best way to withdraw from Adderall and to minimize the effects of withdrawal on the body is by tapering and reducing doses of Adderall slowly over time. It is also considered the safest way to withdraw from Adderall. Reducing doses slowly allows the body time to regulate itself and rewire the brain chemistry to cope without Adderall. This can take a long time and feel very slow, but hopefully as the Adderall is reduced the person will not feel the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and sometimes may feel none at all.
To minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms, most experts recommend a conservative taper of 10% from the previous dosage every few weeks. The amount of the decrease keeps getting smaller. Some people find they can go faster and some people find they have to go slower; they can only tolerate decreases of a fraction of a milligram at a time.
Detox At Home?
Yes, you can detox from Adderall at home. Still, we suggest that you consult with a medical professional to supervise any home detox. This way, you can set up an individual tapering schedule and plan thoroughly. However, know that home detox does come with disadvantages.
When you detox alone, you face a number of risks, including:
- Mood changes that may cause you to lash out at those you love.
- Physical side effects that, if left untreated or when compounded on top of other serious medical conditions, can turn dangerous. For instance, a person with an arrhythmia or pre-existing heart valve condition may experience dangerous heart rate changes as he or she goes through withdrawal.
- Psychological distress that can cause you to harm yourself or others.
How to best treat Adderall withdrawal symptoms depends on which symptoms you experience; focus on your symptoms and treat accordingly. Fatigue is a typical symptom that will need to be treated, as you will go through bouts of prolonged sleep and insomnia. Getting on a schedule and regulating your sleep will need to be a priority in order to treat Adderall withdrawal. Take care of the aches and pains that pop up while you are at home. Also having someone you can talk to throughout this process can help your overall success.
While it is possible to withdraw from Adderall at home, some users prefer the supportive environment of a professional, medically monitored environment. Addiction professionals at a detox facility can help with the depression, anxiety, and insomnia that often accompany detox from this drug. Also, being in a supervised facility can help eliminate the danger of relapsing during this period of intense drug craving.
Who Uses Adderall?
Some people take prescription stimulants to try to improve mental performance. Teens and college students sometimes misuse them to try to get better grades, and older adults misuse them to try to improve their memory. However, this is considered misuse of the stimulant drug. Even the FDA warns against the high potential for abuse in the FDA-approved Adderall drug label. How many people does this affect?
In 2016, an estimated 1.7 million people aged 12 or older, or 0.6 percent of this population, were current misusers of stimulants. The 2016 NSDUH, or National Survey on Drug Use and Health, further estimated that 540,000 people aged 12 or older could be diagnosed with addiction to stimulants in the past year.  This CBS News Summary reported that Adderall use was still on the rise, especially among young people. 
So, if you think you’re alone…you are not!
You need to know that taking prescription stimulants for reasons other than treating ADHD or narcolepsy could lead to harmful health effects, such as addiction, heart problems, or psychosis. When people overdose on a prescription stimulant, they most commonly experience several different symptoms, including restlessness, tremors, overactive reflexes, rapid breathing, confusion, aggression, hallucinations, panic states, abnormally increased fever, muscle pains and weakness.
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. Abusing Adderall at high doses, or for long periods of time, can produce even more dangerous effects like stroke, heart attack, or feelings of hostility and paranoia.
And if you think you have a problem with Adderall, you probably do.
Signs of a Drug Problem
Can Adderall use lead to substance use disorder and addiction? Yes, misuse of prescription stimulants can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD), which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Addiction develops when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. Main signs of a problem include:
- Being unable to quit Adderall and stay quit.
- Continued use despite problems at home or work or with health.
Concerns should be discussed with a health care provider. Addiction is a medical condition! It is treated medically. You are NOT alone.
Dependence vs. Addiction
It is important to understand the meaning of dependence, and addiction when discussing substance abuse and the use of prescription medications such as Adderall.
Dependence means that when a person stops using a drug, their body goes through withdrawal: a group of physical and mental symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. Many people who take a prescription medicine every day over a long period of time can become dependent; when they go off the drug, they need to do it gradually, to avoid withdrawal discomfort. But people who are dependent on a drug or medicine aren’t necessarily addicted.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.
The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function.
As a prescription stimulant, Adderall can be used to effectively manage medical conditions by helping users remain alert and focused. But misuse is common. When misusing a prescription stimulant, people can swallow the medicine in its normal form. Alternatively, they can crush tablets or open the capsules, dissolve the powder in water, and inject the liquid into a vein. Some can also snort or smoke the powder.
Most prescription stimulants come in tablet, capsule, or liquid form, which a person takes by mouth. Misuse of a prescription stimulant means:
- Taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed.
- Taking medicine only for the effect it causes, to get high.
- Taking someone else’s medicine.
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. 
Still have questions about Adderall withdrawal treatment? Would you like to know more? Please ask any questions you may have and we will try to get back to you personally and promptly.
Reference Sources:  SAMHSA: Results From The 2016 National Survey On Drug Use And Health
 CBS NEWS: Aderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults
 SAMHSA: Emergency Department Visits Involving Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Stimulant Medications
NCBI: Treatment For Amphetamine Withdrawal
NIDA: Principles Of Drug Addiction Treatment
NIDA: Prescription Stimulants
SA HEALTH: Amphetamine Withdrawal Management
SAMHSA: Protracted Withdrawal
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.