Adderall is a prescription stimulant that contains the active ingredient amphetamine. Prescription amphetamine treats attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
Many people know that ADHD involves problems with attention and impulse control. Adderall helps correct problems with attention because it increases the chemical dopamine in brain cells, which is used to produce the feeling of attention.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where the body has trouble timing sleep at night and wakefulness in the day. Adderall can help to regulate the body’s internal clock by increasing dopamine in the day so that levels are low at night.
Adderall is a Schedule II prescription medication, which means the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) places extra controls on the sale, manufacture and use of the drug. Adderall has medical uses and has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
If someone becomes addicted to Adderall, they are at risk of experiencing symptoms of Adderall withdrawal.
What Causes Adderall Withdrawal?
The term “withdrawal” encapsulates a set of symptoms that happen when someone is addicted to a substance and stops using that substance. Abusing a substance changes the chemistry of brain cells over time.
For example, when someone abuses Adderall, they increase their dopamine levels in the brain — higher than would ever occur naturally. To compensate, brain cells break down dopamine more aggressively to balance out the increased amount. When the increased amount suddenly stops (i.e., someone stops taking Adderall), brain cells continue breaking down dopamine faster than normal, but there is no extra dopamine to counter this occurrence.
The results is that dopamine levels are then much lower than they should be, producing withdrawal symptoms as the body struggles without the drug.
Risks of Abruptly Quitting Adderall
When someone is taking Adderall as prescribed, they may be able to safely stop without issue, but they must speak with their doctor first.
People taking high daily doses may require a slow taper to stop taking the medication safely. Those who abuse Adderall are at a very high risk of withdrawal symptoms if they quit Adderall cold turkey, especially if they take high doses of the drug.
How to Taper Off Adderall
Attempting to abruptly stop Adderall can be dangerous. Those with a valid prescription should speak with their doctor about stopping Adderall.
Those who abuse Adderall, by taking more than prescribed or taking it without a prescription, should speak with their doctor or an addiction specialist about stopping it safely.
How Can a Doctor Diagnose Adderall Withdrawal?
Adderall and other stimulants cause a recognizable set of withdrawal symptoms. Signs of Adderall withdrawal would be placed into the bigger picture of the person’s history and current health.
A physician would take a patient history by asking a series of questions, including some about drug and alcohol abuse. The diagnosis can only be as accurate as the information, so an accurate patient history is critical to make the right diagnosis and start the correct treatment.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Common Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:
- Agitation or irritability
- Cravings to take more of the drug
- Feeling more tired than normal
- Mood swings that happen quickly, sometimes multiple times per hour
- Physical reactions may include headaches, aches and pains, increased appetite, not sleeping well
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
- Trouble concentrating
Adderall Withdrawal Timeline
The Adderall withdrawal timeline is different for everyone. The most important factors are a person’s genetics, their history of Adderall abuse and the extent of Adderall abuse. In other words, how much and how often they took Adderall are some of the most important factors that determine the length of withdrawal.
A general withdrawal timeline may look like:
- Days 1 and 2
Cravings are powerful at this time. Mood swings, hallucinations and paranoia may be present since Adderall will still be in the body. People may still have trouble sleeping.
- Days 3 through 7
Dopamine levels are low, causing exhaustion and symptoms of depression. While not sleeping, a person may be hungry and irritable. Dreams can be vivid and uncomfortable.
- Week 2 and 3
Cravings are still there but not as strong. Sleep begins to normalize, but the person’s mood is still impaired. Symptoms of depression and anxiety may worsen, fueling cravings to return to drug use.
- Week 4 and on
Most detox and withdrawal symptoms have lessened or subsided at this point. Cravings, dysphoria (depressed mood), trouble sleeping and irritability are still present but much lower than the previous weeks. Managing cravings at this stage is a critical factor in preventing relapse.
Adderall Detox Treatment for Withdrawal
Adderall detox can occur in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
Inpatient treatment can be at an addiction treatment facility or some hospitals. It is generally more appropriate for people with a severe addiction who cannot stop using Adderall themselves or in situations where withdrawal would present a medical risk.
Outpatient treatment is usually conducted less strictly, with guidance from an addiction professional. It is appropriate for mild addictions with no medical risk in people who are motivated to quit.
If someone detoxes in a hospital or inpatient addiction facility, a medical team will be available to support them. People withdrawing are monitored for life-threatening symptoms and provided with an environment that helps manage detox.
Adderall withdrawal is generally not life-threatening. There are no medications approved by the FDA for stimulant withdrawal and very few to treat withdrawal symptoms for such drugs. The cornerstone of withdrawal treatment, in this case, is monitoring and providing adequate nutrition and rest.
Outpatient withdrawal is medically supervised by an addiction professional but can occur at home. Treatment is ideal for people motivated to quit Adderall who are not at risk of harmful withdrawal symptoms (e.g., someone with abnormal heart rhythm). Not all rehab facilities offer this sort of treatment.
Detoxing from Adderall involves a lot of sleep. Therefore someone detoxing at home may not be able to meet basic needs like healthy meals and hydration.
Certain people may be at risk of harm during a self-detox, like those with a seizure disorder or an abnormal heart rhythm.
Anyone attempting to detox should only do so after speaking with their doctor, or an addiction professional.
Relapse is a major risk when someone tries to self-detox. Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable, so the temptation to take more Adderall to ease these symptoms is high.
What to Expect During Adderall Detox
Detox from stimulants like Adderall can be physically and emotionally draining. Eating healthy meals and returning to a normal sleep schedule are the two most critical components to a successful detox.
Expect a depressed mood for several weeks after the detox process.
Most people who stop abusing Adderall may experience no permanent symptoms.
Finding a Detox Center
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an addiction facility locator that can help people find a detox center. SAMHSA is federally funded and supports addiction and treatment centers all throughout the country.
Key Points: Understanding Adderall Withdrawal & Detox
Keep the following key points in mind regarding Adderall withdrawal and detox:
- Adderall is a prescription stimulant with the active ingredient amphetamine
- When someone is addicted to Adderall, they experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking it
- Stopping Adderall abruptly can be dangerous, even if taken as prescribed
- Adderall withdrawal can be uncomfortable, with symptoms like exhaustion, mood swings and intense cravings
- Addiction treatment facilities can help ease someone through Adderall withdrawal safely
If you struggle with Adderall addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak to a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Food and Drug Administration. “Adderall Medication Guide.” 2007. Accessed July 29, 2019.
Medline Plus. “Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” 2019. Accessed July 29, 2019.
Medline Plus. “Substance Use – Amphetamines: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed July 29, 2019.
SAMHSA. “Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.” 2019. Accessed July 29, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.