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Adderall Withdrawal

According to a 2016 report released by John Hopkins University, Adderall abuse is on the rise among young adults. Emergency room visits have spiked dramatically in young adults despite prescriptions for stimulants remaining the same. Adderall misuse is highest in 18 to 25-year-olds, which relies primarily on receiving the medication from friends or family without a prescription.

Adderall, which is the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, can cause side effects and increased risks of mental health problems. Some of these can include bipolar disorder, depression, or aggressive behavior. There are also cardiovascular side effects due to its stimulant properties, such as high blood pressure or stroke. These warnings have caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place a black-box warning on the drug. Unfortunately, there is not much research on the long-term effects of Adderall.

There is a popular misconception among prescription medications that they are safer. Unfortunately, prescription medications can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs. Adderall is a highly effective drug when used as prescribed, but its potential for misuse is something that should not be overlooked.

Those who abuse Adderall place themselves at an increased risk of developing a chemical dependency, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Those using the medication should do so with caution, and always follow doctors orders. If you believe you have become dependent or addicted to Adderall, you need to be aware of what you will experience during Adderall withdrawal.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from substances such as Adderall occurs when the user is on the drug for a long period of time. Heavy or prolonged use of Adderall leads an individual to build a tolerance to the drug. This can lead to addiction and dependence, both resulting in withdrawal when the individual does not take the substance. With prolonged use, an individual who is addicted to Adderall might begin to feel some of these symptoms in as little as a few hours after their last dose:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Vivid or unpleasant dreams
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Anxiety
  • Manic tendencies
  • Depression
  • Teeth grinding
  • Aggression

These symptoms have been reported to last anywhere from five days to three weeks, depending on how long an individual has been using Adderall and the amount they are using. 

One of the most common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal is the chronic headache it brings to an individual when they decrease their dose or quit altogether. Although common, this can lead to health complications if left untreated. The possibilities that cause headaches due to Adderall abuse are:

  • Amphetamine-related hypertension – high blood pressure
  • Cerebral vasoconstriction – the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain due to lack of oxygen entering the brain
  • Electrolyte disturbances – depletion of nutrient balance in the brain
  • Stress or neck tension – excessive muscle strain that increases muscle rigidity

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What Are the Stages of Adderall Withdrawal Timeline?

Initial symptoms of Adderall withdrawal are commonly referred to as the “crash.” At this time, the individual might begin to experience a few unpleasant comedown symptoms. The severity of these symptoms, again, depends on how long the individual has been using Adderall and how much of it they were using. The beginning stages of withdrawal will begin once the drug starts to wear off, usually around the four to 12 hour mark. 

Once the stimulant begins to wear off, symptoms include:

  • Prolonged sleeping
  • Depressed mood
  • Overeating
  • Cravings (less severe in the early stages of withdrawal)

The early symptoms of Adderall withdrawal will last between one to two hours. The more severe and longer-lasting symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Intense cravings
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Lethargy

These symptoms typically occur in the first week of withdrawals and can last up to three weeks.

Psychosis can also occur during withdrawal and is more common if the signs emerged while the person was using. Adderall withdrawals affect the mind more severely than the body. The dangers of using and quitting Adderall can be extreme depending on the individual, which is why it is important to detox in a treatment facility.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) refers to symptoms of Adderall withdrawal that last for weeks or months after cessation of the drug. It is marked by symptoms similar to mood disorders, which may include insomnia, mood swings, and increased levels of anxiety. Estimates have shown that nearly 75 percent of psychotropic users will experience PAWS to some degree. 

The most common signs of PAWS may include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Inability to complete cognitive tasks, such as memory recall or problem-solving
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Apathy
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

Why Should I Detox?

Quitting drugs cold turkey may sound like a good idea, but it can be difficult, uncomfortable, and dangerous.

Given the difficult physical symptoms, withdrawing on your own without professional medical help can be very challenging. It’s important to find a professional, medically assisted detox program to support you during the process of Adderall withdrawal.

Doing this will ensure that you are carefully monitored in a safe environment while your body goes through the difficult detoxification process. Participating in an addiction treatment program also gives you a better chance at lasting recovery as a result of the structured medical and emotional support you will receive.

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

After detox, it is usually suggested for the individual to continue their recovery process with inpatient treatment. The continuation of treatment leads to higher success rates in completely stopping substances like Adderall. Higher levels of care consist of inpatient or residential treatment centers, which typically last anywhere from 28-90 days.

During the residential or inpatient facility, the former user will learn how to live life without the use of Adderall or other drugs they may also be addicted to.

Residential Treatment

If you and the treatment team determine that you need further medical treatment, you may continue the next stage of treatment on an inpatient basis, which might be because of co-occurring medical conditions or post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment is intensive and includes 24/7 clinical monitoring. At this stage, you will start seeing a therapist regularly to help you process the emotional and psychological aspects of addiction and recovery.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization (PHP) is in-between outpatient treatment and inpatient care.

The goal of PHP is to stabilize your mental status and better prepare you for success once you return to independent living after you leave the treatment center.

During this stage, you’ll live at a transitional living facility while undergoing a supportive and rigorous treatment program.

This program will be five days a week for six hours each day. You will be able to participate in individual, group, and family therapy programs to help you address emotional and mental health needs.

woman about to eat a pill with a glass of water

Learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse so that you will be prepared for long-term recovery will be the primary focus during PHP.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs

Bramness, J. G., Gundersen. H., Guterstam, J., Rognli, E. B., Konstenius, M., Løberg, E.-M., … Franck, J. (2012, December 5). Amphetamine-induced psychosis–a separate diagnostic entity or primary psychosis triggered in the vulnerable? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554477/

Miyasato, K. (2010, August). The definition of drug dependence. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20715472

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 6: Definition of tolerance. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/6-definition-tolerance

report, H. staff. (2016, February 16). Adderall abuse on the rise among young adults, Johns Hopkins study suggests. Retrieved from https://hub.jhu.edu/2016/02/16/adderall-abuse-rising-young-adults/

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