Adderall Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Getting Help
Prescription stimulant misuse can be harmful to your health and wellbeing.1 People might mistakenly assume that a drug is safe to take just because it is legal or prescribed by a doctor. However, Adderall misuse can cause a range of unpleasant and potentially dangerous consequences, including addiction and symptoms of Adderall withdrawal.1
People who want to stop using Adderall should know that help is available. The first step is typically detox, followed by some form of ongoing treatment. If you or someone you care about misuse Adderall, you may want to know what to expect during detox, including the Adderall withdrawal timeline and the extent of Adderall withdrawal symptoms. This article will help you understand what you need to know about Adderall withdrawal and explain how to get help for addiction so you can start the path to recovery.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant that is commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.1 The medication contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is available in capsule or tablet form.1, 2
Misusing a prescription medication means that you take the drug in unintended ways, take someone else’s medication, or take it to get high.1 People who misuse Adderall may swallow, smoke, snort, or inject it.2 They may take it orally, grind it up and mix the powder with water and inject the mixture into a vein, or sometimes smoke or snort the powder.2
Adderall is a common study drug, which means that students sometimes use it thinking it will help them get better grades, improve concentration, or help their memory.1 However, taking prescription medications in ways other than originally intended can cause potential risks; at high doses, a person is at increased risk of high fever, heart problems, seizures, and stroke.6 Regular Adderall misuse can also lead to the development of a substance use disorder (SUD), the clinical diagnosis for addiction.1 People who have a SUD can experience unpleasant Adderall withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the substance.1
What Happens During Adderall Withdrawal?
Chronic Adderall use can cause tolerance, which means that you need to use higher doses of the substance to experience previous effects.3 People can also develop physical dependence from repeated Adderall use.3 This means that their bodies have adapted to the presence of the drug, and they develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it or significantly reduce their dose.3
Tolerance and dependence/withdrawal are often features of addiction.4 For those who are not prescribed Adderall by a doctor, they are two of the criteria for stimulant use disorder, the diagnosis for stimulant addiction, which includes Adderall addiction.4 Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease in which a person compulsively uses a substance despite the negative effects on their lives.3
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms can occur when a person who is dependent on Adderall suddenly stops or cuts down their substance use.4 Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall develop because the body needs to readapt to functioning without the substance.3
Adderall or stimulant withdrawal can be challenging but it is not typically considered to be medically dangerous.5 People who misuse stimulants like Adderall may do so in binges, where they repeatedly use high doses in a binge/crash cycle.4 During the comedown from a binge, people can “crash,” or develop acute withdrawal symptoms after they stop using the substance.4
Most people with a stimulant use disorder experience withdrawal symptoms at some point, according to the American Psychiatric Association.4
Acute withdrawal symptoms of Adderall can include:4, 5
- Hypersomnia, or sleeping too much.
- Vivid and disturbing dreams.
- Increased appetite.
- Poor concentration.
- Psychomotor retardation, meaning slowed down physical or mental activities.
- Psychomotor agitation, meaning purposeless and uncontrollable movements, like fidgeting.
- Drug cravings.
Severe dysphoria, meaning low mood, depression, and negative thoughts or feelings, is an often-overlooked medical danger of stimulant withdrawal.5 It can be accompanied by suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.5 Depression can be especially intense for people who have misused amphetamines, and they should be monitored for suicide and self-harm during withdrawal and receive treatment for depression if necessary.5
If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide or going through an emotional crisis, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors ready to listen and help at any time at 1-800-273-8255.
How Long Does Adderall Withdrawal Last?
The Adderall withdrawal timeline and the severity of symptoms will vary widely from person to person. Withdrawal duration and severity are affected by many factors, such as the amount of the substance a person used, the duration they used it, whether they have any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions, whether they use other substances, and other concerns.6
The following is a general timeline of what a person might expect during Adderall withdrawal:
- Acute withdrawal (a few hours to 36 hours after last use): Adderall withdrawal typically begins within a few hours to several days after the last use, but generally occurs for most people who misuse the drug within 24 hours.6 People who misuse stimulants like Adderall are typically sleep-deprived and require plenty of rest during the first 24 to 36 hours of abstinence.5 Withdrawal symptoms during the first 24 hours can be severe enough for many people that they return to using it, especially those who do not receive appropriate care.7 Symptoms are generally psychiatric, and people typically report feeling anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, extreme fatigue, and paranoia.7 For many people, severe withdrawal symptoms resolve within a week.7
- Post-acute withdrawal (1 to 3 weeks or more): Symptoms can continue after the acute withdrawal phase has ended.6 People may experience ongoing sleep disturbances, increased appetite, mood changes, and fatigue.7 Symptoms often resolve in 3 weeks but can persist in some cases.7
- Protracted withdrawal (can be several weeks to months): Symptoms can continue for several months in some cases.8 Severe depression including suicidal ideation can occur, as well as cravings, which can lead to relapse.6
Detox for Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
As mentioned, stimulant withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, but it can still be highly unpleasant and cause potential medical dangers such as depression and suicidal ideation.5 Seeking help from a professional drug detox center can help a person withdraw comfortably and safely and potentially help to avoid relapse.6
While there are no medications to treat stimulant withdrawal, a person may receive supportive medications during detox to treat certain symptoms, such as headaches or insomnia.5
People can receive detox services in inpatient and outpatient settings. With inpatient detox, patients live onsite for the duration of withdrawal until they are medically stable.6 An inpatient setting provides 24-hour monitoring and support, which can be especially helpful for people who have a risk of severe medical or psychiatric complications.6
As discomfort and suicidal ideation are serious concerns during withdrawal, inpatient care can provide a high level of care to ensure comfort and safety.6 A person can receive immediate care and medical attention for any issues that may arise during withdrawal.
Outpatient detox can also be helpful for many people.6 Patients can live at home but travel to a detox center on a regular schedule for withdrawal treatment. While it can be a beneficial option for many, you should be aware that may not be able to receive immediate onsite medical or psychiatric care if complications arise when you are at home. It is also important to be able to avoid cues (people, places, or things associated with substance use) so you can avoid relapse.5
Detox by itself is only a first step on the path to recovery and is rarely sufficient to change long-term drug misuse.8 Detox helps people become medically stable and can be a helpful stepping stone as they transition into ongoing treatment.5 Professional addiction treatment can help to address the underlying issues that contributed to substance use.9
Getting Help for Adderall Misuse or Addiction
If you or someone you care about are struggling with Adderall misuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help. AAC is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment. You can call us at any time to speak to one of our caring admissions navigators to learn more about your Adderall addiction treatment options or verify your insurance.