Adderall Withdrawal | Timeline, Symptoms, & Detox

Adderall Withdrawal: An Overview Guide

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, usually just referred to as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that was, less than 50 years ago, actually a controversial diagnosis.

While Ritalin was among the first medications prescribed by doctors to treat the symptoms of ADHD, Adderall, the brand name for a combination of four different amphetamine salts, has all but replaced it as the drug of choice for counteracting the effects of ADHD.

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Adderall is also frequently used to treat narcolepsy, and, when taken as properly prescribed by those who require it, Adderall is an extremely beneficial medication. Unfortunately, as a Schedule II stimulant, it still carries a high risk of addiction and potential for abuse.

Many people without ADHD may abuse Adderall recreationally for its stimulant-associated effects of increased euphoria and energy, which also suppresses the side effects of alcohol and can lead to alcohol poisoning.

In 2015, it was estimated that at least 51 million people were living with ADHD.

However, it is perhaps most widely misused by young adults and college students attempting to increase their academic performance. Non-prescription Adderall use is so common on college campuses that taking dangerously high amounts of it to cram before an exam or stay up all night to write a paper is seen by many students as an expected or otherwise ordinary situation that is without serious consequences.

Of course, this is not the case, and Adderall addiction can cause dangerously rapid weight loss, hallucinations, seizures, and potentially-fatal heart problems. Therefore, an Adderall detox is essential in order to stop the damage caused by the drug before it becomes too late.

What Are the Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal?

Adderall works in essentially the same way that other stimulants used to treat ADHD do, including Ritalin, by adjusting the levels and accessibility of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.

Dopamine is the chemical in charge of regulating what’s known as the brain’s “pleasure centers,” which means that it’s responsible for how we process both reward and motivation. Norepinephrine affects how the brain responds to events, particularly how it pays attention and the speed at which it reacts to outside stimuli.

Research has shown that people who have ADHD show very low levels of dopamine in their brains, which can greatly impair several key brain functions and is the root cause of most of the symptoms of ADHD. 

So when Adderall creates more dopamine and norepinephrine, the norepinephrine makes the user more alert and aware by speeding up brain activity.

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The dopamine provides a small amount of euphoria to create a greater sense of motivation. This can actually make the brain pay more attention to task by literally perceiving it as more interesting than it would be without Adderall.

However, as with any substance that alters the amount of dopamine the brain, if it is regularly abused, the brain will come to rely on the dopamine supplied by the Adderall, and stop making as much of it on its own. Therefore, the brain is unable to properly function without the continuous use of Adderall.

So when someone stops using Adderall and the flow of dopamine dries up, the good feelings go with it, causing what’s known as a “crash.” This can be especially intense if the person misusing Adderall does not have ADHD and is unused to dealing with low dopamine.

Because Adderall use is so tied up in the circuits that control and regulate feelings of happiness and pleasure, Adderall withdrawal symptoms are largely psychological and mood-related and do not include many of the physical symptoms often associated with withdrawal, such as nausea, vomiting, fever or other flu-like symptoms.

Someone undergoing Adderall detox can expect to experience at least some of the following common withdrawal symptoms from Adderall:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Adderall cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Seizures

Even without the typical physical components of many drug or alcohol detoxes, the psychological symptoms from Adderall are intense and unpleasant enough on their own to make detoxing a difficult and uncomfortable process.

If someone has been abusing Adderall XR, the extended-release form of the drug, they can also expect to have to deal with these symptoms for a much longer span of time.

According to a study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, full-time college students, between the ages of 18 and 22, were twice as likely to abuse Adderall than those of the same age not in college.

Can Adderall Withdrawal Kill You?

Adderall withdrawal itself is not a life-threatening process, and, in some cases, can be handled on an outpatient basis if the addiction is not particularly severe or if an individual has not been abusing it for very long.

On the other hand, if someone is suffering from a severe and heavy dependence on Adderall, they are more likely to experience more intense Adderall withdrawal symptoms that can become much more dangerous if someone is attempting an Adderall detox on their own. Seizures, in particular, can be life-threatening without the aid of a medical professional.

On the other hand, if someone is suffering from a severe and heavy dependence on Adderall, they are more likely to experience more intense Adderall withdrawal symptoms that can become much more dangerous if someone is attempting an Adderall detox on their own. Seizures, in particular, can be life-threatening without the aid of a medical professional.

But even disregarding that, the psychological symptoms of Adderall withdrawal can also create situations where someone’s life can be in danger if they are unmonitored. The combination of depression, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts create a high risk of self-harm or even attempted suicide.

Clearly, Adderall withdrawal symptoms are extremely unpleasant to deal with, to say the least. For someone doing an Adderall detox alone in their home, without the aid of medication-assisted treatment, they may become too much to bear, and lead to a relapse.

Relapsing mid-detox can kill you, as many people will overcompensate their dosage to get rid of the symptoms of Adderall withdrawal faster and accidentally overdose, often with deadly consequences.

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What Are the Stages of the Adderall Withdrawal Timeline?

While there is an established Adderall withdrawal timeline that most people will experience, the actual length and severity of an Adderall detox will vary from person to person based on factors unique to a given individual, including:

  • How much Adderall someone was abusing
  • How long they were abusing Adderall
  • How they were taking it
  • If they engaged in polydrug use
  • How they were taking it
  • If they have a co-occurring disorder
  • The state of their overall current health
  • If they are on a tapering schedule
  • If they try to stop using cold turkey
  • If they were abusing extended-release

Keeping these factors in mind, a typical Adderall withdrawal timeline will generally go as follows:

The effects of Adderall last about six hours, and it has a fairly long half-life, so it can take at least 12 hours to start feeling any withdrawal symptoms, but usually, people will enter the “crash phase” within 24 hours of their last dose. Depression and fatigue are typically the first symptoms to appear.

After the three day-mark, symptoms will begin to intensify and reach their peak. Depression will get worse and be joined by severe insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and cravings. This is the phase of the withdrawal timeline is when people are most vulnerable to relapse.

After the first week, the worst of the Adderall withdrawal symptoms will have begun to fade and disappear, with the ones remaining becoming easier to manage. Feelings of depression and mood swings will still be present.

While the majority of the symptoms should have disappeared at this point, many people still experience mild depression or cravings several weeks after they have stopped using Adderall.

It is important to note that if someone has been abusing Adderall XR, they will have a much more protracted withdrawal timeline. Adderall XR is meant to be taken once every 24 hours and can take as long as three to four days after the last dose for withdrawal symptoms to appear, and several weeks longer for the withdrawal period to end.

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  • What Can Help with Adderall Withdrawal?

    If you choose to detox at a professional medical detox center, then a doctor can prescribe different medications to help ease Adderall withdrawal symptoms and try to make the Adderall detox process as painless as possible. Common medications used specifically during Adderall detox treatment include:

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    • Antidepressants are frequently used in order to help minimize the symptoms of depression and curb any suicidal thoughts.
    • Anti-anxiety medication is also employed to reduce stress levels and lessen the risk of panic attacks.
    • Mild sedatives or sleep aids can be used to help induce sleep in those suffering from symptoms of insomnia and exhaustion.
    • Anticonvulsant medications can be administered to help avoid the dangers of seizures during the initial crash phase of withdrawal and have also been found to successfully reduce the intensity of Adderall cravings.

    Why Should I Do a Medical Adderall Detox?

    As previously mentioned, while Adderall detox can sometimes be done on an outpatient basis, it still requires at least some level of medical supervision and involvement. If the Adderall addiction is severe, then more drastic measures should be taken, since the symptoms become more dangerous and unpredictable.

    That means undergoing Adderall detox through inpatient medical detoxification, which will help to avoid the dangers we outlined earlier instead of needlessly putting yourself at risk.

    While cocaine detox is often done on an outpatient basis, because crack detox can be more intense and unpredictable, inpatient medical detoxification is more likely to be necessary, especially considering the possible dangers previously outlined.

    Even without taking health risks and safety into consideration, it is very difficult to successfully detox from Adderall on your own, especially without the aid of medication-assisted treatment, and if you try to stop cold turkey.

    Stopping Adderall use all at once after the brain has begun dependent on it heightens the intensity of the crash phase as the brain’s dopamine levels bottom-out, throwing the body into shock.

    This is why detoxing at a medical detox center where you can be monitored around the clock by experienced staff is so important. It not only guarantees your safety by putting you in a controlled, supervised environment, but it also allows doctors to help minimize the effects of the symptoms from Adderall withdrawal as much as possible, preventing relapse and ensuring a successful detox.

    What is the Next Treatment Step?

    Ideally, the next step after a successful Adderall detox is to transition into a recovery treatment program. While detoxification flushes the drug from your system and helps put a stop to the damage it was causing, but it doesn’t “cure” anything.

    If your detox is not followed up by any aftercare treatment, whether it is inpatient or outpatient, then it only puts a bandage on the problem instead of solving it, and a relapse back into using is bound to happen, more likely sooner than later.

    Addiction rehabilitation treatment can help you understand and address the root of your issues and addictive behaviors so that you can develop the tools and skills needed to manage your addiction.

    There are many different treatment options available to you, including standard therapies like individual counseling, 12-step programs, and family recovery, as well as holistic options like music therapy, yoga, meditation, and more. What matters the most is taking that next step towards a positive, substance-free life.

    Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

    If you or someone you care about is struggling to end their dependence on Adderall, a medical detox at The Palm Beach Institute followed by a smooth transition into one of our recovery treatment programs can get you or your loved one on the road to recovery and long-term sobriety.

    Our addiction specialists are on-call and ready to answer your questions 24 hours a day, so don’t wait, call 1-855-960-5456 now.