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How to Avoid (or Overcome) the Adderall Crash & Comedown

When someone gets hooked on Adderall, they tend to inherit two states: one of unparalleled bliss and focus and the other of crippling anxiety and lethargy — as well as a multitude of other negative feelings. To become addicted to Adderall is to be ensconced in a euphoria that inevitably gets upended by a crash.

Adderall doesn’t carry the same stigma as other prescription drugs and stimulants because of its reported benefits. People who use it recreationally say it makes them more focused, productive, and successful — virtues that are typically celebrated in this society. 

This is precisely the reason it is abused in competitive academic and work environments where productivity and success are rewarded.

A writer who chronicled her Adderall addiction in The New York Times Magazine described what it felt like to be under Adderall’s spell as a student at Brown University.

“The world fell away; it was only me, locked in a passionate embrace with the book I was reading and the thoughts I was having about it, which tumbled out of nowhere and built into what seemed an amazing pile of riches…Adderall wiped away the question of willpower. Now I could study all night, then run 10 miles, then breeze through that week’s New Yorker…”

But after years of use, the same writer reported what it felt like when the adverse effects of the drug set in:

“I had long been telling myself that by taking Adderall, I was exerting total control over my fallible self, but in truth, it was the opposite: The Adderall made my life unpredictable, blowing black storm systems over my horizon with no warning at all.”

When Adderall is taken outside of its intended purpose, the crash and comedown are often unavoidable. If you or a loved one is on the roller-coaster of Adderall abuse, read on to find out the best way to safely and comfortably quit the drug. 

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What Is Adderall? 

Adderall is a stimulant drug prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, people abuse it for a litany of “off-label” uses like enhanced athletic and cognitive performance. It is also abused recreationally as an aphrodisiac and euphoriant.

Adderall comes in a pill form and is composed of two types of amphetamine salts (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine). There is also an extended-release version of the medication.

The central nervous system (CNS) stimulant increases the availability of the norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters, which ramps up brain activity. Essentially, this action makes people feel alert, powerful, and invincible. It can even compel feelings of impulsivity. 

Who Abuses Adderall? 

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a high risk of addiction and abuse.

There is evidence that the drug is increasingly being abused increasingly by college-age users. A Johns Hopkins University study revealed that Adderall use rose by 67 percent between 2006 and 2011, and emergency room visits jumped 156 percent during that same period. The population most likely to abuse Adderall were people ages 18 to 25.

On college campuses, Adderall had long been regarded as a study drug. Young people flock to it to help with academic and professional activities such as writing assignments, job searches, and graduate school entrance exams.

But Adderall has also gained notoriety as a “party drug.”

“Adderall has become one of the mainstay drugs at many party events both on [college] campus[es] and off because it is cheap and easy to access,” an addiction specialist told Live Science.

What’s more, there appears to be an increase in Adderall use among adults. In the mid-2000s, for example, adults were the fastest-growing group of users. In 2012, about 16 million prescriptions were written for adults ages 20 to 39. 

Signs of Adderall Abuse

As with any other substance, the signs of Adderall abuse become apparent when users begin to consume Adderall in unintended ways. Though the medication is made to be swallowed, a user may crush up the pills and snort it or rub it into their gums. 

When Adderall is taken in this fashion, users can feel the full impact of the drug because the active ingredient is entirely absorbed in once. Because Adderall produces extra dopamine activity, the brain responds by reducing its naturally produced levels of dopamine. When that occurs, a user will require larger amounts of Adderall to compensate for the diminished availability of the natural chemical. Usually, that means a user will need a larger amount of the drug to experience the sensations a smaller dose provided.

An Adderall dependency is established when the body needs the stimulant to feel normal.

Man contemplating in a pipe

Without it, the withdrawal symptoms can set in, leading to a crash. 

The Adderall ‘Crash’

When Adderall isn’t enough, people will turn to more powerful stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine.

However, once someone abuses any stimulant, they will move through particular phases that have the power to keep them locked into a pattern of abuse. Adderall users are no different. These are what those phases look like, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

  • Binge: When the user is actively engaged in taking the drug and experiencing its effect.
  • Early crash: When the drug effects wear off, users develop anxiety, depression, and agitation along with intense cravings to reuse.
  • Middle crash: This is when increased feelings of depression and fatigue set in. At this stage, a user will have a profound need for sleep accompanied by insomnia, which replaces drug craving. When the user does sleep, it can last for up to 36 hours.
  • Late crash: After a long sleep, a user can awaken with desperate and intense feelings of hunger and thirst.
  • Protracted withdrawal: Attempts to maintain sobriety are countered with feelings of fatigue, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This can stay in place for weeks, potentially triggering relapse, which starts the cycle of abuse again.

Reversing the Adderall Crash and the Cycle of Abuse

Professional treatment can help put a stop to the continuous cycle of Adderall crash and come down. In professional treatment, you can undergo a medically supervised detox where you can be safely weaned off the substance, and your withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated safely and comfortably.

They can also receive the therapy and counseling necessary to help them get to the root of their addiction. Depending on the severity of their addiction, they can enroll in a residential or outpatient program that will provide ongoing therapy and access to an array of services. There are also available alumni and aftercare programs that can provide ongoing support after treatment.

While this process can take months to complete, it can yield the lifelong reward of health and sobriety.

Sources

Adderall: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Safety Info. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/adderall.html

Hom, E. J. (2018, October 18). Adderall: Uses, Side Effects and Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/41013-adderall.html

Hub. (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/

Rodden, J., & Rodden, J. (2018, March 21). Adderall XR. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/medication/adderall-xr/

Times, H. (2014, January 23). Adderall: America's Favorite Amphetamine. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/high-times/adderall-amphetamine_b_4174297.html

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