Adderall dependence is extremely common and many people use the drug medically or recreationally to get through the day. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Adderall abuse is most common among young adults ages 18 to 25.1 Another study found that about 1 in 3 college students reported misusing Adderall.2 College-age Adderall abusers widely view the drug as a study aid that helps them feel more awake and more capable of studying or completing tasks in a work environment, but the misuse of this drug has unintended consequences.
People who misuse Adderall often end up taking it for months or even years, leading to dependence, addiction, withdrawal, and ultimately a very difficult time quitting. If you are dependent on Adderall, it may feel like there’s no way out, but there is a safe, comfortable, and effective way to stop taking Adderall.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug that is frequently prescribed by doctors to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, among other medical conditions. Adderall is chemically similar to methamphetamine but the two drugs are not the same.
Some elements that are used to make Adderall are known as amphetamines, which enhance performance by stimulating the central nervous system. Adderall increases the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain (dopamine and norepinephrine), which activate the brain’s reward system and boost certain bodily functions. Adderall elevates blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and suppresses appetite. As a result, when a person takes Adderall, they feel more focused, alert, energetic, and more confident in their ability to complete certain tasks.
Not surprisingly, Adderall is often referred to as a “smart drug.” Although it won’t make you smarter, you may feel like you perform better at work or school with it. And if you’re used to taking it regularly for performance purposes, you are likely to feel deflated without it.
The boost in cognitive and physical functioning promotes widespread abuse of Adderall among several populations including students, athletes, and individuals working high-stress jobs in tech, business, and other industries.
Long-Term Adderall Use and Abuse
Long-term use of Adderall is damaging to the brain. If you use it for a prolonged period, your body adjusts by changing the chemical makeup of your brain. This results in physical dependence on the drug. Once you are physically dependent on Adderall, it is very difficult to quit.
Not only do Adderall abusers face the downside of losing the productivity and energy they gain from this “smart drug,” but they also face the negative side effects of what’s known as the “Adderall crash.”
If you’ve taken large doses of Adderall or binge on it for several days in a row, you are likely to experience a crash when you try to stop. This crash usually starts within a few hours of your last dose and can last several days. It’s characterized by extreme physical and mental exhaustion along with moderate to severe feelings of depression.4
On the contrary, if you take Adderall on a regular, daily schedule, you aren’t likely to experience the severe crash described above like you would if you abuse it heavily. However, you will still experience withdrawal symptoms—they will just be more gradual.
The Adderall crash and withdrawal symptoms are what make quitting this stimulant drug so difficult. The discomfort of withdrawal, the fear of crashing, and the false sense of security the drug provides in academic, athletic, or business settings often keeps people chained to Adderall for weeks, months, and years of their lives.
Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms
Unlike some other withdrawal syndromes such as alcohol withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal, Adderall withdrawal symptoms are not usually medically dangerous, although they can be severely uncomfortable. Typically, the most potent danger is the likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts due to the severe depression that accompanies Adderall withdrawal.
Adderall withdrawal is different for everyone and its severity and duration will vary depending on individual factors like the nature of your Adderall use, how long you’ve used it, and your method of use, among other things.
If you are physically dependent on Adderall or addicted to it, your brain has already adjusted to its constant presence in your body. However, when you try to quit, your brain will be tricked into experience low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which is linked to severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
These changes in the body and brain cause many physical side effects, known as withdrawal symptoms.
|Common Adderall withdrawal symptoms include: |
Adderall withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks—it depends on the person. However, withdrawal symptoms are often more severe to start and gradually dissipate as time goes on. The depression associated with Adderall withdrawal is temporary for most people, but for some, it can linger for weeks or months after they quit using Adderall.
How to Taper Off Adderall
Quitting Adderall cold turkey can result in extremely severe withdrawal symptoms, relapse, or dangerous suicidal behaviors. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s also very uncomfortable. Instead, medical professionals recommend a slow and gradual taper that will wean you off the drug. This should always be completed under the guidance and supervision of a doctor.
If you choose to ignore this advice and taper yourself off of Adderall on your own at home, it’s wisest to only do so when you are accompanied by a trusted friend or family member who can monitor you throughout the process and get medical help if necessary.
Certain things can help you cope with the discomfort of withdrawal and successfully detox without using Adderall, such as:
- Eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water
- Practicing calming activities like yoga or meditation
- Giving yourself time to rest and recuperate
- Surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy to combat depression
- Staying busy to distract yourself from cravings, symptoms, and thoughts about using
- Exercising regularly to boost the natural release of neurotransmitters
- Using over-the-counter medications to relieve some withdrawal symptoms6
Medical Detox for Adderall Addiction
Ultimately, medical detox is the safest, most comfortable, and most effective way to stop using Adderall if you are dependent or addicted to it. Medical detox provides round-the-clock clinical and medical care to treat the physical and psychological symptoms of Adderall withdrawal.
Although there are currently no approved medications for treating amphetamine withdrawal symptoms, during medical detox, a doctor can prescribe antidepressants to help you manage symptoms of depression or sleep aids to help you get some rest. When administered by a doctor at a detox center or alternative medical setting, these prescription drugs can be used safely to help you cope.
A medical detox program for Adderall addiction can also provide treatment for any underlying (diagnosed or undiagnosed) mental health issues that may impact your ability to fully recover or deal with the symptoms of Adderall withdrawal during detox.
All individualized detox programs should begin with a comprehensive medical and mental health assessment. This allows the treatment staff to design a detox program that addresses your personal needs and ensures the best and safest treatment for you. Clinical care with individual and group therapy should also be provided, with H&I meetings being an additional way to provide encouragement and peer support as you make the transition to recovery.
Drug Rehab for Adderall Addiction
If you are severely addicted to Adderall, you may also benefit from long-term drug rehab, which will provide continued medical and clinical care, life skills development, and behavioral therapy to address addictive behaviors. Drug rehab will also work to address the underlying causes of your Adderall addiction and help you cope without it.
Depending on the severity of your addiction and your circumstances, a treatment provider may recommend a residential drug rehab program or an intensive outpatient program for the best chance at a full recovery.
If you’re ready to end your Adderall addiction and move forward with your life, call (512) 605-2955 to speak with a Nova Recovery Center admissions representative about your treatment options. We provide comprehensive addiction treatment services and accept most insurance for drug rehab.