Although Adderall® is an immensely useful medication when used in clinical settings, many people abuse Adderall and become addicted. This is especially common among young adults, and quitting can be harder than one may think. Because it is a legal substance when prescribed, many people believe it to be perfectly safe and non-addictive. However, individuals can go through Adderall withdrawal when quitting, experience physical dependency, and need help in order to get off it.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is the trade name for a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two stimulants of the central nervous system (CNS). It is most often prescribed by a clinician to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. Many people take amphetamine as prescribed and find it very helpful in managing symptoms, but OHSU estimates that 22% of students with a stimulant medication have taken more than prescribed.
Adderall comes in pill form, and is most often taken orally. However, people may also abuse it by crushing it and snorting it. This stimulant acts by activating the central nervous system, giving the user a sense of euphoria, energy, and focus. Adderall also comes in an extended release form, called Adderall XR. Approved in 1960 by the FDA, there are many companies today that make generic forms of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
Adderall is most commonly abused as a “study drug.” A study drug is a drug often abused by college students to help them study. Adderall is often abused on college campuses for its properties of increasing energy and focus. According to SAMHSA, college students are over twice as likely to abuse prescription stimulants as individuals not in school at the same age. This is how many people begin experimenting with Adderall and other stimulants, not realizing just how addictive it can be.
Adderall is also commonly used with other drugs to help keep individuals awake. This is known as polysubstance abuse, which is when an individual uses multiple drugs at once to achieve desired effects. It is often abused with depressants like opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. When taking depressants with Adderall, the stimulating properties give the user the ability to stay awake and get higher. However, polysubstance abuse is incredibly dangerous, resulting in many overdose deaths.
Even thought it is a legal substance when prescribed, Adderall can produce symptoms of withdrawal when the user quits. Although it may not be one of the worst drug withdrawals out there (like opiates, alcohol, or benzodiazepines), it still can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful.
Withdrawal happens when somebody who is taking a drug stops using the drug. With Adderall, the body has become accustomed to functioning with the stimulants in the body. Adderall withdrawal happens because the brain and body suddenly have to adjust to the absence of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. This may happen if a user is abusing the drug, but it may also arise even if an individual is taking it exactly as prescribed.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Adderall withdrawal symptoms may vary from individual to individual, as with any form of alcohol or drug withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall are dependent on the person’s length of use, the dose of use, if any other drugs are being abused, existing mental health disorders, and individual body chemistry.
Common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, or Adderall crash, include:
- Craving for more stimulants
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Irritability and anger
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Unhappiness or depression
- Fear or paranoia
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
- Severe mood swings
The timeline of withdrawal symptoms from Adderall again varies from individual to individual. Generally, withdrawal symptoms will begin arising within the first 12-24 hours after the last dose. The symptoms will generally worse for the first 3-5 days, when they will peak. As you get through the first week, symptoms will begin to subside. The anger, anxiety, mood swings, and cravings will begin to subside in the second week, with symptoms perhaps lingering for a week or two after.
Although Adderall is a prescription medication, many people go to detox to help themselves get off it. At a detoxification facility, professionals can help manage symptoms of Adderall withdrawal. In addition, they can recommend therapists, treatment centers, and coping mechanisms to help you stay clean off drugs and alcohol.