How Long Does Withdrawal From Adderall Last?

Adderall dependence is more common than you might think. It can happen to anyone who has been using it for an extended period of time, even people who take it exactly as directed. When you become physically dependent on a drug like Adderall, it means that when you try to quit you will experience withdrawal symptoms.

If you’ve been using Adderall to study, get high, or to feel more awake, you can also become addicted to it. Addiction is a complex disease that adds another layer of difficulty to the withdrawal experience.

Overview

According to research published in 2016, Adderall misuse is most common among people ages 18 to 25. A sizable portion of these users take Adderall because they believe it makes them smarter or more capable of studying.

Adderall use can be daily or intermittent. Some people take Adderall under a doctor’s supervision to treat ADHD, while others acquire it illicitly or intentionally abuse it.

When it comes to withdrawal, the context actually doesn’t matter too much. Anyone who has been using amphetamines for an extended period of time can experience withdrawal symptoms.

If you take large, nontherapeutic doses of Adderall or go on Adderall binges (consecutive days of large doses), then you have probably experienced an Adderall crash before.

The Adderall crash is like an intense mini-withdrawal. It typically begins within several hours of your last dose and can continue for one or two days. Most people experience physical and mental exhaustion along with a markedly depressed mood.

After an Adderall binge, you are likely to be sleep deprived and starving. You may eat and sleep a lot while you recuperate.

When you quit Adderall for good, your symptoms will resemble those of an Adderall crash in the beginning, but they will become less intense over time.

If you are not coming off an Adderall binge or you take your Adderall on a regular, daily schedule, then withdrawal symptoms can appear more slowly. You may not notice any symptoms until a couple of days go by.

Adderall withdrawal typically lasts up to one week, but you may have lingering psychological symptoms and cravings for several weeks or months.

Unlike other withdrawal syndromes, Adderall withdrawal is not associated with any dangerous medical problems. The primary risk that your depressed mood will escalate to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Signs and Symptoms

Adderall withdrawal is different for everyone. Your withdrawal experience will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of your Adderall use. If you have a stimulant use disorder (Adderall addiction), then there will be additional issues to contend with in the weeks following your last dose.

The initial withdrawal syndrome can be severe. Withdrawal may affect your ability to function normally and fulfill your responsibilities at home, school, and work.

When you use or abuse Adderall for any extended period of time, it changes the way your brain works.

Adderall increases the activity of two neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in your brain: norepinephrine and dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for activating your brain’s reward system. Norepinephrine is responsible for boosting your alertness, focus, and cognitive functions. Both play a role in mood regulation.

During long-term Adderall use, your brain gets used to the increased activity of these neurotransmitters. Withdrawal symptoms occur because your brain is experiencing what it believes to be low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Scientific studies have linked decreased dopamine and norepinephrine activity with severe depression, suicidality, and loss of pleasure.

It’s no wonder that the hallmark of Adderall withdrawal is depression. Depression from Adderall withdrawal is temporary, typically continuing for about one week after your last dose. In some people, however, depression can linger for weeks or months.

Severe depression is a lot different than just feeling sad. You may experience:

  • Feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities that normally bring you pleasure, such as sex or exercise
  • Extreme irritability or frustration
  • A complete lack of energy or excessive tiredness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Feeling like you’re moving, thinking, or talking slower than usual
  • Intense self-criticism or a sense of worthlessness 
  • Feelings of guilt and regret
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Problems thinking, focusing, or making plans
  • Unusual aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts.

Because your brain is reacting to low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, the withdrawal symptoms are not limited to depression.

One recent study found that changes in brain chemistry during amphetamine withdrawal might make people more sensitive to stress. This may explain why things that normally wouldn’t bother you feel extremely annoying or frustrating during withdrawal.

Another study, in rats, found that amphetamines alter brain chemistry in such a way that encourages reward-seeking behavior. The researchers found that these changes lasted for months after the rats’ last dose. This provides a good explanation for why drug cravings are so persistent and why people withdrawing from Adderall seek out other ways to trigger their reward system, such as overeating.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, other symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:

  • Vivid or unpleasant dreams
  • Increased appetite
  • Problems thinking or concentration
  • Slowed movements or reflexes
  • An unusually slow heartrate  
  • Headaches
  • Adderall cravings 

Most people’s symptoms will resolve within a few weeks. After the withdrawal period, however, you may face some unexpected psychological, social, or emotional problems.

A depressive episode can have long-lasting effects, such as bringing up painful or traumatic thoughts, feelings, and memories. You may also have to contend with the consequences of failing to meet your responsibilities during withdrawal. This may include problems at work, school, or home.

Coping and Relief

Unfortunately, there are no medications currently recommended for the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal, but there are some things you can do to reduce your discomfort. With the help of your doctor, you may want to consider the following medications:

  • Anti-anxiety medications: Although these drugs are usually not recommended, especially not in the long-term, they may provide some relief for the first few days of withdrawal. If you are experiencing intense irritation, aggravation, or aggression, talk to your doctor about getting a week’s worth of a long-acting benzodiazepine like clonazepam (Klonopin).
  • OTC pain relievers: If you are experiencing bad headaches or body aches, consider an over-the-counter painkiller like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or Excedrin. 
  • Sleep aids: If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about a prescription sleep aid like Ambien. You can also use an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl (not the non-drowsy kind). 
  • Antidepressants: If you start taking them in advance, antidepressants might help prevent lingering, post-withdrawal depression, but they have not been shown to reduce acute symptoms of withdrawal. 

Other things you can do to ensure a smooth and safe withdrawal experience include:

  • Asking someone you trust (like a sibling, parent, or friend) to check in on you from time to time to make sure you’re alright. 
  • Planning to take some time off of your daily responsibilities and obligations. Give yourself some time to rest and recuperate by taking a few days off from work, school, and studying. 
  • Preparing for cravings by cutting off your supply. Avoid a relapse by dumping your stash or telling your supplier to cut you off. 
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthy meals. You need to replenish your body with vitamins and electrolytes. 
  • Preparing for a depressed mood by surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy or peace, even if those things are just ice cream and a good Netflix binge. 
  • Exercising to encourage the release of natural feel-good neurotransmitters.

Warnings

Adderall is generally considered to be safe for home withdrawal. Unlike other drugs with complicated withdrawal syndromes, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, withdrawing from amphetamines is unlikely to trigger any serious medical problems.

The problem with Adderall withdrawal is that it can be a bit unpredictable. It’s hard to know in advance whether you will experience intense depression or extreme irritation.

It could be helpful to talk to a doctor about your plans to quit. Your doctor may be able to give you both short- and long-term support.

The primary risk of going through Adderall withdrawal on your own is that you will experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Even if you have no history of suicidal thoughts or depression, it is still a risk. Adderall has serious effects on your brain chemistry and it is difficult to predict how your moods will shift.

Long-Term Treatment

Long-term treatment for amphetamine withdrawal will depend in part on the nature of your amphetamine use. If you were taking Adderall for ADHD exactly as your doctor prescribed, then you probably won’t need any long-term treatment at all.

If you’ve been misusing or abusing Adderall for some time, you would definitely benefit from a comprehensive, long-term addiction treatment plan.

All drugs of addiction affect dopamine in some indirect way. Stimulants have a direct effect on your dopamine receptors, which basically gives them VIP status in your brain’s reward system. This means that your brain is going to have a lot of trouble resisting cravings.

Think of it like this: you will be starting off with a real physical disadvantage. During withdrawal and in the weeks and months to follow, your brain is going to be weak and vulnerable. To resist drug cravings, you are going to need a lot of support. This may include both medication and psychotherapy.

The leading treatment for amphetamine addiction is behavioral therapy. Two types have proven effective, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).

During CBT, you work with a therapist or counselor to identify and manage your drug triggers. You learn to modify the negative thought patterns that have led you to abuse Adderall in the past, such as believing you can’t ace a test or write a paper without Adderall.

CM is a type of therapy that capitalizes on your brain’s desire to stimulate its reward system. Basically, you work with a counselor to improve your behavior and your counselor rewards you for your successes. For example, when you study for a test without Adderall, your counselor might reward you with a gift card for coffee and donuts.

It is also important to understand that because your brain is craving stimulation of its reward system, you are at risk of developing other substance abuse problems or behavioral addictions. People use all sorts of things as a substitute to amphetamines, including other drugs, nicotine, gambling, shopping, and sex.

Working with a therapist or addiction counselor will help you maintain long-term abstinence from Adderall and a healthy balance in other areas of your life. 

Resources

If you or someone you love is feeling suicidal, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. People are standing by 24/7 to help you in times of crisis.

To find a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in addiction treatment, you can use this searchable directory from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). You can also call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find a provider in your area.

Most colleges have excellent counseling and behavioral health services. Check out your school’s website for more information about the services they offer and how to make an appointment to speak with a counselor. 

A Word From Verywell 

Quitting Adderall isn’t easy. If you’re in school and using Adderall to study, quitting can be particularly hard. There will inevitably be a midterm that you need to cram for or a research paper that has to get done. Working with a therapist or a counselor at your school can help you deal with these triggers and develop new study habits. In fact, you may find that you’re more clear-headed and stable once you cut the Adderall out of your life. 

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