Adderall Addiction & Detox Guide
Adderall Symptoms, Timeline, and Effects
Adderall is an amphetamine medication that is used to treat the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Adderall acts on several monoamine neurotransmitter systems in the brain—in particular, norepinephrine, and dopamine—to promote wakefulness in people with narcolepsy and to increase focus and create what some call a “paradoxical calming effect” in those with ADHD.1 Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has accepted medical uses but should be closely monitored due to the potential it poses for abuse and dependence.2
While Adderall has legitimate medical use, taking it recreationally or taking too much can have serious consequences. Consider the following statistics:3
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), half of all amphetamine-related emergency room visits in 2010 involved nonmedical use of the drug.
- Almost a third of those visits involved adverse reactions to amphetamine medications.
- Roughly half of the amphetamine-related emergencies involved the use of an additional prescription medication, and nearly 1/5th involved the use of other substances, most commonly marijuana or alcohol.
These statistics underscore the high risk of abusing Adderall and the risk of abusing Adderall with other substances.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Use?
Although Adderall is effective for managing ADHD and narcolepsy, it is often abused by people who don’t have prescriptions or by those who misuse their prescriptions. Many people misuse Adderall to enhance studying, increase energy, lose weight, and get high.4,5, It’s important to know what to look for if you suspect that someone you know is abusing Adderall with or without a prescription. Common signs and symptoms of Adderall use and abuse include:4,5,6,7
- Decreased need for sleep.
- Increased sociability.
- Increased energy and attentiveness.
- Noticeable changes in behavior, such as intense anger, hostility, or paranoia.
- Increased body temperature.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Psychomotor agitation (repetitive, purposeless movements).
- Changes in appetite/marked weight loss.
- Intranasal effects, such as nosebleeds or irritated nasal mucosa.
- Signs of injection use, such as track lines, puncture marks, abscesses, or cellulitis.
- “Doctor shopping,” or seeing multiple doctors to get several prescriptions.
Knowing the potential signs of abuse can prepare you to help someone who might have an Adderall problem. There are many detox and addiction treatment options available for someone who needs help quitting Adderall. Formal treatment programs provide patients with the structure, support, and care needed to help them withdraw comfortably and achieve long-term recovery.
What Are the Risks of Adderall Abuse?
Abusing Adderall is not without serious physical and mental health risks. The longer you abuse Adderall, the higher your risk is of experiencing detrimental consequences, which is why it’s so pertinent that you seek detox and treatment sooner rather than later. If you are hesitant about seeking treatment, consider the following long-term consequences of Adderall abuse:4,6,7,8
- Tolerance, resulting in a need for increased doses to achieve a high, increases the risk of adverse effects
- Dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms if you attempt to quit or significantly cut down on use
- If injected, increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, tetanus, tuberculosis, infection of the heart lining, and blockage of blood vessels due to insoluble fillers in the tablets
- Intranasal consequences, such as inflammation of the nasal mucosa and perforated nasal septum
- Persistently elevated blood pressure
- Cardiac rhythm changes
- Heart attack
- Erratic or dangerous behaviors due to paranoia
- Severe mood swings
Adderall abuse is dangerous and even life-threatening. It’s not worth the risk. Quitting Adderall can help you take the vital steps towards a healthier and happier life.
Effects and Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal
Adderall users are at high risk for developing psychological and physiological dependence. If you’ve become dependent on Adderall, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit. The length of detox and severity of symptoms of Adderall withdrawal will vary from person to person and may include:5,6,8
- Aches and pains.
- Vivid or unpleasant dreams and nightmares.
- Sleep disturbances – either insomnia or hypersomnia.
- Increased appetite.
- Impaired social functioning.
- Nervousness, anxiety, or panic.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
- Irritability and/or other mood disturbances.
- Dysphoria, or a general feeling of dissatisfaction.
Adderall Detox Timeline and Protocol
The length of time it takes to fully detox from Adderall fully can range anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks.9 Individual timelines and the severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on several factors including:9
- Average dose being regularly taken at the time of cessation. Detox can last longer for those who take higher or very frequent doses.
- Length of time taking Adderall. Those who have been on the medication for longer periods of time may experience more persistent and severe symptoms.
Many individuals with concurrent medical or mental health conditions or who are abusing substances in addition to Adderall begin recovery with the help of professional detox and substance abuse treatment facilities. Supervised detoxification facilities will have clinicians on hand who know how to detox patients off Adderall safely and who will closely monitor you through withdrawal; medications to ease some of the more severe symptoms of acute Adderall withdrawal may be administered, if needed.10
Detox programs will often comprise the initial period of a more robust, longer-term rehabilitation program or will otherwise help you transition into one after successful navigation of the withdrawal period. Once detoxification has been successfully completed and a comprehensive treatment regimen commences, you can expect to participate in various group, individual, and family counseling sessions;10 some treatment facilities also offer classes such as art or yoga therapy as well.
It is important to note that it is most common to relapse within the first 4 weeks after quitting; therefore, it is important to consider home and environmental supports that can enhance you or your loved one’s chances of a successful detox and recovery from Adderall.
Do I Need Detox?
There are a number of telltale behaviors associated with compulsive stimulant use. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to identify some of these behaviors as well as other signs and symptoms to diagnose a stimulant use disorder. If you or a loved one recognize at least 2 of the following signs of Adderall use disorder, please consider speaking to someone who can help you find appropriate detox and treatment help:11
- You consume more Adderall than you intend to or more than is prescribed.
- You have failed in your attempts to quit using Adderall or focus on quitting often.
- You spend a lot of time using Adderall or trying to obtain it.
- You often neglect responsibilities at home, at work, or at school in favor of using Adderall.
- You notice that using Adderall worsens your health but continue using it.
- You use Adderall in situations that could be dangerous or even life-threatening — for instance while driving or working at a job where your attention is required to prevent injury.
- You give up activities that you once enjoyed in order to use Adderall.
- You notice that you are using more Adderall to get the desired effect or you notice that it does not have the same effect that it once had.
- You experience symptoms of withdrawal if you attempt to stop using Adderall.
Dangers of Continued Adderall Abuse
Adderall poses several risks of long-term misuse, including:8,9
- Cardiovascular complications.
- Abnormal dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission.
In addition, Adderall abuse may increase the likelihood of the following mental health issues:7,8,9
- Anxiety and panic.
- Anger and aggression.
These risks highlight the importance of finding help for an addiction to Adderall. It’s never too late to begin on the road to recovery.
How Does Supervised Detox Help?
Because Adderall withdrawal, in some cases, is associated with mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression, it can be important to detox in a program in which you can get support for these issues. A detox program can furthermore help with relapse prevention while supportively managing other significantly troublesome symptoms.
Seeking professional help for Adderall detox will increase the likelihood of a more pleasant withdrawal experience and allow for expedient management of any complication sot arise during the process. Professional medical staff will be able to monitor for any adverse effects as you progress through withdrawal and mitigate them supportively.10
The length of time it takes to detox from Adderall and the intensity of symptoms you may experience vary widely from person to person. Seeking guidance and supervision in a formal treatment program will help you to detox in a safe and more comfortable manner, which will also reduce the likelihood of relapsing to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal.
Finding a Treatment Program
If you believe you would benefit from treatment for Adderall dependence or addiction there are several options available.
Supervised Outpatient Detox
This type of care might entail a gradual tapering of prescribed Adderall with close physician supervision of your withdrawal process via regular outpatient check-ins. After you’ve successfully detoxed, you will generally be advised to continue with some form of substance rehabilitation in which you can continue the process of recovering from Adderall addiction.
Speak to your physician to discuss whether this option might be appropriate for you.
Supervised Inpatient Detox
Inpatient detox may be the preferred option for many people who are suffering with relatively more severe Adderall addictions and addiction-related concerns. It can provide an appropriately immersive level of treatment for those who have been abusing high doses of Adderall, who use Adderall with other substances like alcohol, or who have co-occurring mental or physical health conditions—all of which can significantly complicate the withdrawal syndrome.
Detox facilities will help you through the acute withdrawal symptoms that will occur the first week to 2 weeks after deciding to quit Adderall. Additional behavioral interventions may include:5
- Group behavioral therapy.
- Individual counseling sessions.
- Support group attendance.
- Recreational therapy and other wellness activities.
Detox protocols and treatment settings vary from program to program; it is important to speak to a professional who can evaluate your unique situation and make appropriate treatment recommendations.
Once you’ve cleared your body of Adderall, you can begin the real work of recovering from addiction. Without continued treatment, you could be at higher risk of relapse, especially if you immediately return to the environment that fostered your maladaptive use of substances to begin with. Options for ongoing care include outpatient programs and residential rehab centers.10
Maintaining abstinence from Adderall can be difficult when living in the same environment in which you previously abused the drug. Often, there are triggers in your immediate environment that could promote relapse if you don’t have the proper support. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) can help you to smoothly navigate this transitional phase—which is critical to long-term sobriety.12 You can expect group therapy to be the primary focus of either of these structured outpatient options, but some offer weekly family sessions and individual sessions as needed.
PHP often entails a full day of group substance abuse therapy. The hospital/clinical setting will facilitate the prescribing of any needed medications and access to other medical services. Meeting for a few scheduled hours a day throughout the week, IOP provides a group therapy program where medications are managed by your outside provider.10 There are substance abuse-specific and mental health-specific programs. Again, each facility is different, so it is important to speak to someone who can refer you to the right facility for your sustained recovery.
Residential Rehab Programs
Completion of detox is the beginning—not the entirety—of addiction treatment. More extensive counseling, behavioral therapy, supportive group meetings, and sober skills training will make up a larger portion of more comprehensive treatment programming. Many residential programs will include both a supervised detox and longer-term, ongoing therapy. In an inpatient rehab program, you may participate in services and activities such as:
- Individual therapy.
- Family therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Classes on nutrition and healthy eating.
- Skills training.
- Alternative therapies like yoga and medication.
- Aftercare planning.
These facilities can greatly vary in price and location so it is important to speak to someone who can help you make the decision that is within your budget that also suits your treatment needs.
- Heal, David J. Smith, Sharon L. Gosden, Jane. Nutt, David J. (2013). Amphetamine, past and present – a pharmacological and clinical perspective. J Psychopharmacol, 27(6): 479–496.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.) Drug Scheduling.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). The Dawn Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Stimulant Medications.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2017). Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Misuse of Prescription Drugs.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription Stimulants.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Prescription Stimulant Medications (Amphetamines).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aging. (2004). Models of Intervention and Care for Psychostimulant Users, 2nd Edition.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.