Adderall, a patented blend of amphetamine salts, is one of the most widely prescribed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) medications in the United States. While the rate of prescription has grown amongst adults, it is often times prescribed to children, sometimes as young as 7. Despite its credibility as an FDA approved drug and its widespread medical use, the effects of Adderall can be very dangerous, particularly for those whom the medication was not intended. That said, Adderall remains one of the most commonly abused prescription medications given its recreational value and high level of availability.
Chemically speaking, Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine, more commonly known as “crystal meth”, which is notorious for its toxic and far reaching effects on both the mind and body. The effects of Adderall also resemble those of methamphetamine, although to a lesser extent. So given that similarity, it should come as no surprise that it carries many of the same withdrawal symptoms when individuals cease the use of Adderall.
These are some of the most commonly reported symptoms of Adderall withdrawal:
1) Extreme Fatigue
One of the most common symptoms of adderall withdrawal is extreme fatigue. Individuals often find that they have a very hard time staying awake for long periods of time, or maintaining any level of energy for their daily activities. This symptom can last for days to months, and can cause great emotional stress in one’s life.
2) Sleep Disturbances
Many times users of adderall, particularly those who have used the drug for extended periods of time, will experience problems in their sleep patterns. This may manifest in different ways depending on the individual. Some will experience broken sleep patterns, waking often through the course of the night. It is also commonly reported that users sleep for longer than they normally might otherwise after the cessation of use.
It is common for those detoxifying from Adderall to experience varying levels of insomnia, due to both the psychological and physical effects of withdrawal. In other words, the physiological aftermath of extended periods of amphetamine use, particularly on a neurological level, combined with the feelings of anxiety and depression that many suffer from after stopping the drug, contribute to this symptom. Often the inability to sleep persists for some time, despite the individual reporting extreme fatigue in conjunction with the insomnia.
4) Increased Appetite
Amphetamines such as Adderall and other drugs classified as Central Nervous System stimulants inhibit feelings of hunger in most users, often leading to weight loss. Most times, when individuals discontinue use of these stimulants, they develop large appetites to compensate for the lack of nutrition from the time prior.
5) Memory Impairment
It is unclear as to why so many people report problems with memory when they stop using Adderall, but it is believed to be the result of an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Adderall deals primarily with the chemicals dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine in the brain, all of which are closely tied to the cognitive processes of the mind. Many report other forms of cognitive impairment following the cessation of Adderall.
6) Drug-Related Dreams
This symptom is generally related to the patterns of sleep disturbance that is often experienced during withdrawal. Because of the psychological component of adderall addiction, many users crave the drug once it is no longer in their system. It is speculated that this manifests itself in dreams in which the individual uses or seeks out to acquire the drug.
Anhedonia is a condition that many experiences after stopping the use of Adderall and other amphetamines. It is defined as a loss of pleasure or interest in otherwise pleasurable activities. Because of the drastic effect of Adderall on the pleasure systems of the brain, users become adjusted to the increased secretion of Dopamine and other pleasure related chemicals, particularly after long-term use. When the drug is no longer stimulating those areas of the brain, users find it harder to achieve and maintain the base level of happiness that was experienced while under the influence.
Many who quit Adderall abruptly find that they experience strong feelings of anxiety after stopping. There are a number of reasons that this may be attributed to. First of all, Adderall is often abused for its performance enhancing, or at least perceived benefits. Whether it be in an academic or physical arena, many find that they can no longer function without it. Ceasing to take the drug can cause feelings of unease at the prospect of having to face life without the drug. On a physiological level, there is also some causation for anxious feelings while withdrawing from Adderall. Acetylcholine, which aids with cognitive functioning, as well as serotonin, which contributes to feelings of well being are both triggered by the drug. In its absence, individuals will feel the effects in their moods, generally manifesting as anxiety.
This is one of the most common symptoms in the withdrawal process from any drug, but very much so in the process of withdrawing from Adderall. As with anxiety, the depressive tendencies that accompany adderall cessation are usually cause by a mixture of psychological and physiological effects. On a physical level, there is a profound level of disturbance in brain chemistry, mostly in the pleasure areas. This deficit is an obvious factor towards the depression that ensues. There are also a number of psychological factors surrounding this, including the guilt and shame that many users feel for having become so dependent on the drug at all. No longer having the stimulant-induced euphoria, individuals find themselves in a state of malaise, sometimes for months after stopping.
10) Drug Cravings
It is not uncommon for those who have stopped taking adderall to begin to crave the drug. When the brain chemistry is derailed without the amphetamine, neural pathways struggle to restore to stasis, which is a regulated and ideal state of function. Many find that they have intense yearning to ingest the drug, often causing them to return to use even if they have resolved to stop.
While these are the most commonly reported symptoms, there are many others that may be experienced when one decides to stop taking Adderall. However, their duration is only temporary. Most find that they have returned to a normal, healthy state within a few weeks, but some do experience PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms) for months after. If you are struggling with Adderall addiction and looking to quit, please reach out for help.