How to Detox, Taper, or Wean Off Adderall
A doctor should always be involved in an Adderall detox process. Uncomfortable side effects can take hold if you quit the drug too fast. Your doctor can set up a tapering schedule, typically lasting a few weeks or a few months, so you can get sober safely.
Adderall is a stimulant medication prescribed to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
In addition, it’s sometimes used to treat narcolepsy. It works by increasing some of the chemical messengers in the brain involved in motivation, concentration, focus, and reward. As a stimulant drug containing both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, Adderall elevates body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure while serving to keep users awake, alert, and energetic. It also suppresses appetite.
When Adderall is used for a prolonged period of time, changes are made to the chemical makeup of the brain that can create a dependence on the drug. When an addiction to, or dependence on, Adderall is formed, detox is the method of removing the drug from the brain and body.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that around 900,000 Americans will use a prescription stimulant drug recreationally, or for nonmedical purposes, each month. These drugs are considered very addictive. It is generally not recommended to stop taking a drug such as Adderall “cold turkey,” or suddenly, which may cause uncomfortable withdrawal side effects. Instead, a slow and controlled taper, or weaning-off period, under medical supervision is considered more desirable.
By slowly reducing the dosage over a period of time, typically a few weeks to a few months depending on the level of dependency, Adderall withdrawal can be safely managed. A doctor or medical professional should set up a tapering schedule for those looking to detox from Adderall. Detox performed under the trained supervision of mental health and medical professionals is called medical detox.
- With the help of a medical professional, set up a slow weaning schedule.
- Seek emotional support and guidance from a mental health professional during detox.
- Keep busy to distract from drug cravings.
- Maintain a healthy eating and sleeping schedule, and take all prescribed medications or supplements.
- Attend support groups, meetings, counseling sessions, family therapy, and aftercare programs.
Dopamine is one of the brain’s neurotransmitters that is involved in feelings of pleasure. It naturally occurs when outside stimuli, such as the smell of desirable food, make someone feel happy. Adderall creates a surge of dopamine in the brain. When Adderall is continuously interfering with dopamine levels, the brain may begin to rely on it and stop making as much of the chemical messenger without its influence.
This means that the brain stops functioning the same way it did before the drug was introduced and now may feel that it needs Adderall in order to stay balanced.
Adderall withdrawal symptoms includes:
- Change in appetite
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Drug cravings
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Muscle aches
These changes in the brain indicate dependence on Adderall. As a result, when the drug leaves the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms may start. Adderall XR has a reported half-life of about 10 hours, according to its manufacturer Shire LLC.
This means that half the amount of Adderall is present in the blood at this point.
Withdrawal symptoms may be both physical and psychological in nature, and they can range in intensity, depending on how ingrained the dependence to Adderall is. Adderall dependence is influenced by the method of use (someone snorting or injecting the drug is more likely to have a higher dependency level than someone swallowing the pills), length of time using the drug, amount taken each dose, family history of substance abuse or dependence, and mental health status.
The more dependent on Adderall a person is, the more powerful and longer the withdrawal period and symptoms may be.
Medical detox is usually completed at a substance abuse treatment center that provides a safe and controlled environment with 24-hour access to medical care and mental health support services. There are no specific medications approved for dependence on stimulant drugs, although sometimes supplements or prescription drugs may be effective in helping reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox.
Withdrawal from Adderall has a large psychological component, and antidepressants may be useful during detox to help manage depression and curb potential suicidal thoughts. Anti-anxiety or mood-stabilizing agents may also help reduce high levels of stress and nervousness that can occur during Adderall detox. Sleep aids may also be beneficial as sleep disturbances are commonly reported during Adderall withdrawal and detox.
Drastic mood swings, panic attacks, and psychosis are potential side effects of Adderall use,
which may be the result of an underlying mental health issue. The journal Brain and Behavior reports that schizophrenia-like symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and mania, may occur with prescription stimulant abuse. These side effects may be more likely to occur in someone with a preexisting condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and may be managed with medication during detox if necessary.
Before entering into a medical detox program, a full medical and mental health assessment should be done as well as a drug-screening test as a method of ensuring the best and safest possible treatment plan.Mental health support and behavioral therapy are helpful during withdrawal and into recovery in an effort to reduce potential relapse. When the reward and motivation centers of the brain are healing, after an addiction to a drug such as Adderall has interfered with their normal function, the emotional toll of recovery and drug cravings may encourage a return to drug abuse for relief. A return to using drugs after stopping for any amount of time is called relapse and is very common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cites that relapse rates for drug addiction are as high as 40-60 percent. The Australian Government Department of Health indicates that relapse is most common within the first month of stopping use of an amphetamine drug. It is crucial to have emotional support during this time.
Detox should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes therapy, counseling, education, and ongoing support.
Addiction is a complex disease that can be treated with the proper care and support, and detox is never considered a complete form of treatment.