In rare instances, quitting suddenly can cause temporary psychosis, which warrants immediate medical attention if it does occur.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall is a brand-name medication that combines amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. When prescribed and used as intended, it can help control the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy.
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant and considered to have notable abuse and addiction potential. Some people develop problems with Adderall after first getting a legitimate prescription but then begin misusing their medication. Even accidental misuse has the potential to cause physical dependence, which may lead a person to further misuse their medication.
Key Facts About Adderall
- One study found as many as 5 million Americans misused prescription stimulants (which includes Adderall) in an average year.
- Both legitimate use and illegitimate stimulant use are more common among adults with major depressive episodes, suicidal ideation, and substance use problems.
- Many people misuse stimulants in an attempt to achieve “cognitive enhancement,” although evidence that stimulants like Adderall help things like GPA for those without ADHD is limited at best. It may have the opposite effect in some people.
- Like all prescription-grade medications, Adderall should only be taken as prescribed.
Is the Cold-Turkey Approach Safe?
Quitting Adderall and other stimulants cold turkey, meaning a person just suddenly stops taking them without much additional addiction treatment support, isn’t generally associated with life-threatening symptoms. As such, it can generally at least be said not to be significantly dangerous.
However, suddenly stopping the use of stimulants has been sometimes shown to cause serious symptoms, such as psychosis, although exactly which drugs can cause this to happen isn’t immediately clear in the research. Psychosis can be very distressing and dangerous. If it does occur, it warrants immediate medical attention.
Some people confuse amphetamine-induced psychosis with schizophrenia, as these conditions often have similar symptoms, but they are still very different. Quitting Adderall cold turkey doesn’t cause schizophrenia.
What Happens When You Use This Method?
Quitting Adderall cold turkey after using it for a significant period of time is likely to cause withdrawal. This is because the drug is habit-forming and can change the way your brain works over time if it is overused, resulting in physical dependence.
Even if a person doesn’t feel psychologically dependent on Adderall, meaning they don’t feel a strong need on a mental level to use the drug, their body may exhibit negative symptoms in its absence that make quitting cold turkey hard.
Risks & Dangers of Stopping Adderall Cold Turkey
Some key things to keep in mind when considering quitting Adderall cold turkey include the following:
- Often, the biggest risk of trying to quit cold turkey is that it’s particularly difficult compared to other methods of trying to recover from drug dependence. You’ll have a higher likelihood of success if you are supervised by a doctor.
- Some people using Adderall have been prescribed the medication to treat medical conditions. They should not stop using it without first talking to a doctor, or their conditions may start to cause problems again.
- Amphetamine withdrawal can be difficult on both the individual quitting and those around them. It’s worth meeting with an addiction treatment professional together to talk about what to expect.
Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal
Withdrawal from Adderall is characterized by an initial crash as the stimulant wears off, which may cause the following issues:
- Prolonged sleep
- Depression and irritability
- Some drug cravings
This phase typically lasts one or two days. Then, another group of more significant symptoms occur for several days to potentially multiple weeks. These symptoms include the following:
- Significant mood changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Significant drug cravings
It is also during this second phase that psychotic symptoms are likely to manifest if a person is going to experience them. Not everyone who goes through Adderall withdrawal is going to experience these symptoms, although the exact rate of psychosis is unclear.
Tips to Help You Quit
Here are some tips to help you quit using Adderall safely:
- Talk to an addiction treatment professional about your problems and some potential solutions that work for you. Never stop taking the medication suddenly without at least discussing the situation with a medical professional.
- Adopt healthy habits to keep your mind busy, such as exercising or reading, as a way of distracting from drug cravings and improving your mental health.
- Surround yourself with people who support your recovery and avoid those who discourage you from quitting or actively encourage drug use.
Alternatives to Quitting Cold Turkey
Other approaches to stopping Adderall use can be gentler on the body and mind. Here are some alternatives:
If you want to quit Adderall, especially if you’re taking it legitimately but don’t want to anymore, you can talk to a medical professional about tapering your doses. This is the process of slowly lowering how much you take of a drug rather than stopping it all at once.
Tapering can significantly reduce or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms while still letting a person quit use. People must make sure to adhere to the dosing schedule in the tapered approach to quitting use.
If you need more support during withdrawal, outpatient treatment might be a good choice.
Outpatient treatment involves going to addiction treatment professionals throughout the week, receiving treatment and then returning home. The intensity of outpatient treatment can vary, depending on your needs, but it usually allows a person to still work, go to school, or perform other important tasks they can’t take time off from.
Inpatient treatment is a more intense type of addiction treatment where a person stays at a treatment facility for multiple days, usually for at least a few weeks. This method is more expensive and time-consuming, but it can help people in crisis or who have tried multiple times to quit but are still struggling to stop using drugs.
If you have tried to stop misusing Adderall in the past without success, inpatient treatment might be a good first step for you. Once you find a footing in recovery, you can transition to outpatient treatment. Since withdrawal from any substances can sometimes trigger depression and other mental health issues, the support of inpatient detox can be very valuable during this time.
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- Five Million American Adults Misusing Prescription Stimulants. (April 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Do College Students Improve Their Grades by Using Prescription Stimulants Nonmedically? (February 2017). Addictive Behaviors.
- Risk of Psychosis in Illicit Amphetamine Users: A 10 year Retrospective Cohort Study. (February 2022). Evidence-Based Mental Health.
- When Does Amphetamine-Induced Psychosis Become Schizophrenia? (April 2003). American Psychiatric Association.
- Amphetamine Withdrawal Management. (April 2022). SA Health.
- Withdrawal Management. (2009). World Health Organization.