Original article written for Poosh.com
Prescription medications are an incredibly personal and sensitive topic. At the same time, many of us are either living with long-term prescriptions or took them in the past. One of the most commonly prescribed medications in the US is Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat attention disorders like ADHD. As recently as 2018, approximately 16 million US adults were prescribed stimulants (with only 11 million using them properly), the majority of those being women. And while some people make the decision to wean themselves off of the drug, it’s no easy task.
If you’ve decided to stop taking Adderall and your doctor has advised that it’s fine to start the journey, there are some things to keep in mind and crucial steps to take. The process won’t be easy, and you’ll face symptoms that vary from sleep and appetite issues to trouble concentrating. That’s not to say that it’s not possible, however, because there are natural solutions out there to try. The most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, this is your choice and your journey, and with some patience and hard work you’ll get to where you want to be.
Common Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal:
Signs of exhaustion and fatigue almost immediately are normal. You can expect to feel a sudden wave of tiredness within just hours of your last dose of Adderall. Because Adderall is a stimulant, it causes an intense crash once the effects leave your body. This feeling of extreme fatigue can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. Most people will experience it for about a week after their last dose.
With fatigue can come feelings of depression and irritability. Depression from Adderall withdrawal is temporary, but for some people it can last weeks or even months after their last dose. This can include sadness, a sense of hopelessness, lack of energy, feelings of guilt and regret, self-criticism, sleep issues, and trouble thinking. In most cases, post-Adderall depression is most intense the first week after stopping your prescription.
Poor Quality of Sleep
After stopping Adderall, you can expect to have some issues sleeping for a few days to a week. Some people experience insomnia during this time period; others sleep too much. This can be extremely disruptive, as many people report sleeping through important appointments, class, and even work.
Body Aches, Pains, Headaches
Unfortunately, physical pain is another common symptom that most people experience when they stop using Adderall. Body aches and pains typically arise 7-10 days after stopping your prescription. Headaches are also very common and occur during this same time period.
You can expect your appetite to pick back up about a week after stopping Adderall. This is because one of the biggest side effects of Adderall is loss of appetite. Therefore, the withdrawal effect is the complete opposite, and your hunger increases within 7-10 days.
This is a tricky symptom of ending Adderall use. Mood swings can vary, from agitation to paranoia to severe feelings of anxiousness and irritability. Many people feel as though they’re being judged by those around them, become frustrated easily, and experience an overall change in their personality. This is more common when prescribed a higher dosage of Adderall.
Because Adderall increases concentration, withdrawal reverses that effect and many people report difficulty concentrating. This can feel like an overall fogginess of the brain or like the mind is in several different places at once. It’s frustrating but is known to pass within a few weeks.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
By improving the overall quality of your sleep, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor to make this transition period easier. Good sleep hygiene involves an established sleep routine. Try your hardest to get in bed at the same time every night to prepare your mind and body to get used to doing it. You’ll also want to detach yourself from electronics before bedtime. Yes, it’s tempting to scroll through Instagram right before rolling over and going to sleep, but being on your phone makes it a lot more difficult to fall asleep. The same goes for your television or laptop—keep that bluelight away. If you’re really having a hard time falling asleep, try altering the environment altogether. Get yourself some fluffier pillows, wear a sleep mask, and try earplugs if necessary. If listening to soothing sounds at night helps you, turn on a relaxing playlist as you lay down. Also be sure to keep your room at a temperature that’s most comfortable for you.
Stay Hydrated and Nourished
In general, staying hydrated is one of the simplest ways to beat fatigue. That said, people often don’t drink as much water as they should, so be extra cautious as you stop your Adderall prescription. Keep track of how much water you’re drinking throughout the day and, if it helps, download an app that will remind you to have a glass at various times throughout the day. Eating nutritious foods is also very important, as foods that are extra-processed can also cause fatigue. Get as many greens as possible and keep your plate clean.
This is easier said than done, but it’s crucial that you try your hardest to stay relaxed. Because feelings of paranoia and anxiety are very common symptoms of Adderall withdrawal, you’ll want to try your best to not trigger them further. Meditation is extremely beneficial and there are plenty of guided meditations that you can do daily. Herbal teas may also help you relax at night before bed.
Avoid Other Stimulants
There are plenty of other stimulants that can make this transition period even harder, so steer clear of those at all costs. If anything makes it increasingly difficult to relax and get some rest, avoid it. Some of the most common stimulants are caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. If you absolutely need your dose of caffeine, avoid drinking it in the afternoon or the evening. While alcohol is technically a sedative, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep and cause you to feel worse the next morning.
Increasing your protein intake helps balance your blood sugar levels and can help you focus better. Protein is very beneficial for your overall brain health, and eating the right foods can boost concentration. Some great sources of protein include fish, beans, nuts, spinach, and broccoli.
Mucuna pruriens serves as a natural alternative to Dopamine. It can provide an overall sense of wellbeing, enhance brain function, and elevate your mood. Also known as the velvet bean, Mucuna pruriens can be found in capsules and powders.
Magnesium is commonly used to help treat sleep disturbances and even insomnia. As an Adderall alternative, magnesium can help with restlessness and hyperactivity, which are also common side effects of a magnesium deficiency.