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Adderall Addiction, Withdrawal, Side Effects, Alternatives, Tapering

Last Updated on September 20, 2021 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Help for Adderall Withdrawals, Tapering, Alternatives to Adderall, and Addiction Recovery

Adderall addiction treatment at ATMC combines health restoring protocols with tolerable medication withdrawal. In these ways, we are able to comfortably provide customized, natural mental health strategies that are far superior to neurotoxic drugs.

Testing to find and correct underlying reasons for unwanted symptoms, i.e., narcolepsy, fatigue, mental fog, lack of focus in life, lethargy, depression, etc., provides the clearest path back to naturally robust mental health without drugs. This is especially exciting because one can now wean off Adderall without the troublesome symptoms commonly associated with coming off stimulants.

Using holistic, safe, and proven methods of weaning off Adderall, we help our clients regain freedom from drugs and relief from the symptoms that led to drug use in the first place. Where medication dependence and addiction occurred as a result of taking prescription drugs over a substantial length of time, walking back that addiction to Adderall or other stimulant drugs can be best achieved using scientific protocols and methods of treatment.

You can find out more about safe Adderall alternatives such as change of diet, and others, on our medication alternatives page.

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What are Adderall Side Effects?

Initially, the drug causes euphoria, alertness, confidence, energy, focus. As the drug begins to aggressively change brain and CNS function, the drug creates many side effects according to the drug label2 itself, and other sources where indicated below:

  • adderall side effectsDrug cravings
  • Addiction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stunted growth, resulting from suppressed appetite as well as excess dopamine secretion which shuts down growth hormone production. Also, it slows the production of cartilage tissue, bones.1,2
  • Serious cardiovascular events, i.e., sudden death — cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, stroke, seizures, convulsions
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Tachycardia
  • Suicidal thoughts, behavior 21
  • Serotonin syndrome 19
  • Intensified anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Nervousness
  • Hallucinations, psychosis, mania, mixed mania episodes
  • Depression
  • Irritability, paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior (unprovoked) or worsened aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Disrupted sleep, insomnia, vivid unpleasant dreams
  • Respiratory distress, chest pains
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (loss of blood flow to extremities)
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision, trouble with vision accommodation
  • Muscle tics
  • Stomach pains
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Changes in sexual behavior
  • Muscle weakness
  • Worsening of cognitive ability 20

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

After taking a stimulant drug for a long period of time, whether by oral ingestion, snorting, or other methods, stopping the drug can be extremely difficult, and should never be done cold turkey (all at once). One of the most concerning aspects of amphetamine withdrawal syndrome presents as deepening depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior.3

Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • adderall withdrawal symptomsInertia
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Insomnia, vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Hypersomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucination
  • Extreme mood swings, depression, mania
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Increased appetite

Help for Adderall Withdrawals

Alternative to Meds Center provides comfortable, inpatient care and natural holistic help for Adderall withdrawal. The center has developed a wide range of treatments that significantly ease the discomforts and emotional rollercoaster often associated with stimulant withdrawal.

Before tapering begins, testing is done to assess what neurotoxins are present in the body. Toxins hamper the absorption of nutrients and can cause their own sets of unwanted symptoms. These toxins need to be cleared out and doing so is fundamental to neurotransmitter rehabilitation, especially needed after any drug use. The clean-out is accomplished using sauna cleanse, colonic hydrotherapy treatments, nebulized glutathione sessions, IV and NAD therapy, mineral and foot baths, as examples. Once the toxic load has been purged, discontinuing the drug becomes significantly easier to accomplish.

During withdrawal, there are numerous therapies available to ease the process such as Reiki and therapeutic massage, CBT and other personalized counseling, targeted nutritional aids for anxiety, depression, insomnia, or other issues, and many other therapies. You can find much more information about help for Adderall withdrawal on ATMC’s services overview page.

Is Adderall Addictive?

Yes, Adderall is a combination of 4 stimulant drugs — dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, dextroamphetamine sulfate USP, and amphetamine sulfate USP. Every one of these ingredients ranks high for the risk of addiction or dependence. The component dextroamphetamine saccharate is twice as potent as amphetamines.12 The FDA required drugmakers to place a black box warning on ADHD drug packaging stating the high risk of addiction and abuse.2,7,9

Amphetamines have seen periods of popular use in adults for well over 100 years. Stimulant drugs have been used for combating battle fatigue, weight loss, depression, and asthma. Each of these spurts of popularity was cadenced with the drug being banned, or reined in with regulatory controls. It is only in the last few decades that pharmaceutical companies targeted children for the amphetamine market, and have done so excessively. According to statistics reported in a 2012 study in the Journal of Brain Behavior, prescriptions for ADHD drugs for those aged 13-16 doubled from 2006 to 2008. According to the CDC, between 2011 and 2013, over 13.3 % of male children and 5.6% of female children aged 4-11 were diagnosed with ADHD. 8,10

But children are not the only target for stimulant drugs. Despite stricter controls being imposed, it is estimated that the number of people, including adults, children, and teens taking stimulant “ADHD” drugs nationwide increased to 5 million between 1990 and 1998. These numbers are truly staggering, and they keep going skyward. For example, in 2016, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reported the number of American children alone diagnosed with ADHD was well on the way to surpassing 8 million.4

These numbers shouldn’t be glossed over too quickly. They represent generations to come where people may be continuing to take stimulant medication long after they have exited the classroom of their youth. It is the habitual taking of drugs over many months, years, even decades, that develops dependence and addiction. And we have the “adult ADHD” population who have also been prescribed amphetamines in ever-increasing numbers for some decades now. Using correct, effective, and safe protocols, it is possible to come off ADHD drugs and, equally importantly, reduce or eliminate entirely the symptoms that these addictive drugs were prescribed to treat.

At ATMC, we know that proper help for weaning from stimulants involves not going more quickly than the body can tolerate. The right pace allows the various systems in the body to begin to normalize again. We are aiming for a stable recovery from Adderall addiction.

Adult Adderall Addiction

brain effects of adderall addictionAll stimulant drugs carry liability for addiction. Adderall is an amphetamine, a close cousin of the street drug referred to as methamphetamine or meth. Meth has a near-instant onset of effect, as it crosses the blood-brain barrier very easily. Adderall also easily crosses the blood-brain barrier but the onset is slower unless the drug is crushed and either snorted or injected. Both drugs create similar effects, with nearly identical molecular structures. Drug researchers report that structurally these are very nearly identical drugs and cause an unnatural flood of dopamine along nerve pathways in the brain. Stimulant drugs flood the CNS/brain with dopamine. This dopamine surge can cause a wide range of sensations and reactions.

Like most things in the world, what goes up must come down. The after-effects of a stimulant are the opposite of the initial pleasure and lift. The come-down creates a strong desire to regain those pleasurable drug effects, that flood of dopamine again. Like meth, Adderall is rated with a high risk for addiction and abuse.

There is much evidence showing a significant number of college students abuse the drug initially as a way to stay awake all night studying. However, because of its risky addictive properties, the drug can quickly become more important than tomorrow’s test.20

NOTES on ADHD in Children and Adults

ADHD is a diagnosis whose population includes both children and adults. The psychiatric consensus has been that ADHD is a “childhood neurodevelopmental disorder.” This assumes a person develops childhood ADHD and the condition persists into adulthood, where it is renamed “adult ADHD”. However, a study out of New Zealand showed that these 2 populations are nonoverlapping except in rare instances. Childhood ADHD cases in the majority of the study cohort did not exhibit the criteria for an adult ADHD diagnosis as adults. Notably, these children were not medicated for ADHD as in New Zealand, the practice of drugging children was not common back in the 1970s. This means their “disorder” cleared up without medication. The overwhelming majority of adults in the study cohort who did exhibit criteria for an ADHD diagnosis at age 38 reported no prior diagnosis of childhood ADHD, nor exhibited the symptoms that would constitute criteria for such a diagnosis as children. The study, authored by 9 PHDs and 8 other MDs, was published in the 2015 Journal of American Psychiatry.13

The ADHD diagnostic criteria for children and adults can be found with all the trimmings such as the various subclasses of types of ADHD disorders — on the CDC website, where the criteria for a “diagnosis” of ADHD for children and for adults are listed out in checklist fashion. Diagnosis is extremely simple, consisting of checking off a qualifying number of boxes, allowing “diagnosis” to take just a minute or perhaps two, and some rudimentary math skills to add them up.14

To its credit, the FDA drug label for Adderall clearly stipulates that for a genuine diagnosis of this condition, which it acknowledges has no known etiology, you cannot just add up the boxes and call it ADHD. The practitioner must also initiate or recommend a comprehensive treatment program that consists of psychological, educational, and social interventions and only medicate if these do not work. The FDA label also states that drugging children is not recommended where the ADHD symptoms are environmentally caused, i.e., the child is fine at home but gets teased at school and acts out. An adult may be fine at work but marital dysfunction or drug abuse causes a cascade of symptoms that could sound a lot like ADHD. Even the CDC says ADHD diagnosis must include symptoms present in “2 or more settings” to be valid.18 Allergy specialists and nutritionists know that allergies and diet can also play a contributory and even causal role in “ADHD” type symptoms, and these factors should be thoroughly assessed and ruled out or corrected. In these ways, one can begin to authentically address symptoms without automatically choosing medication as the only path forward.15-18

Are Adderall and Other ADHD Drugs Creating a Generational Addiction Crisis?

The use of stimulant drugs on children diagnosed with ADHD has been in widespread use for decades, leaving sudden deaths, strokes, confusion, addiction damage, and much controversy in their wake.2 A person with narcolepsy experiences daytime sleepiness, sometimes sudden, and intense. For safety on the job, and other reasons, a stimulant drug serves as a sleep-preventative measure for someone with this condition. This is a positive outcome, except for one thing. The drug does not actually address the underlying cause of the sleep disorder but can only provide a drug-induced “wake-up” effect. The effect is temporary until the underlying causes can be addressed and corrected.

Whatever measure of truth there may or may not have been in diagnosing millions upon millions of youngsters as needing to be drugged to be able to sit still in class, this had led to generations who have arrived into adulthood bringing with them a dependency on amphetamines/stimulants. Unless this trend is brought to a halt, this will continue to be a generational problem, possibly growing larger in scope in each new decade.

History of Prescribed ADHD Drugs

adhd drug withdrawalAs early as 1929, through the war years of the 1940s, and on into the turbulent 1960s, doctors prescribed amphetamines to more adults than children. To be sure, stimulants were marketed for children to fix “behavioral problems” as far back as 1937, but the public was not saturated with advertising and hype as it has been in more recent times. Benzedrine, the brand name of that era, was pulled off the market due to troubling side effects. Amphetamine was later rebranded as Adderall in the 90s, enjoying soaring sales. However, due to emerging troubling side effects ( 20 sudden deaths, 12 strokes, many other cardio-related injuries, addiction), Adderall was for a time banned in Canada and elsewhere. The drugmakers contested the ban and were successful in returning Adderall to consumers and it is still sold today primarily as an ADHD drug. ADHD drug sales are increasing parabolically, which market analysts project will reach a staggering $13 billion by 2025. 4,5,6-11,14

Was Adderall FDA Tested and Approved Before Marketing?

The FDA provides guidelines for testing drugs before they reach the market. These requirements are rigorous, should assess the drug over a long period of time, and should sample large numbers of test populations in clinical trials. Researchers found that makers of Adderall and many other similar ADHD drugs have NOT followed those guidelines. Shockingly, somehow the FDA approved these drugs anyway.2,4,5

adhd testWhen one realizes that doctors and other clinicians diagnose roughly 10% OR MORE of all American children as suffering from ADHD, this insufficient testing has created grossly unacceptable health consequences. As a result, many children whose physicians started them on ADHD drugs like Adderall now number a large adult population who continue to suffer from the after-effects of drug treatment.

Despite the dangers of Adderall and other similar drugs, doctors wrote 5 million prescriptions in 2008. By 2012, doctors had tripled the number to 16 million prescriptions in that year. From 2003 to 2015, prescriptions written for women of child-bearing age rose by 700%. One can only conclude that drug companies placed their focus on marketing and profits much more than on consumer safety and testing. Taking action to recover is possible. We can help.

More Information

Please contact us directly at Alternative to Meds Center for more details on the programs we deliver for the holistic treatment of Adderall addiction, withdrawal, and recovery.


1. Goldman, R.D., “ADHD stimulants and their effect on height in children.” Can Fam Physician [INTERNET] 2010 Feb [cited 2020 May 14]

2. FDA Drug Label Adderall [INTERNET] 2017 [cited 2020 May 14]

3. “The Amphetamine Withdrawal Syndrome.” published by the Australian Government Dept of Health in 2004 [cited 2020 May 14]

4. Rasmussen, N., “America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929-1971.” AM J Public health [INERNET] 2007 [cited 2020 May 19]

5. Kondro, W., “Drug Regulation: Inconclusive evidence puts Adderall back on the market.” CMAJ JAMC [INTERNET] 2005 Oct [cited 2020 May 19]

6. Piper B, Ogden C, et. al, “Trends in use of prescription stimulants in the United States and Territories, 2006 – 2016″ PLOS ONE Journal [INTERNET] November 28, 2018 [cited 2020 Jun 11]

7. Thomas, M, “The Addicted Generation.” Pacific Standard News [INTERNET] Original date of publication 2016 Jul 5, updated 2017 Jun 14 [cited 2020 Jun 11]

8. CDC information: “Data and Statistics About ADHD.” 2019 Oct 15 [INTERNET][cited 2020 Jun 11]

9. Lakhan SE, Kirchgessner A. Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain Behav. 2012;2(5):661-677. doi:10.1002/brb3.78 [cited 2021 Sept 14]

10. CDC, “Association Between Diagnosed ADHD and Selected Characteristics Among Children aged 4 – 17 Years: United States 2011-2013 [online] [cited 2021 Sept 14]

11. Antshel KM, Faraone SV, “Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.”  Science Direct Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, 2012 pages 218-223 [online] [cited 2021 Sept 14]

12. Heal DJ, Smith SL, Gosden J, Nutt DJ. Amphetamine, past and present–a pharmacological and clinical perspective. J Psychopharmacol. 2013;27(6):479-496. doi:10.1177/0269881113482532 [cited 2021 Sept 17]

13. Moffitt TE, et al., “Is Adult ADHD a Childhood-onset Neurodevelopmental Disorder?” American Journal of Psychiatry May 2015 [cited 2021 Sept 17]

14. Gradview Research Report, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Market Report 2018-2025” [online] [cited 2021 Sept 17]

15. Jiang X, Shen C, Dai Y, Jiang F, Li S, Shen X, Hu Y, Li F. Early food allergy and respiratory allergy symptoms and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in Chinese children: A cross-sectional study. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2018 Jun;29(4):402-409. doi: 10.1111/pai.12888. Epub 2018 Apr 15. PMID: 29524252. [cited 2021 Sept 17]

16. Sinn N. Nutritional and dietary influences on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutr Rev. 2008 Oct;66(10):558-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00107.x. PMID: 18826452.[cited 2021 Sept 17]

17. Owen L, Corfe B. The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing. Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 Nov;76(4):425-426. doi: 10.1017/S0029665117001057. Epub 2017 Jul 14. PMID: 28707609. [cited 2021 Sept 17]

18. CDC Report, “Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD.” [online [cited 2021 Sept 17]

19. Volpi-Abadie J, Kaye AM, Kaye AD. Serotonin syndromeOchsner J. 2013;13(4):533-540. [cited 2021 Sept 20]

20. Weyandt LL, White TL, Gudmundsdottir BG, et al. Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College StudentsPharmacy (Basel). 2018;6(3):58. Published 2018 Jun 27. doi:10.3390/pharmacy6030058 [cited 2021 Sept 20]

21. Health Canada, “ADHD Drugs may increase risk of suicidal thought and behaviors.” [online] [cited 2021 Sept 20]


Originally Published May 14, 2020 by Diane Ridaeus


This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Adderall Addiction, Withdrawal, Side Effects, Alternatives, Tapering
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