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Amphetamine Withdrawal And Detox

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

March 18, 2019

Abuse of amphetamines, a class of prescription stimulants, may lead to addiction. Once a person is addicted, stopping the use of amphetamines can be difficult, and may cause a person to feel sick, depressed, and unmotivated. Detox programs are available to help individuals safely manage withdrawal symptoms.

Negative feelings arise from misusing amphetamines and likely result from a condition called dependence. Dependence occurs when a person’s body and brain rely on the drug to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms set in during the detoxification, or detox, process.

Detox is the process by which the body rids itself of harmful toxins. For amphetamine and other stimulants, detox can be uncomfortable and difficult for a person to undergo on their own. While the process of amphetamine withdrawal and detox can be painful, it may be the first step in addiction treatment.

Detox alone, however, is not a cure for amphetamine addiction. Amphetamine addiction changes the way a person’s brain works, and the process of amphetamine withdrawal and detox allows the person to clear their body and mind for further treatment.

Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines are likely to be both physical and psychological. As a stimulant, amphetamine use affects the brain in complex ways, and stopping use of the drug may cause people to enter a phase of emotional and mental unbalance that can be unsafe.

Understanding how amphetamines change the brain is useful for learning how to cope with the potentially painful process of amphetamine withdrawal and detox.

Amphetamines And The Brain

Amphetamines like Adderall speed up functions and activities in the brain and body. This stimulating effect has been medically useful over the years, but the ongoing problem of stimulant misuse has made amphetamines less desirable for doctors to prescribe.

Dependence and addiction is likely with stimulant abuse due to how amphetamines affect the communication pathways of certain chemicals in the brain. One such chemical, dopamine, transmits feelings of pleasure. Amphetamine misuse creates an unnatural amount of dopamine in the brain, and this is what makes a person feel “high.”

Too much dopamine caused by amphetamine use will not only lead to addiction and dependence, but also makes the process of amphetamine withdrawal and detox difficult and painful. When the brain no longer receives the extra bit of dopamine it’s gotten used to, the dopamine it organically produces will not be sufficient; the person will feel little to no pleasure at all.

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While on amphetamines, a person may feel more sociable, self-confident, and energetic. When the person stops using amphetamines, the reverse is likely to be true. The feelings of pleasure and energy will no longer be present, and the person may struggle mentally because of it.

Withdrawal is a difficult reality for many people when their brains become dependent on amphetamines to feel energized and happy. While psychological symptoms of withdrawal may persist for longer periods of time, physical symptoms are also likely to occur after stopping use of amphetamines.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms during amphetamine withdrawal and detox may set in between one to three days after the last use. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually depend on how long the person misused stimulants, and how much they took.

Some physical symptoms may include:

  • body aches and pain
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • increased appetite
  • lack of energy
  • sleeping problems

These symptoms may persist for days, and are likely to make a person uncomfortable, potentially turning to other substances like alcohol or other prescription medications to help ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

This can be dangerous because it can lead to swapping one addiction for another, and can also cause unwanted health effects that come with mixing different substances.

Psychological symptoms are likely to last longer than physical symptoms. The intensity of psychological symptoms can lead people to relapse because they may feel desperate and alone. This is one reason treatment during amphetamine withdrawal and detox can help a person stay clean during potentially severe psychological symptoms.

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • drug cravings
  • feelings of hostility
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • mood swings
  • paranoia
  • psychosis (contact with reality is lost due to impaired thought and emotion)
  • suicidal thoughts
  • trouble concentrating

A person going through these symptoms should seek treatment and medical assistance. Stopping use of amphetamines can be emotionally challenging and psychologically painful.

Effective treatment can help a person deal with the harsh mental realities that may occur during withdrawal and detox.

Treatment During Amphetamine Withdrawal And Detox

Treatment can prove useful for people going through amphetamine withdrawal and detox. Treatment for the troubling psychological effects is likely to offer the support and comfort needed to overcome the first step in recovery.

One effective measure of treatment may be medically-supervised detoxification. A medically supervised detox will likely take place in a hospital or inpatient treatment center, and staff may administer medication to help deal with the symptoms of withdrawal.

Tapering, which means administering a smaller and smaller dose of amphetamine over time, is considered an effective treatment during detox, and can help a person avoid the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.

While there are no government-approved medications specifically used for amphetamine addiction, medications like antidepressants and sedatives can soothe the adverse psychological symptoms during withdrawal and detox.

Severe symptoms of withdrawal may require a person to stay at an inpatient treatment center, where they’ll have access to health professionals 24 hours a day. Monitoring and observation during amphetamine withdrawal and detox is crucial, and inpatient treatment centers are likely to provide close patient care and measurements of progress.

Inpatient treatment centers may also provide the next step in treatment and recovery, which is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy can be useful for people with an addiction to stimulants because it aims to change thinking and attitudes towards amphetamines through talk and activity.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Drug Misuse: Stimulants

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens - Prescription Stimulant Medications (Amphetamines)

U.S. National Library of Medicine - Substance use—amphetamines

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