What is Amphetamine Withdrawal?
Amphetamines are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that are obtained either through a legal prescription from a healthcare provider or illegally on the street. They include drugs such as Adderall and methamphetamine or “crystal meth.”
The use of amphetamines, legally or illegally, can lead to physiological and neurological changes . This is because the brain becomes reliant on substance use for the presence of amphetamines to function correctly.
When a person has been using amphetamines for a long period of time or at high doses, they are likely to experience psychological and physiological signs and symptoms if they drastically reduce their dose or abruptly quit taking the drug. This is called amphetamine withdrawal syndrome, and it can be challenging to get through without support.
Amphetamine withdrawal effects include depression, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating, and increased appetite. In a worst-case scenario, they negatively impact a person’s mental health to the point of leaving them suicidal or profoundly depressed.
The person initially experiences a “crash” that lasts 1-2 days and then experiences a long period of withdrawal that can last anywhere from five days to several weeks.
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Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Drug dependence can build even if you take an amphetamine drug under medical direction for a prescribed and necessary purpose.
These drugs interact with brain chemistry to speed up and intensify the functions of the central nervous system (brain and spinal column), including heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. They also increase levels of naturally occurring chemical messengers, such as serotonin, which, in turn, elevate focus, attention, and pleasure.
With regular use, the brain can struggle to regulate itself, and its chemical levels can be unstable without the drugs . This can lead to drug dependence. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms then appear when the drugs wear off.
Symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal include the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Disturbed dreams and insomnia
- Increased appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension and aches
- Significant drug cravings
- Slowed motor skills and impaired coordination
Amphetamine withdrawal is typically mostly psychological, with mood, thinking, and sleep disturbances, along with difficult cravings, being the most intense symptoms.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Timeline
Those who choose the first step toward recovery and healing find themselves in the early stages of amphetamine withdrawal rather quickly. Within the first 1-3 days following the last dose of any amphetamine, side effects such as headaches and dizziness are likely to occur. During this time, relapse is most likely to happen . However, support can help you get through this challenging period of early recovery.
To help you better understand the withdrawal process, we’ve compiled the following timeline of amphetamine withdrawal symptoms that most amphetamine abusers find themselves struggling with when they enter detox:
The first 36 hours
During this time cravings are strong and the desire to “feel better” is often enough to make you change your course of action. Don’t be fooled though. This period is short, and the cravings will start to dissipate in a few more days if you remain strong. Depression and irritability are expected during the first few days. These symptoms will also lighten up as you progress through the withdrawal process.
Towards the end of your first whole week without amphetamines, you will begin to feel much better. Cravings are lessening with each day you remain clean, and the worst symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal are passed. Although you may still feel tired, headaches and general irritability are likely gone by now.
Many recovering amphetamine abusers begin to experience worsened insomnia during this stage of recovery. If you’re working with an amphetamine detox center, you may be given medication to help you sleep at night. In addition, certain foods, herbal supplements, and staying active during the daytime hours can help you get better sleep at night.
At this point, you’ve nearly made it a month without amphetamines and you’re likely feeling almost “normal” again. The drugs are no longer in your system, which means your detox is complete. However, your journey to recovery is just beginning. Be sure to seek long-term counseling and care to ensure your continued success in recovery.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
When withdrawal effects last longer than two weeks, they are considered protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) . Chronic users may experience PAWS effects that can last up to a year.
Amphetamines have a profound effect on various parts of the brain. Some of the signs and symptoms of PAWS include:
- Problems with short-term memory
- Impaired ability to focus, concentrate, or maintain attention
- Lack of self-control
- Depression with or without suicidal ideation/behaviors
- Inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)
- Sleep problems
- Physical complaints with no medical origin
Medical professionals may prescribe supportive medications to help manage these symptoms, enhancing a person’s ability to remain sober and healthy.
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Signs of Amphetamine Withdrawal
Here are some of the biggest red flags to watch for if you’re concerned about amphetamine addiction in a loved one.
The Appearance of Physical Signs
As with any addiction, amphetamine abuse will often lead to the eventual deterioration of the individual’s physical health. Although amphetamines don’t necessarily have the kind of visible effect on a person’s appearance as other illicit drugs do, those closest to them may be able to recognize subtle changes.
Be wary if you start to notice amphetamine abuse signs like these:
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Dry mouth
- New, unexplained acne
- Rapid breathing and/or heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Recurring insomnia
- Reduced appetite and/or weight loss
- Increased energy (able to stay up later, work out longer, etc.)
Unusual Behavioral Changes
The most notable amphetamine symptoms are behavioral in nature. In addition to intense focus and a drastic increase in energy, you’ll likely notice an overall “high” effect and a variety of other unusual, out-of-character traits.
You may notice changes things like these, for example:
- Increased aggression, irritability
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Sudden mood swings
- Increases in impulsivity and risk-taking
- Changes in sexual behavior
- Spending more money; making major purchases on a whim
- Disregard for safety, participating in more dangerous activities than usual
- Overconfidence; acting like they are “bulletproof”
If your loved one says that they are taking amphetamines to treat ADHD as prescribed by their doctor, think critically about their claims. A person who starts treatment for ADHD may very well exhibit significant behavioral changes, but those changes should only bring them up to a normal level of activity, not make them seem manic or high.
If you are able to confirm that your loved one has a legitimate prescription but their symptoms still cause you concern, you may want to encourage them to revisit their dosage or diagnosis with their doctor(s).
As the drug demands more and more of their time, addicts struggle to keep up with routines that used to be a normal part of their day. As they seek the company of other addicted persons, they alienate themselves from positive relationships. As the drug changes their brain chemistry and affects their cognitive abilities, they find it more difficult to carry out basic tasks and remember their obligations.
If your loved one starts having troubles at work, forgetting important events and appointments, missing bill payments, or making less and less effort to care for themselves or their family, these could be warning signs of amphetamine addiction.
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Amphetamine Withdrawal Psychosis
Psychosis is when a person loses contact with reality. Different things can cause it — one of them being amphetamines. Both use of and withdrawal from amphetamines can cause psychosis. Symptoms are similar to schizophrenia and can occur even in healthy people.
Amphetamine psychosis doesn’t subside until the substance leaves the body. This can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Psychotic symptoms can include hallucinations and delusions. Psychotic symptoms have been reported to be present in 13 to 45% of amphetamine users.
Symptoms of withdrawal psychosis are comparable to those of active amphetamine use psychosis. Early signs may include agitation and paranoia. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common during the initial “crash” phase of amphetamine withdrawal, which can increase the risk of psychosis. For most people, all symptoms of withdrawal from amphetamines, including those related to psychosis, subside within three weeks.
Not all amphetamine users will experience amphetamine psychosis. It depends on factors such as metabolism and mental health conditions.
Amphetamine withdrawal psychosis typically produces the following symptoms:
- Grandiose delusions
- Visual/auditory hallucinations
- Disorganized thinking
- Difficulty concentrating
- Rapid illogical speech
- Increased/erratic motor activity
Managing Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
The more significant the level of drug dependence, the more intense amphetamine withdrawal symptoms will be. According to a study on individuals dealing with amphetamine dependence, nearly 90 percent experienced amphetamine withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. The effects of these drugs can be so intense that when they wear off, the “comedown” makes users want to keep taking them.
Relapse, or a return to drug use, is a common risk factor during amphetamine withdrawal. Suicidal thoughts and actions, as well as drug overdose, are additional hazards of amphetamine withdrawal. No specific medications are designed to treat amphetamine withdrawal. Certain symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal, such as mood disturbances and insomnia, may be managed through pharmacological means, however.
Significant amphetamine withdrawal is best managed through an inpatient treatment program. Clients can get around-the-clock assistance, monitoring, and supportive care in these programs. During amphetamine withdrawal, nutrition, a set sleep schedule, and encouragement are important. It can take some time for the brain to reset and regulate, and being in a supportive environment is helpful.
Counseling and therapy sessions can offer tools to minimize and prevent relapse and provide coping mechanisms for triggers and mood regulation. Support groups can be beneficial too. On average, a medical detox program lasts about a week or two. After that, you should continue with a complete addiction treatment program to form healthy habits and allow your brain to continue to heal. Detox is only the beginning of your recovery journey.
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Amphetamine Withdrawal Treatment
Numerous treatment options provide help for amphetamine withdrawal. The right type depends on the individual’s level of physical dependence . Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that include prescription medications such as Adderall as well as drugs that are often abused recreationally, such as methamphetamine (crystal meth).
People that use these drugs either therapeutically or recreationally can become physically dependent. Once dependence develops, the person’s system cannot function adequately without the drug, and they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they reduce their intake of the drug or quit using it completely.
A detox treatment program can help manage the physical and psychological symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal. Detox programs usually consist of medical supervision, supportive interventions, and at times, the use of medication to assist with withdrawal. Healthcare providers may use Benadryl or Trazodone to treat specific symptoms. Other medications, such as Aripiprazole, have proved effective in clinical studies, but may not be widely used.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, detox is only the first step in a process of recovery from drug dependence and addiction. People that are addicted to amphetamines should seek further treatment after they have completed withdrawal, including behavioral therapy and relapse prevention training.
Amphetamines can be extremely difficult to stop using without professional help. Detoxing cold turkey can lead to relapse, agitation, and depression. The right type of program depends on the person’s level of dependence or the severity of the addiction.
Amphetamine Detox Treatment
Gaining lasting recovery after amphetamine addiction proves difficult and has a long road to wellness. You can achieve this wellness with the right help. You need an array of therapies, programs, and services, such as:
- Medically assisted detox
- Inpatient addiction rehab
- Behavioral therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and holistic treatment program
- Individual, family, and group counseling as help for family members of drug addicts
- Coping skills and life skills to prevent relapse
- Quality nutrition and medical care
Inpatient drug rehab provides a drug-free place away from obstacles that could trigger your cravings. You typically stay in a treatment center for several weeks and participate in individual and group therapies.
If someone is addicted to amphetamine because of its intense and often dangerous amphetamine withdrawal symptoms, that person ought to consider inpatient detox. If you or a loved one is struggling with amphetamine addiction, We Level Up NJ addiction specialists are standing by to help.
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 NCBI – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11687170/
 NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000792.htm
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554477/
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/
 NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a616004.html