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How to Handle ADHD Medication Withdrawal

ADHD medication withdrawal can be difficult, but it can be done safely and with few withdrawal symptoms. Learn how to handle ADHD medication withdrawal on HealthyPlace. ADHD medication withdrawal can be an uncomfortable, even dangerous process. ADHD medications work directly on the brain to increase levels of the neurochemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. These brain chemicals are low in people with ADHD, and when ADHD medication is used to increase them, many people with ADHD notice increased ability to concentrate and focus as well as be still. The medications work by stimulating certain processes in the brain, which is why they’re called stimulants. Stimulants, such as Concerta, have many unpleasant side effects that cause some people to want to stop taking them.

Like all stimulants, ADHD medications can create dependence, even when you’re using them the correct way. Over time, your brain becomes accustomed to the levels of medication it’s receiving. The dose, or amount, of medication you’re using becomes less effective as your brain adjusts to its presence. Eventually, you find yourself needing more medication just to maintain the same level of effectiveness.

The higher the amount of a stimulant in your system, the more difficult it is to stop taking the ADHD medication. That doesn’t mean, though, that you are stuck with taking strong stimulants for the rest of your life. You can quit taking them. The following information is here to help you know what to expect so you can cope with and handle withdrawal from ADHD medications.

Stopping ADHD Medications Safely

Because the brain becomes dependent on stimulant drugs, it is very important to taper off your medication gradually rather than quitting cold turkey with medications such as Adderall. Stopping ADHD medications (or any medications, for that matter) should always be done with the assistance of a doctor.

Your doctor will create a schedule for you so that your medication is slowly reduced over a period of time. Your dose needs to taper in small increments to avoid the sudden disappearance of a substance that the brain has come to depend on (tapering is helpful when you're getting off Vyvanse, for example).

What to Expect During Withdrawal from ADHD Medications

For some, the withdrawal period is short and relatively easy with just a few days of mild symptoms. Others can experience a much longer and more intense period of withdrawal, with strong and numerous symptoms lasting a few months. Most fall somewhere in between.

The duration and intensity of your withdrawal period from ADHD medications will largely depend on how long you’ve been taking the medication and how high the dosage has been. It’s also impacted by how you quit taking the medication. Tapering takes a bit longer, but the symptoms are fewer and milder, while quitting cold turkey is much more intense and unpleasant.

Some common ADHD medication withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Appetite changes (loss of appetite or extreme hunger)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Muscle aches/soreness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Medication cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Return of ADHD symptoms

Unfortunately, there is no medication available that effectively eases the symptoms of ADHD medication withdrawal. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to sit powerlessly and just experience misery. You can do things to cope with the withdrawal.

How to Cope with, Handle ADHD Medication Withdrawal

Consider these tips for handling ADHD medication withdrawal:

  • Continue, resume, or start therapy to help you deal with the effects of withdrawal as well as the ADHD symptoms that will intensify as the medication leaves your system
  • Treat symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Be active, as physical activity is good for brain and body
  • Engage in hobbies and interests to distract yourself
  • Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
  • Practice good sleep hygiene so you get a better night's sleep
  • Maintain a regular routine to keep a steady rhythm for your brain

Stopping ADHD medications can be challenging. With a doctor’s guidance, a knowledge of what to expect, and an arsenal of ADHD coping strategies, you can safely taper off your ADHD medication.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, October 17). How to Handle ADHD Medication Withdrawal, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/adhd/how-to-handle-adhd-medication-withdrawal

Last Updated: 2017, November 1

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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