Adderall is a drug that treats narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s a useful drug that can make school, work, and everyday tasks more manageable for people who need help. However, the prescription medication contains a potent stimulant drug that can have profound effects on the brain and body, especially when it’s misused. Adderall is sometimes misused as a recreational drug. People who seek it out for recreation are usually looking for a stimulating high that’s similar to cocaine. Even though Adderall is not as strong as cocaine when it comes to achieving a high, it can cause stimulating euphoric effects.
Adderall may also be used as a study drug or a substance thought to increase cognitive ability, focus, or wakefulness. It’s popular among college students for this purpose, and it’s believed to lead to better information retention and the ability to stay focused through long study hours. While its cognitive effects aren’t well-studied in people without ADHD, it can increase wakefulness.
Misusing Adderall can lead to substance use problems, and doing so can make it more likely that you will experience uncomfortable side effects. Adderall side effects are often felt during the comedown, which is the period after the drug’s effects peak and start to diminish. The comedown may be followed by a crash, which can involve uncomfortable fatigue and depression.
Learn more about Adderall comedowns and how you can avoid the uncomfortable symptoms of a crash.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall is a brand-name prescription medication that contains amphetamine salts, which work as central nervous stimulants in the brain and body. Stimulants are drugs that increase activity in the central nervous system to promote wakefulness, focus, and energy. Adderall works with a naturally occurring chemical in the brain called dopamine, and this chemical is tied to reward, motivation, and pleasure.
People with ADHD are thought to have low levels of ambient dopamine in the brain, which would normally keep them satisfied and focused as they complete daily tasks. Having low levels of dopamine can cause the brain to seek other sources of reward while a person tries to focus on tasks. This can make distractions extremely hard to resist.
Adderall increases dopamine levels in the brain by blocking a process called reuptake. This process is designed to remove chemicals from the synapse and recycle their material. Blocking the reuptake of dopamine causes it to build up in the brain, making the effects of the natural chemical more potent.
People with ADHD can get relief from their symptoms because Adderall will increase the levels of ambient dopamine in the brain, making it easier to focus and sit still. Adderall can also increase blood pressure and wakefulness, which can be helpful for people who have sleep disorders like narcolepsy.
However, like caffeine, the period when Adderall starts to wear off can cause uncomfortable comedown symptoms followed by a crash. This is a result of shifting chemical balances in the brain. As the stimulating effects wear off, it can leave users tired and unfocused.
What’s the Difference Between a Comedown and a Crash?
The terms “comedown” and “crash” are often used interchangeably, but they are different phases of a drug’s effects on your body. A comedown refers to the time after the drug’s peak effect when the substance begins to wear off. The positive effects may be less potent, and it may leave behind uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. As a stimulant medication, Adderall can cause side effects, such as restlessness, anxiety, and irritability.
A crash is when the drug reaches the end of its duration of action, and the effects wear off significantly. While a comedown will still have effects and side effects of the drug, a crash can cause side effects based on the lack of the drug in your system. For instance, since Adderall is a stimulant, a crash could include depressant-like symptoms, such as fatigue and low mood.
Comedown symptoms can vary from person to person based on the dose and other factors. In some cases, comedown symptoms can be managed by adjusting the dose or changing to a similar medication. Crash symptoms are also intensified by higher doses. But they can also be worse if you’ve taken the drug consistently for a long time.
What to Expect from an Adderall Comedown
An Adderall comedown may involve some of the side effects of the drug that occur after the drug’s positive effects have begun to plateau. The comedown may include common stimulant side effects, such as insomnia and anxiety. These symptoms may be worse if you have a history of anxiety or sleep disorders. Not everyone who takes Adderall will experience significant comedown symptoms.
You may be more likely to experience them if you are sensitive to the drug. In that case, your doctor may be able to help you adjust the dose or change medications to avoid troublesome side effects. Adderall’s side effects may be more severe if you misuse or abuse the drug in high doses. Heavier doses may cause more intense positive symptoms, but they may also intensify the negative symptoms.
Comedown symptoms may include:
- Panic attacks
- Lack of energy
Once the drug has worn off, you may start to experience a crash, especially if you’ve used a high dose or taken several doses in a row. A crash may come with rebounding symptoms, which refers to symptoms that you took the drug to treat. Adderall can cause rebounding fatigue or a lack of focus. It can also cause a low mood as the mental high caused by the drug wears off.
Other Adderall crash symptoms could include:
- Mental fog
- Lack of motivation
In some cases, an Adderall crash can cause severe depression, suicidal thoughts, or suicidal actions. Severe mood problems may be more likely if you’ve become dependent on Adderall and then quit suddenly. If you experience severe depression or thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately. It’s important to realize that what you are feeling may be temporary and depression is treatable.
What Is the Adderall Comedown Timeline?
The timeline that you experience the effects and side effects of Adderall will depend on several factors, including your weight, age, and the way to take the drug. A typical dose of Adderall will take 30 to 45 minutes to begin working when you take it by mouth. The come up, which is the period when the effects will gradually increase, can last between 30 minutes and two hours. After that, the effects may peak at two and a half to four hours.
The comedown may begin around three hours and continue until the sixth hour after you take the drug. After six hours, most of Adderall’s effects will have worn off. It’s at this point that you could feel crash symptoms. A severe Adderall crash could last for several hours.
How Do You Stop Adderall from Crashing?
Adderall can be a helpful medication for people with ADHD, but a crash can be frustrating, causing uncomfortable symptoms that interrupt your day. How can you avoid or stop an Adderall Crash? What can you do if you keep experiencing crash symptoms? If you continue to experience uncomfortable comedown and crash symptoms, you may need to speak to your doctor, especially if the side effects outweigh the benefits. However, there may be some things you can do to avoid or manage crash symptoms.
- Follow a prescription. When you first get a prescription, it’s important to ask your doctor about the dose and when you should take it. Misusing the drug can cause you to become dependent, which can make your crash worse. When you’ve finished the medication, speak to your doctor about coming off it safely.
- Taper slowly. Lowering the dose over time can help you taper off the drug slowly, which can help you avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. A doctor can help you taper slowly with the right doses.
- Avoid tolerance. Speak to your doctor if Adderall has become less effective over time, and avoid compensating by increasing the dose. Tolerance is a sign of dependence, and increasing your dose could worsen it.
- Leave time to recover. If you notice you experience a crash after you take Adderall, try to leave time to rest after taking it. Symptoms like fatigue may feel worse when you are busy or need to complete a task.
- Explore other treatment options. If you experience uncomfortable comedown effects each time you take Adderall, you should let your doctor know about the side effects. You may be able to find another treatment option with fewer side effects. It may help to simply adjust the dose.