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Amphetamine Withdrawal Medication and Treatment

Man sitting at table holding pills in hand

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 completely.

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A detox treatment program (detox center, inpatient program, or outpatient program) can help manage the physical and/or psychological symptoms of withdrawal from amphetamines. Detox programs usually consists of medical supervision, supportive interventions, and at times, the use of medication to assist with withdrawal. Healthcare providers may use medications such as 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. 1 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.

Treatment Options

The right type of program depends on the person's level of dependence or severity of addiction.

Numerous treatment options provide help for amphetamine withdrawal. The right type of program depends on the individual’s level of physical dependence or the severity of the addiction to amphetamines. The program options for detox are:

  • Detox center. A detox center is sometimes a standalone program. In other cases, detox is part of a continuum of treatment offered at an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. A typical detox program consists of short-term stays that can vary from a few days to a week. The person receives around-the-clock medical supervision and support during withdrawal.
  • Inpatient treatment. Many inpatient rehab centers include detox as part of the treatment program. When the person completes detox, they transition into the treatment community and participate in individual and group therapy, 12-step meetings, and other activities that help a person recover and stay clean from amphetamines.
  • Outpatient treatment. People with less severe amphetamine dependence may not need to stay at a facility and can detox and be treated on an outpatient basis. When a person detoxes on an outpatient basis, they receive many of the same services as someone in an inpatient program, but they go home at night. They may see a physician once or twice a week who monitors their condition and can prescribe medications, as needed.
  • Intensive outpatient. Intensive outpatient treatment offers a higher level of intensity than a regular outpatient program. It typically consists of substance abuse counseling and therapy for a few hours, 2-3 days a week.
  • Partial hospitalization. These are outpatient programs that may provide daily treatment for several hours per day, up to seven days a week. Partial hospitalization programs are similar to inpatient programs, except that the person receives treatment for amphetamine addiction and goes home at night.
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Withdrawal Medications

No medications are approved to specifically manage amphetamine withdrawal. In clinical studies, a few medications were able to reduce symptoms.

  • Provigil is a brand name for the medication modafinil. It has shown promise in alleviating some symptoms associated with withdrawal from methamphetamine, as well as cocaine. 2
  • Aripiprazole is an anti-psychotic medication that may relieve some of the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal.3

Physicians may prescribe medications to relieve specific withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia. Frequently used medications that provide help for amphetamine withdrawal include:

  • Benadryl, which can help with sleep and agitation during detox from amphetamines. 4
  • Trazodone, which is a sedating antidepressant medication sometimes prescribed as a sleep aid. This medication can help with cases of severe insomnia. 4
  • Analgesics, which are an option for relief of headaches and other minor aches/pains. 4
  • Antidepressants, which are another treatment option if a person in amphetamine withdrawal develops significant clinical depression during the detox and treatment process. 4

Tapering Off Amphetamines

Treatment for amphetamine withdrawal usually involves abstinence from the drug.4 However, it is possible to taper off amphetamines under medical supervision.

Withdrawal treatment for amphetamine addiction depends on the individual and their specific needs. Only a healthcare provider can determine if tapering is appropriate.

Detoxing Cold Turkey at Home

Girl detoxing from amphetamines by herself

People who need help for amphetamine withdrawal will often try to detox cold turkey at home. Even though it is possible to stop using amphetamines without withdrawal treatment, it is not advisable.

One issue with cold turkey is that it is not possible to know how someone will react to detox from amphetamines. At times, people who are withdrawing from amphetamines experience such symptoms as:

  • Agitation
  • Severe depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia4

Although some of these withdrawal side effects are not immediately life-threatening, they can cause serious discomfort and lead a person to relapse to stop the symptoms.

It may benefit those attempting to quit amphetamines to undergo detox in a supervised program with medical oversight. These programs can address any physical or mental health symptoms that arise during withdrawal.

As mentioned above, a person should strongly consider another form of treatment after detox, such as inpatient rehab, outpatient counseling, 12-step meetings, or weekly meetings with a therapist. These programs can teach users how to control cravings and avoid triggers to use, as well as how to identify and change thinking patterns that lead to abuse.

Read next: Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Effects

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment. A research based guide.
  2. Karila, L., Weinstein, A., Aubin, H.-J., Benyamina, A., Reynaud, M., & Batki, S. L. (2010). Pharmacological Approaches to Methamphetamine Dependence: A Focused Review. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 69(6), 578–592.
  3. Stoops, W. W. (2006). Aripiprazole as a Potential Pharmacotherapy for Stimulant Dependence: Human Laboratory Studies with D-Amphetamine. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 14(4), 413.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2006). Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal from Specific Substances.
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