Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that are obtained either through a legal prescription from a healthcare provider or illegally on the street.1 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 in which the brain becomes reliant on the presence of amphetamines to function properly.2
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.2 This is called amphetamine withdrawal syndrome, and it can be difficult to get through without support.
Amphetamine withdrawal effects include depression, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating, and increased appetite. In a worst-case scenario, a person may become suicidal or profoundly depressed. The person initially experiences a "crash" that lasts 1-2 days and then experiences a longer period of withdrawal that can last anywhere from 5 days to several weeks.
Signs, Symptoms, and Effects
Amphetamine Withdrawal Treatment
Learn more about how amphetamine withdrawal is treated and what kinds of treatment programs are available.
Some of the common amphetamine withdrawal signs and symptoms include:4
- Fatigue and increased need for sleep.
- Increased appetite.
- Bodily movements and twitches.
- Slowed reaction and movement.
- Aches and pains.
- Irritability and/or agitation.
- Dreams that are often vivid and sometimes unpleasant.
Withdrawal from amphetamines is usually not life-threatening. However, it can be extremely uncomfortable and trigger relapse. Detoxing under the supervision of medically trained professionals may reduce the likelihood of relapse.
The time it takes for withdrawal signs to set in, the severity of symptoms one will experience, and the length of time it will take to complete withdrawal from amphetamines will depend on several factors, including:
- The length of time a person has been using amphetamines.
- The dose and frequency of that dose at the time of last use.
- Whether or not a person is also using other substances.
- Psychological and physical ailments that may complicate withdrawal.
- Biological factors such as gender, age, weight, and/or genes, which can affect how each person metabolizes amphetamines during detox.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
When withdrawal effects last longer than 2 weeks, they are considered protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).5 Chronic users may experience PAWS effects that can last up to a year.4
Amphetamines have a profound effect on various parts of the brain. Some of the signs and symptoms of PAWS include:5
- 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, which can enhance a person's ability to remain sober and healthy.
A general amphetamine withdrawal timeline is as follows:
|Duration of Symptoms||Symptoms|
|1-2 days||A person usually experiences symptoms within 36 hours of the last use.4 This initial phase of withdrawal is referred to as the "crash" and can include increased need for sleep, depression, increased appetite, and cravings. 7|
|5 days to several weeks||Symptoms during this time can include mood swings, irritability, aches and pains, depression, cravings, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. 4,7|
|2 weeks to a year||Some withdrawal effects can last up to a year if a person experiences protracted symptoms from long-term amphetamine use.4,5|
Amphetamine withdrawal is rarely associated with medical complications. However, there are always exceptions.
Some possible medical complications include:6
- Cardiac problems such as chest pain or irregular heartbeat.
- Headaches that could be caused from bleeding in or around the brain.
- Complications resulting from withdrawing from multiple substances.
A person experiencing any of these symptoms should seek emergency assistance immediately. Left unmanaged, these medical complications may have potentially disastrous consequences—supervised detox and appropriate medical intervention can not only help recovery, but may save a life.
Read next: Amphetamine Withdrawal Medications and Help
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction.
- Baicy, K., & London, E. D. (2007). Corticolimbic dysregulation and chronic methamphetamine abuse. Addiction, 102(Suppl. 1), 5–15.
- Australian Government Department of Health. (2004). The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, 9(1), 2-5.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal from Specific Substances. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, 45.
- Government of South Australia. SA Health. Amphetamine withdrawal management.