If you’ve been using Adderall regularly for any extended period of time, you’re facing a multi-pronged challenge when you quit. First, you’ve most likely developed a strong psychological addiction and/or dependency on the way the drug makes you feel. Second, you’ll have to weather through physical effects of legitimate amphetamine withdrawal, as your body struggles to cope without a chemical stimulant you’ve come to lean heavily on over time.
The true amphetamine withdrawal, which is mostly marked by severe exhaustion and crazy mood swings, shouldn’t really last more than a few weeks if you give your body the rest and nutrition it is craving. However, for a long time thereafter you’ll be dealing with the third prong of the problem, which is also physical: the dopamine deficiency you’ve created for yourself during years of Adderall abuse. The good news? Diet and exercise can help address all three parts of the problem to varying degrees—especially the dopamine deficiency.
Iron/Zinc: Why Many of Us Turned to Adderall In The First Place
The majority of us who originally began taking Adderall because we thought we really did have ADD/ADHD and needed it were most likely suffering from low-grade dopamine deficiency thanks to inadequate exercise and/or nutritional deficiencies, namely iron and zinc. Approximately 70% of Americans are actually zinc deficient, and research has shown time and time again that zinc and iron deficiencies causes ADD-like symptoms. Additionally, zinc is much more effective than placebo in treating children labeled as ADD/ADHD, and zinc and iron supplementation increases the effectiveness of medications like Adderall in treating ADD/ADHD. If you’re quitting Adderall, you probably haven’t been eating right, and your chances of having such nutritional deficiencies are even higher than the average person.
Your transition away from Adderall will be much smoother if you pinpoint and correct these underlying deficiencies if you have them.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include: low energy/feeling weak; pale skin lining your eyes, gums, and nails; excessive irritability; frequent head rushes when you stand up quickly; brittle and pale/white fingernails; rapid bounding heart rate; severe menstrual pain and bleeding; brittle hair and hair that falls out easily during gentle brushing; depression; headaches.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include: catching common colds easily; wounds that take a very long time to heal; skin conditions like acne, dermatitis, dandruff, psoriasis and eczema; hair loss; hang nails; white spots or lines in your nails; general skin rashes and dryness; depression; very bad PMS and other problems with the menstrual cycle.
Both iron and zinc are obtained from similar food sources and have to compete with each other for absorption, so if you are deficient in one, there is a good chance you are deficient in the other. A doctor can determine with simple tests what your body’s levels of both are, and I would recommend doing this if you can before you decide to take iron and zinc supplements, because in taking too much of either can actually have a harmful effect on your body. Keep in mind your body absorb up to about 30% of the zinc and iron you intake from animal sources, and significantly less from plant sources, plus the two have to compete with each other to be absorbed. Additionally, processing and cooking reduces the amount of the nutrients in your food, so you’ll want to eat these foods in the most natural state that you can (it is best to eat most plant sources raw, and don’t overcook meat sources, for example, rare steak has much higher nutritional content than its well-done counterpart.)
Generally high protein foods are good sources of both iron and zinc. Some good dietary sources of iron include: liver, oysters, poultry, eggs (especially the yolks), salmon, beans, kale, broccoli, raisins, prunes, and whole grains. Some good sources of zinc include: beef, pork, liver, oysters, pumpkin and other seeds, eggs, yogurt, cashews, and lobster.
The first best thing to do is to try to get as much as possible from your diet, as dietary sources are the most easily absorbed and have virtually no side effects compared to supplements. If you do choose to supplement, which may be necessary depending on the severity of the deficiency, you should do so cautiously, at least at first, or unless you are doing so under a doctor’s recommendation.
Many of us think we have been getting the nutrients we need if we’ve been taking a multivitamin, without realizing that many of the nutrients in the vitamins interfere with each other and in some cases render them useless (iron, zinc, calcium and copper all have to compete with each other for absorption, for example). So if you are going to supplement iron and zinc, you should do so in standalone formulations.
Tip: Ferrous sulfate, which is the most common form of iron supplement, is known to cause constipation and other digestive upsets, so you’ll want to look for an alternative form.
When I said I was going to try quitting Adderall, my psychiatrist recommended Enzymatic Therapy Ultimate Iron, which uses ferrous succinate, and does not cause gastrointestinal side effects and is very well absorbed. Don’t take more than 15-30mg of zinc a day for prolonged periods of time unless instructed by a doctor, to be on the safe side (50mg a day should be fine for awhile). If you’re taking both iron and zinc, make sure you take them well apart from each other and follow the instructions on how to take them that are on the bottle.
Tyrosine To Combat Dopamine Deficiency
Another plus to food sources over supplements? Generally the best sources of both iron and zinc are also protein-rich foods. Protein contains the essential amino acid l-tyrosine, which is the chemical from which dopamine in synthesized. In fact, when I first began taking Adderall, my psychiatrist cautioned me to make sure I got enough protein as well as to take l-tyrosine supplements, because dopamine is synthesized directly out of l-tyrosine .
Whether you believe you have an iron/zinc deficiency or not, protein intake is essential post-Adderall to combat the third prong of your problem: dopamine deficiency. Adderall causes your body to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and motivation, much more rapidly than your body can produce it, depleting your natural stores of it. In addition, your body can only synthesize dopamine while you’re asleep, and it needs proper nutrition to do so. This means taking Adderall for a prolonged period of time is the perfect recipe for dopamine deficiency, especially since most Adderall users don’t eat well or sleep enough.
Symptoms of dopamine deficiency are nearly identical to “ADD” symptoms, including lack of interest in things, no motivation, sleeping a lot, procrastination, craving “uppers” and depression. In addition to a balanced diet with high protein, foods rich in tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, eggs, yogurt, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Again, eat these foods in the most natural, unprocessed state you can to get the most nutritional value from them.
General Nutritional Guidelines For Your Crash Landing (And Beyond!)
Addressing low levels of zinc and iron and increasing your intake of tyrosine should help to combat underlying nutritional issues that make the task of
quitting Adderall even harder. On top of addressing those nutrients, you should also make sure you are eating a balanced, nutrient-packed diet and make sure you are not eating bad food, which will negatively impact your healing process. Here are some nutritional guidelines to follow:
- DO eat lots of protein rich foods. Also try to eat meats that are free range and organic, they are significantly more nutrient packed, contain far less fat, and don’t have all the nasty antibiotic and growth hormone additives.
- DO eat a hard boiled egg and a cup of organic fat-free yogurt every day. Both are excellent for addressing iron, zinc and tyrosine deficiencies. Plus, they’re loaded with other beneficial nutrients/probiotics.
- DO eat lots of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors… think a rainbow on every plate! Make a goal to consume at least 1/3 of your diet from them.
- DO try to make all your calories count, make them healthy and nutritious!
- DO make sure that your carbohydrates like bread and pasta are whole grain or better yet sprouted grain, which means the live energy and nutrition in the grains has been released through sprouting (you can find delicious gluten-free sprouted breads in the frozen section of most health food stores). Oatmeal and brown rice are also healthy nutritious sources of carbohydrates and fiber. DON’T eat over processed carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Most are high in calories and gluten, which decreases your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and causes a host of health problems, which will make quitting Adderall even tougher.
These guidelines should help you significantly if you follow them as best you can. I know they did for me. I took Adderall for over three years before I finally quit. What prompted me to do so was a slew of health and psychological problems that made me feel like I was dying… literally. Not only was I taking anywhere between 20-80 mg of Adderall every single day, but my diet was terrible. I ate very little, and when I did, it was mostly processed carbs and sugars. I’m sure this only made my problems with the drug worse.
When I first quit Adderall, I started eating better, but very slowly. When I finally got serious about cutting the crap out of my diet and increasing the good stuff, I noticed such a significant upswing in everything: my energy levels, my ability to focus, my outlook on my recovery. It was so significant that I felt inclined to share this information here… I feel it made all the difference.
I took my last pill five months ago. I actually have gotten my life (organizing, cleaning, paying bills, etc.) on track… something I barely had before I even started taking Adderall. I credit my commitment to eating healthy and exercising. As far as work goes, I’m not in the career I want to be in and I know that now, but I’ve managed to perform satisfactorily there regardless of quitting Adderall.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask, I’d be happy to answer to the best of my ability. I’d also be happy to share healthy recipes/serving suggestions in the future if anyone is interested.
136 Responses to “Cushion Your Crash Landing: Nutritional Needs After Adderall”
Hey Lilah, thanks for the great post!
I’m pretty new to this site (found it a few weeks back) and it has done wonders for me. I was quite hooked on Vyvanse for more or less seven or eight months. The date of when I was prescribed it initially is a bit fuzzy as my memory has been shot to hell. Whatever the case, I was on the fast track to a horrible place. Lost at least 30 pounds in that period of time (was down to 123lbs at 5′ 11″ before I cut it off cold turkey).
I’m happy to say that I’ve been sober a little over 2 weeks now. Withdrawal was one of the most intensely uncomfortable experiences of my life but the worst of it has past, thankfully. I’ve thrown out the Vyvanse and will actually be seeing my psychiatrist this afternoon to tell him everything.
Your post has come at a very convenient time! I’ve been working hard at a better diet and have been following it to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, I need to maintain a low protein diet due to lacking one of my kidneys (long story..) but I’ve been eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, taking vitamin-C and a multi-vitamin, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs in the morning, and some carb-heavy foods like pastas.
A final note: I’ve gotten back into skateboarding (which became a bit hard to do after losing a lot of muscle-mass and dealing with the other nasty effects of amphetamines. I hit up a skatepark a few days ago and managed about an hour and a half! I’m still a little sore from that but it’s better than everything I was dealing with before.
Thanks again! I will continue to follow this site and am looking into NA currently.
Hi Chris! Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found the post useful.
First of all, a huge congratulations on making it through your first two weeks! I know how bad they suck. But it sounds to me like you’re on the right track and have the right attitude. Beating amphetamines is a huge challenge no matter how you handle it, but your commitment to eating right and exercising will give you a serious edge.
Seems like you’re doing pretty well with your diet! My only suggestions would be to make sure your carb-heavy foods are whole or sprouted grain, and to try adding some yogurt to your diet for added zinc and tyrosine, if your kidneys can handle it (I don’t think yogurt is too high in protein but I don’t know what your body’s limits are).
Glad to hear about your trip to the skate park! Exercise is critical too… its actually the only non-prescription thing that is “medically approved” as an ADD/ADHD treatment.
I considered NA as well when I quit Adderall, but never ended up going. If you think it would be helpful though, you should check it out. I know a lot of people who are pretty heavily into NA/AA and it is a good personal growth program.
Best of luck Chris!
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