Does Adderall Build Up in Your System?

Whether illicitly or by prescription, one of the more common questions Adderall users ask is, “Does Adderall build up in your system?”

Adderall is a common prescription used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. When taken as intended, Adderall can improve attention and focus, reduce impulsive behaviors, and elevate mood. But when taken without medical supervision, the effects can be dangerous.

This article is written for those looking to understand how long Adderall’s effects last, how long it lingers in the system, and when to expect the beginning of withdrawal.

What Is Adderall’s Half-Life?

Adderall contains a mixture of two drugs: levoamphetamine (l-amphetamine) and dextroamphetamine (d-amphetamine). 

For the uninitiated, half-life is a term used to quantify the amount of time a drug’s active substance is reduced by half in the body. Different drugs have different half-lives, and the duration is dependent on how the body processes and ingests the drug (i.e., through the mouth, injection, etc.).

The half-life of a drug is greatly dependent on a person’s age. For l-amphetamine, for example, the average half-life is 13 hours for adults, 13 to 14 hours for adolescents aged 13 to 17, and 11 hours for children aged 6 to 12.

For d-amphetamine, the values are slightly less: 10 hours for adults, 11 hours for adolescents aged 13 to 17, and 9 hours for children aged 6 to 12.

With these figures, we can conclude that Adderall’s half-life is anywhere between 9 to 14 hours.

Does Adderall Build Up in Your System?

Though Adderall’s effect lasts only for a few hours, the substance lingers in the system for days and sometimes even months after the last use, depending on the test conducted. Approximate estimations are as follows:

  • Urine test: 72 to 96 hours after last use
  • Blood test: 46 hours after last use
  • Swab test: 20 to 50 hours after last use
  • Hair test: up to 3 months seven to ten days after last use

Urinalysis and saliva tests detect metabolites produced by Adderall, which remain in the body two to three times longer than the drug itself. 

Drug misuse doesn’t typically appear in the hair until seven to ten days after exposure, but once it enters the hair, it’ll remain there for weeks, months, and even years.

Hair tests are the most reliable way to test ongoing or repetitive drug use because of their ability to detect drugs for a significantly longer period. It can also be used to determine what type of drug is used, how long it was used for, or how long it’s been discontinued.

That said, hair tests are only applicable to long-term users. If a person has taken Adderall once or twice, it’s less likely to show up as positive on a hair test.

Factors that Contribute to How Long Adderall Stays in the System

Adderall can remain in the system for anywhere between 24 hours to several days, and is detectable even longer in your hair follicles. Here are the factors that play a role in how long the drug stays in the system:

Dosage

Dosage significantly affects how long Adderall lasts in the system. The more you consume, the longer it’ll take for the body to break down and eliminate the drug from the system.

Genetics

Genetics can play a role in how long Adderall stays in the system. Certain enzyme variants can accelerate the elimination of marijuana in some people. The concentration of these enzymes is often an inherited trait.

Frequency of Use

Like marijuana, Adderall’s effects can be cumulative. This means that the more you use it, the easier it’ll be to detect in the system. A person who’s tried Adderall out of curiosity can flush it out much quicker from their system than a person who takes Adderall every other day.

Metabolism

A person with a quick metabolism can flush out the drug much faster than a person with slow or impaired metabolism.

When to Expect Adderall Withdrawal, and How Long Does It Last?

The timeline for Adderall withdrawal differs from person to person. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms as quickly as a few hours after the last dose, while others last up to a few days.

Physical symptoms often peak within four days, with intensity ranging from mild to severe, before gradually tapering off. However, mental and emotional symptoms caused by Adderall withdrawal can linger for weeks and even months.

Users abuse Adderall because it helps the body feel more awake, alert, and focused. It also stimulates the effect that releases dopamine to the brain, giving users a sense of euphoria and well-being. So when a person abruptly stops using the drug, their dopamine levels drop and the body and brain have to adjust to the change.

Those who take Adderall in prescribed amounts don’t struggle with this change, but those who take it without a prescription or more than recommended will immediately notice the effects. The more often it’s taken, the more dependent the body will be, and the harder it’ll be to stop.

Factors that affect how long withdrawal symptoms last and how bad they can be include genes, family history of addiction, and health history (especially mental health).

Without outside intervention (i.e., rehab or therapy), people who quit “cold turkey” are more likely to suffer from depression, insomnia, anxiety, and various other mental health disorders. 

What Are the Symptoms of Adderall Withdrawal?

Some of the most common physical symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscles spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

On the other hand, psychological symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Depression 
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Memory issues
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of interest in activities

Wrap Up

Adderall’s effects are cumulative, so it builds up in the system. Adderall is detectable in the system for days and sometimes even months after use, depending on the test.

Blood tests detect Adderall 24 hours after the last use, while urine and swab tests detect Adderall between 20 to 96 hours after the last use. Hair tests detect a pattern of repeated drug use over the course of 90 days.

Published on: 2023-02-23
Updated on: 2024-06-05