Q: I’ve heard that Adderall is basically “speed.” I started taking it when I was 15 years old. Now I’m 27. I want off, but when I skip a day, I feel terrible.
—Sheila J., Charlotte, N.C.
A: Yes, Adderall is speed. The name of the drug is based on the very potent neurotransmitter adrenaline, which has a synthetic version called epinephrine. You may have heard of EpiPens. They were in the news last year because the manufacturer raised the price from $75 to $900. Blatant price gouging like this is one of the many reasons to be suspicious of all the drug pushing that happens under the guise of medical standards of care.
How to wean from psychoactive drugs
The general rule for weaning from a psychoactive drug is to go very, very slowly. Do not skip days in the beginning of the wean. Every 14 days, reduce your dose by 10 percent—an inexpensive pill slicer can help with this. If the wean gets bumpy, go back to the previous dose for 2 weeks before trying to lower it again. Spring and summer are the best times to try. Sun and fun are your friends when you’re getting clean. Some of my favorite resources for safe drug discontinuation include James L. Harper’s classic book The Road Back,
and the websites theroadback.org and pointofreturn.com.
Did You Know?
According to Peter Breggin, MD, author of Talking Back to Ritalin, America uses 90 percent of the world’s Ritalin—more than five times the rest of the world combined.
Using antioxidants before going off of Adderall
Before you wean, it’s a good idea to boost your detoxification capacity and your ability to quell oxidative inflammation from the drug irritation. All pharmaceuticals are “foreign substances” in your body that irritate your immune system, tax your detoxification capacity, and promote inflammation. So, to help clear the drug and the damage, consider loading your diet with antioxidants for several weeks before the wean. I like açcai, noni, mangosteen, pomegranate, resveratrol, raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, black cherries, and the whole array of dark leafy green veggies.
My top two antioxidant foods are turmeric (Curcuma longa) and matcha. If you don’t like the taste of turmeric in your food, try a turmeric capsule. And while matcha powder is especially concentrated, green tea in any form is great because of the epicatechin content, which helps turn on the detox enzymes in the white blood cells, and promote the detoxification pumps inside lung, kidney, and liver cells.
This pre-detox phase also requires a clean diet—no alcohol, no white flour or sugar, minimal animal fats, and lots of veggies with their high fiber and high mineral content.
Antioxidants like turmeric help improve your detox capacity
Supplements for calming nerves and creating focus
There are many natural products that can enhance the ability of the calming nerves (parasympathetic nervous system) without the side effects of drugs. Parasympathetic fibers need B-vitamins, both water-soluble (B1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12) and the fat-soluble (lecithin, inositol, and phosphatidylcholine).
Once you begin your Adderall (or other mood-altering drug) wean, you can supplement during the day with herbs and minerals that promote calm focus. You don’t need everything on this list: start with what you might already have in your home health care cupboard, and experiment. Allow at least 7–10 days for each experiment, and use just two or three new supplements at a time.
For daytime support, try St. John’s wort (fantastic for mild to moderate depression, especially for blood type A), magnolia, oats, rhodiola, lemon balm, and/or bacopa. All of these herbs can be found in tincture or capsule form. Choose what is easier for you. I love tinctures because they can be added to tea or smoothies, and they absorb quickly. But capsules are generally more convenient, especially when it comes to dosing.
For evening and sleep support (see sidebar), consider 5-HTP (50–100 mg), GABA (I prefer the phenylated version), theanine, melatonin, and inositol (usually comes in soy- or sunflower-seed-based granules, so it’s a bit oily). For bedtime herbal choices (in tea, tincture, or capsule form) consider valerian (especially if you have pain), chamomile (great for all ages), passionflower, hops, skullcap (great for pain plus constipation), and ashwagandha.
[Editor’s note: It’s important to check with your doctor before discontinuing any type of psychoactive medication.]
Avoiding blue light before sleep
Sleep is a foundational element of good health and a good attitude. And it’s especially important when weaning and healing your body from the effects of psychoactive drugs.
Since we have increasingly become an indoor-lighting and screen-intensive society, our circadian rhythms are universally disturbed. Research has proven that the blue light emitted from screens inhibits prolonged deep sleep. In addition to using herbs that can help you relax, wearing amber-colored glasses, which block blue light, 2–3 hours before bedtime can significantly improve sleep parameters.